Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Crapification Factor in CAASS

I stole that word, "crapification," from my friend Michael Fiorillo, but I'm fairly certain he stole it from someone else. In any case, I think it applies to our new online attendance system.

We started using this system last year. It really didn't seem so bad. First of all, it was late in the year, so I knew all the names of all my students. I'd just look at it and I'd know who I was looking for. Admin said they thought it would be better to start immediately rather than wait until September, and they were absolutely right about that. In September, it's nightmarish.

There are several reasons for that. One is that, as I said, I don't know student names yet. That makes it difficult. Usually, I'd start out with the students in rows. I'd use a Delaney book for a few weeks. That way, I could see who students were and learn their names fairly quickly. This year, I'm in a half-classroom with a full class. I can't put students in rows.

My students are at tables, four to a table. I can't make that work in a Delaney book. Instead, I've drawn pictures of tables on a piece of paper, and I've written student names where they sit at each table. This was not nearly as good as the Delaney book for me, but it was better than nothing. That was, of course, until they started the Dance of Equalization, or whatever is going on.

Another issue is that this attendance system is not quite keeping up. I get kids in my class, and they don't appear for days on the system. On the grading program, Skedula, they show, but I can't mark them absent or present. I have one student who cut two days and I couldn't record it. Now he's on, so I guess I'm supposed to go back and change it. That's fine, of course, because  like all city teachers, I have nothing else to do.

Another thing is you need to save the attendance. It isn't enough to just mark it. That's problematic for two reasons. One is that if you forget to save, you have to go back and do it again. Perish forbid the program should assume that you meant to do what you went and did and record it automatically. Why not add another step just for fun? Also, you never know how long saving will take, It could be instant, it could be in a minute, and it could be forever. A colleague of mine waited a whole period without having it save. Her computer power died as she waitied.

In case that's not enough, when you click the period of your class, that's not enough. If you teach only one section it doesn't go to that section. Rather, it makes you select the name of your course. Actually I have two classes that contain two sections each, so I have to do a lot of extra clicking. Now if you have two sections, a seating chart won't help unless you choose to group the students by these sections. I don't do that. I let students sit where they like as long as they don't cause problems.

Of course, I've saved the best for last. I use my computer for a lot of things in the classroom. I show presentations in Keynote or Powerpoint almost every day. I also record homework for completion in Skedula if I'm not collecting it. When students are absent, if they speak Spanish, I will call homes in front of the class just to let them know I do stuff like that. All the phone numbers come from my computer.

Now I've got my computer tied up with doing attendance, which takes a lot longer than it ought to. I liked this attendance program when we started it. Now, I kind of hate it, and I realize that each September, and who knows how long with program changes, it will waste an awful lot of teacher time.

And all that, I attribute to crapification. As far as I'm concerned, that's the only thing the people who designed this system are good at. It's their job to make the system as simple as possible for working teachers constantly pressed for time. At that they have failed miserably.
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