Thursday, January 12, 2023

Piloting the DOE Attendance Program

It's a great idea to take attendance online. And the DOE's attendance program is much better than their grading program. It does what it's supposed to do, at least most of the time. Sure, you can't easily scroll down without seeing the same bunch of names over and over again, but if you force the names to the bottom you can easily scroll up and catch everyone. 

Of course, that assumes you have internet. The thing is, though, you can't always depend on DOE wi-fi. If it's out, you have a tool that's essentially useless. Sometimes the internet goes out for the whole city, and when that happens, you can't even print up old attendance sheets. 

Our department office doesn't have wi-fi anymore. Something or other went out, and sorry, you just can't use it in that area of the building. Fortunately I don't teach in the office. I teach in our annex, which has had fairly reliable wi-fi. However, that's really not enough if you want to use the DOE attendance function. The screen above is the one I got when I was trying to take attendance on Tuesday afternoon. The attendance app would just not appear.

Usually I wait until students are engaged in something that doesn't require my immediate attention before taking attendance. I will then spend a minute or two quietly marking the list. The thing is, though, sometimes the list just does not appear. You get the blank screen and have to hope for the best. Sometimes, after a few minutes, it shows up. Sometimes, though, like on Tuesday, it simply does not. 

The problem with this, if you happen to be teaching, is you have to constantly check as to whether or not it has shown up. This is an irritating impediment to teaching, which kind of needs constant attention. You never know what will happen next, and you want to be there when it does. If you have to look at the laptop every few minutes, the flow thing is just not happening. 

And here's the other thing--you can try and recall who was in the class, but the app does not allow you to go back the next day and enter anything. (Correction. I was, just now, able to input attendance for Tuesday. This is new.) I'm not sure which DOE genius designed it that way, but since they know everything, and regularly remind us of that, who am I to question this policy? I'd argue, regardless, that having to try and enter attendance multiple times is redundant paperwork. It's certainly a huge waste of time, and a large diversion from a job that requires constant attention.

Here's another small issue. If you sign out, or if the DOE has determined you signed out, you have to sign in again. This requires you to confirm you are you, by some other means. I let the DOE text me. I have access to texts on my Macbook, so it's easy.

Except when it isn't easy. Sometimes, the DOE doesn't send you the text until hours later. And the thing is, not only do you not need it hours later, but it's only good for five minutes. So you get that second screen, which is just as good as the blank one. 

Now I'm sure this is absolutely my fault, since the DOE is Perfect in Every Way and never makes mistakes. However, I've developed a long habit of taking attendance. On Tuesday, I gave up and had two of my classes sign attendance sheets. Of course, since it's no longer Tuesday, I can't enter that attendance.

So theoretically, this is a good system. Under real world conditions, it isn't. 

I'm lucky to be in our new annex, which is relatively clean, and has some cool stuff. One thing we have here are these smartboards. The only thing is, they aren't hooked up to the internet. They could perhaps have been wired, and helped us on days wifi was out. But they aren't, so there are all these nag screens you have to go through if you want to use, for example, the whiteboard.

The first day I used them I tried to sign up for internet, as it requested. I later learned these smartboards were delivered without internet cards, and have no capacity. For some reason it's a big deal fixing that. No one in my building would have ordered them like this. For my money, only the Great and Mighty DOE could do something like that. Today, my smart board thinks it's March 4, 2022. I wonder whether that came on a weekend. Well, if the DOE says it's March 4, 2022, it must be March 4, 2022.

Well, if it's a weekend, I'm off, and if it's a weekday, I already worked March 4, 2022. Maybe I should just turn around and go home.

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