Friday, March 28, 2014

Are Electronic Gradebooks Changing the World?

So I was sitting in the library with my laptop. I don't usually bring it, but the fact is Skedula works abysmally on my iPad. We won't even discuss their iPad app. 

The laptop version is hard to scroll, does all sorts of unpredictable things, and requires multiple extra steps to get pretty much anywhere. That's okay for me, but I figured the parents of my students deserve better. So I brought the 15-inch laptop I'm using now, ran around early in the morning to ask the tech guys to get me online, and I was all ready.

This was be the first time I could pull all the grades up on my computer rather than inside my grungy gradebook. And I had two trusty monitors to help me, except they kept running out of the room to take care of some important business entailing I have no idea what. (They got very excited when one of their friend's parents showed up, sat very close for the discussion, and were sorely disappointed when I told them to take a walk.)

But none of that mattered because I had this electronic gradebook, and everything was going to be calculated to the hundredth of a point. No more guesswork or wild estimations. The parents would be dazzled by my incredible efficiency.

The only issue, as far as I could determine, is that the parents were not actually coming. There I was, watching my colleagues converse rapidly with all sorts of people, but there was no one here to see me. Had I done all this electronic grading stuff in vain?

After about a half-hour, I had no more time for reflection, as I got quite a few visitors. Here's my takeaway. The electronic gradebook looks a little better, but doesn't make a whole lot of difference. Parents are happy when they see good grades, and not quite so happy when they see bad ones. That's not a whole lot different from looking at grades on paper.

Personally, were I looking at grades of my own kid, I'd feel exactly the same. The biggest advantage, aside from having to wade through handwriting as incomprehensible as mine, is that you don't show the grades of anyone but the kid in question. I've gone to quite a few parent-teacher nights myself, and once when my kid got a grade I considered mediocre, I looked at the marking book to see everyone else seemed to have even worse grades. That made me wonder why the whole class was doing so poorly. I didn't ask the teacher, though. I asked my kid and we worked it out.

In conclusion, I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference, and despite how cool it looks to me, I basically told parents exactly the same things I'd have said if I didn't have grades online. I'm pretty sure I'd have given roughly the same grades whether or not I had the mathematical calculations in front of me, but I can't be absolutely sure.

All in all, it basically does the same thing in a slightly different way. It's good if the parents keep up on the grades and their kids, but what I saw is that the same parents who were going to take an active role did, and those who didn't, didn't. I won't go into more detail than that. But while I'm going to stick to putting everything online, I don't honestly think it will make much of a difference.
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