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Attendance: Who’s here, who’s not: recorded in half the time, saved where you can’t lose it, and easily turned into comprehensive student-by-student summaries. Welcome to taking the roll, iPad style.


A faster, smarter way to mark off

Because taking attendance is both regular and unavoidable, any improvements to the process that save even a small amount of time get multiplied by a lot of teaching days each year.

With schools having obligations to create and maintain accurate records though, the system needs to be more than just quick. Rolls have to be readily shareable with school admin, backed up so there are redundant copies, and then easy to interpret when report-writing time or communication with parents happens.

Fortunately, there are some canny app developers who are well aware of all this, and have built tools that not only speed up the whole process, but add fresh options that were never possible with paper and pen.

What we’ve put up with all this time

Long before iPads were conceived, all four of those attendance-taking conditions were obviously met by whatever various systems schools used, but the practical limitations of pen and paper in particular could make the process clunky. With long lists of easily-misaligned names, quick was compromised by having to visually scan back and forth between each name and the (as the semester went on, increasingly distant) correct checkbox; shareable usually meant having a student run the completed roll down to the front office; backed up meant someone in that office double-handling those records by entering them into the school database, while interpreting meant wading through all those records, and counting up absent days at report writing time.

Any alternative process that improves or removes these inefficiencies would have an immediate and tangible benefit: it would give time back to teachers and office-admin staff. As we’ll see in a moment, several iPad developers have been busy exploring that very idea.

How this could work instead

Depending on which of the apps below is used, marking a student present can be as simple as tapping their photo, which is quick. Once you’re done, you can tap again to email the roll to student admin, which means it’s shareable, while those soft copies that exist on both your iPad and in that email are now backups which can be readily imported, with no further entry required from anyone.

Just tap to mark off:  The app is appropriately named Roll Call - Attendance Made Simple. Just tap the photos to mark students off. Those greyed out are absent.

Just tap to mark off: The app is appropriately named Roll Call – Attendance Made Simple. Just tap the photos to mark students off. Those greyed out are absent.

And at report writing time, turning an entire semester or year of raw attendance data into student-by-student summaries can be done with a couple of further taps, so it’s easy to interpret.

In short, the outcome is everything needed, but the process itself is much faster—reason enough right there to make the switch. But what’s really exciting for teachers are the extras these apps bring that traditional paper-and-grid attendance systems would never have accommodated.

Beyond what’s possible with paper

One of iPad’s most potent advantages is that apps usually don’t just mimic what’s possible with the tools they would supplant; they extend it.

So, for example, some attendance apps allow you to arrange students on your roll not in alphabetical order, but by seating location, so what’s on your screen matches what’s actually in front of you in your class. To take attendance, simply record where the empty chairs are today—you don’t even need to call names.

Combine that with the fact that iPad rolltaking apps usually include photos of each student and you won’t have to spend the first few weeks of each semester asking students for their name, rank and serial number, even if you teach a dozen different classes. Instead, your photo roll/seating chart acts as a cheat sheet so that you’re addressing every student by name from day one.

Some of the apps also allow you to integrate notes into the roll, so you can record observations about behavior/progress/grades/whatever—nothing new about that in of itself, but these notes are all datestamped, timestamped and searchable. Again, at report writing time, it means all your records are in one place, making it much easier to summarize the year that was with not just impressions, but data. (We look much more at this in the chapter on Report Writing)

Apps to start your search with

Visual roll-focused apps

These apps aim to make the process of taking the roll as frictionless as possible, with user-friendly interfaces that are based around tapping photographs to mark students as present. This visual approach means that you can take the roll silently, without having to call names, even if the class in front of you is filled with students you don’t really know yet—ideal, for example, for marking off students as they get off a bus for a school excursion.

TeacherKit cleverly uses a classroom metaphor in its interface design—click on a classroom door to select a particular class, then once inside, tap on each desk to record which students are present. Photos on those desks help you match names to faces, while the desks themselves can be dragged to match the actual layout of your classroom.

A variation on this theme is Roll Call – Attendance Made Simple. Sporting a photos-only interface, the app feels very iPad-like in its clean and no-manual-needed design. Again, you simply tap on students to indicate they’re present, while the photos of absent students will become grey. This app also allows you to indicate what time students were signed in and out, and by whom.

Both apps allow you to generate comprehensive attendance reports for any time period you specify—this comes in handy not just for report writing, but for intercepting problem absenteeism well upstream of an end-of-year written comment. When the phone call to the parents happens, you’ll have the evidence you need to hand.

