Today someone on the physics modeling list serv asked for an app for a tablet with the following abilities:
- Allow me to create a seating chart showing student names and photos.
- For each student, I could click the photo and get a drop-down menu with user-created options (mine would be “on task,” “off task,” and “Notes”–the notes button would open an editing box where I could type notes).
- Each time a mark/comment was made, the date and time of the comment would be recorded in the database.
- I could then generate reports periodically with a summary of how many times each student received each mark.
- It would be nice if I could export points earned into a text file for importing into my grading program.
Two other important requirements that I realized after starting my research were that I wanted to be able to import my class lists from a csv file and I needed to be able to separate the classes by period as opposed to one long list.
I had wanted a similar application for my iPad, but I hadn’t really put any effort into finding one. So, I set out to evaluate the different classroom management type apps for the iPad.
As I started investigating I found that there were couple of themes categories that the apps fit into:
- Random Picker/Seating Chart Apps — There are several apps that are designed to just pick students at random from your class list.
- Just Attendance Apps — Several of these apps are just for attendance taking and possible seating charts.
- Behavior Tracking — Not necessarily designed for grades but usually for attendance and also student behavior and consequences.
- Full Grade Book/Management Apps — These apps includes the features of the others and then also function as grade books. They vary by the grade level they seemed designed for.
Random Picker/Seating Chart Apps
Pupil Picker was the first random picker app that I came across. It has a very simple interface and serves one purpose, to randomly pick students to answer questions in class. Pupil Picker wins some points because it offers a free version to test. In using that free version one drawback I found was that you could not import a class list from a csv file or from a spreadsheet. The author says that you can bring the students in if they are in a group in your contacts, but I don’t have any groups in my contacts and for some reason I can’t currently open my contacts, so I can’t test that. Another nice feature is that it allows you to mark whether the student answered the question correctly or not. This could work for the purpose of monitor productivity in a lab, but you can only pull the student up at random, you can’t pick a student from the list which would make monitor productivity difficult at times. Ultimately, this app does what it says and it seems to do it well.
Attendance is an app that is simply designed for taking attendance. The app costs $5, which seems excessive for just taking attendance when there are some cheaper alternatives, so I didn’t test it. The description says that you can important class lists and export the attendance data back out to a spreadsheet via iTunes or Dropbox. The program supports pictures and allows you to select random students to answer questions. You can see a video of the app here.
Smart Seat is an app that takes attendance, but its true calling is as your a seating chart making app. I have long wanted a program that would make a random seating chart for any OS and this app does this simply. I like to change seats every unit, so the geek in me wishes that it had the ability to save the old seating charts for comparison and I would be ecstatic if it kept track of who a student sat next to before and tried to randomize with that as a constraint, but that is probably a bit much. The official website says that you can import students names from a csv file but the app doesn’t support pictures. The app allows you keep different charts for each section or your course and to select a random student to call on. If you are just looking for attendance and random student selection, this app looks cleaner and is cheaper than Attendance.
Behavior Tracking Apps
I tried to evaluate Teacher’s Toolkit by downloading the free lite version, but it crashed repeatedly on me.
Full Grade Book/Management Apps
TeacherPal at this point is the app that comes closest to the requirements stated above (plus it is free). With TeacherPal you can import your class list using a simple comma separated value (csv) file or add them manually. You can also add a picture to each student from your saved picture folder. Once you have set up your class, you can easily make a searing chart for your students by clicking on their face until it wiggles (like moving an app on your home screen) and putting it in place. You can add a picture of each student (as shown below) and you can then click on the student’s face in the seating chart to mark them absent. Additionally, TeacherPal has a simple and simple to use gradebook for recording scores. The gradebook can be export to a csv and into a spreadsheet for merging into other desktop electronic gradebooks.
Teacher’s Attaché – This seems like a nice app that takes attendance and does something with grades. The app is more geared towards a college classroom, in that it lacks a seating chart, so I didn’t invest the $5 to evaluate it. However, from the reviews, it would seem that this is a pretty nice app for college professors.
Teacher Tool One — Sounds like a great app, but it seems almost too powerful and with too many features. In work with the free version, I had a hard time completing simple tasks and determining how to assign grades and work with students. It seems to be written for a German school system and that it would integrate with some other kind of SMS. For a price tag of $30 for the full version, it seems like overkill for what I am looking for.
Teacher Assistant Lite — This application seems more designed for elementary education or special education teachers. The students can not be arranged by group or period. The application seems best suited to tracking behaviors as opposed to tracking grades or students participation in a class on a single day.