Teaching With Gadgets

How Technology Can Help Today's Teacher

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Tale Of Two Gradebooks (Part I)

Ah assessment! While it makes some teacher cringe it actually gets me quite excited. I know, you must think that I have been dropped on my head. Actually, assessment is a facinating field of study for any teacher. Let's face it...it's not just about assigning a grade.

Over the past few years I have become quite interested in this process. More importantly, I have been interested as to how to best report student progress to parents. Parents, and the students, deserve to be kept up-to-date on the student's progress in a manner that is easy for them to understand. I find that be giving frequent feedback (at least every 2 weeks and often every week), there are NO surprises come report card time.

In my quest to communicate I have literally tried every piece of downloadable software out there. My needs were quite stringent. I needed software that would allow for flexible grading (letters, scales, yes/no, etc.), work on a PDA, work on a tablet or Mac, allow for unlimited assignment and annecdotal comments, print flexible reports, and be able to e-mail or post reports to the web (more on this topic in a future post).

I have basically settled on two products: Easy Grade Pro (a Windows or Mac program) and Gradebook Wizard (an online gradebook). Today, I'll begin to blog about Easy Grade Pro.

Easy Grade Pro is by Orbis Software and is probably one of the better selling cross-platform gradebooks. It has an unlimited trial but is limited by the number of students that can be entered into the grade book. This gives you an excellent opportunity to try out the program and see if it matches your needs. Easy Grade Clipboard (the Palm OS app) is an additional $35. Supposedly a Windows Mobile version is supposed to be coming out. Yeah, I won't hold my breath. I've sent e-mail inquiries but have received no reply.

Easy Grade Pro is a very nice electronic gradebook. I have found it very flexible for my needs. I set up categories for each of my classes. For example, in mathematics I need to assess student understanding of concepts, problem solving, and basic facts. I set up a category for each of these indicators. At the end of the term I can receive an average for each of these.

The program looks very much like your paper gradebook. It is fast and easy to use. Comments can be added for each child and each assignment. This will give your parents and students even more feedback - feedback that they deserve.

Easy Grade Pro gives you some excellent report options. Reports can be exported to be placed on a secure website or printed to HTML and then e-mailed to parents. Talk to your parents and see which method they like (and don't forget to inform them of internet security). I can even choose not to have the student's name appear on the report thus releasing me from any privacy issue concerns. I never use student names in my comments in the event that their information may be intercepted. I also choose to print my reports using CutePDF so that students cannot change the data on the report.

The PDA application, Easy Grade Pro Clipboard, is a fast application that is also very easy to use. It is a joy to create assignment on the Palm if you do not have a computer or tablet PC near by. Think of how much money you could save if teachers had cheap Palm PDAs and then synchronized their information with the desktop. I'm very fortunate to have a tablet PC but it is a luxury for most teachers. Palms, on the other hand, are cheap and can perform all of the functions that you would need in your classroom.

I have enjoyed Easy Grade Pro. The only real downside to the program is when you have a new student join your class. You literally have to go through each subject and add that student. Yawn!!! Hopefully there will be a better way in the future. Head on over to their website and give it a try!