Multi-purpose admin tools

Some of these apps do much more than just take the roll. Several offer attendance taking as part of a much larger set of administrative features—the tradeoff for the additional power is a steeper learning curve and busier interfaces.

One such app is TeacherTool, a genuine swiss army knife of iPad teacher administration apps. Expensive, complex, well documented and powerful, it allows you to work with everything from lesson plans to annual schedules, course manuals to detailed student grade management. Overkill if all you’re looking to do is take the roll, but an all-in-one solution worth considering if you’re looking to consolidate your administration apps, and are prepared to put in the time to learning to use it.

Your iPad as Day Planner? iTeacherBook is a multipurpose day planner for teachers—the roll is on the right page of your daily view. Just tap to mark a student off.

Your iPad as Day Planner? iTeacherBook is a multipurpose day planner for teachers—the roll is on the right page of your daily view. Just tap to mark a student off.

Much more user-friendly and almost as feature-rich is iTeacherBook, which sports a familiar teacher’s diary interface, and integrates attendance with lesson planners, assignment trackers and a calendar. Put together by the same developers behind the student diary software iStudiezPro (we look at this again in the chapter on homework management) it’s clean and simple to use, allowing for both rapid-fire roll taking, and comprehensive records of just what happened in each lesson.

Fusing the old with the new

If photo-based rolls feels a bit George Orwell to you (or to the authors of your school’s privacy policy), then there’s a third way that retains much of the speed and clarity of the apps we’ve looked at so far, but without the mugshots.

High-tech, old-school attendance. It doesn’t offer photos, but STEARsoft has a traditional absences-jump-out-at-you design that makes it easy to see a student’s attendance history at a glance.

High-tech, old-school attendance. It doesn’t offer photos, but STEARsoft has a traditional absences-jump-out-at-you design that makes it easy to see a student’s attendance history at a glance.

STEARsoft—School Teacher’s Electronic Attendance Register Software—provides a familiar text-only roll in digital format, but does so in a way that creates striking visual contrast in the records between those who are present, and those who are absent or tardy, using a traditional herringbone-vs-circles visual.One limitation is that it’s not possible to email an attendance summary directly from within the app, but you can copy the stats page and paste it into a Numbers spreadsheet—it’s easy enough to email from there. The app can also integrate with STEARsoft’s own paid proprietary online service, allowing centralized, schoolwide attendance records that sync automatically every time you take the roll.

Archiving paper records

If you’ve got a traditional day book that you’ve used for years, and are perfectly happy taking the roll with, then your iPad can still help by providing digital backups of the data. Check out the previous chapter on Archiving to see how your iPad can quickly be used to scan and email any paper roll you take. This gives you both an emailable version for the front office and your own records, plus a backup in the event that your day book finally has a Catastrophic Coffee Incident.

Take the roll in less than a second

You don’t even need an app for this: all you need is a sign on every student’s desk with their name on it, and another sign with today’s date. At roll taking time, have students sit at their desks; make sure one of them is holding the date.

Then use the iPad to take a photo.

Done.

Shoot the photo through to student admin. Absentees are clearly identified as names on empty desks.

No need to call names, or ask for quiet…just click and get on with your teaching day.

Not the technique with the greatest utility—it does create double-handling downstream, and requires some seriously big name labels for them all to be legible in the shot—but if you hate the roll eating into your day, it doesn’t get much quicker than this.

…or don’t use your iPad at all

If your school has its own roll taking system that works well but happens to be completely incompatible with iPad, then so be it. Part of your challenge as you read this book is not just to triage (you won’t have the budget or the time to use every idea in here), but also to recognize when trying to use iPad in the way described would actually make life more difficult in your classroom.

In short, it’s important this early in the book to understand that just because you can do just about everything with an iPad doesn’t mean you should…a reality-checking thought for teachers or students who get dazzled by the fact that iPads are so shiny and hard to resist

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Archiving

ArchivingHow iPad makes a class Archive possible • Collecting everything your students have ever done • Creating portfolios for parent/teacher meetings • Setting up Best Of galleries • Getting written work into your Archive • Giving students access • Tagging student work so you can find anything instantly


Attendance

AttendanceFaster, smarter ways to take the roll • Going beyond what’s possible with paper • Visual tap-to-mark-off photo-based roll options • Multi-purpose classroom admin tools • Replicating traditional rolls • Archiving paper records • Taking the roll in less than a second


Behavior Management

Behavior ManagementUsing iPad for daily orientations • Waiting-room style cycling announcements • Personalized runsheets for special needs students • Noise monitoring • Behavior gamification systems • Managing class chores • Turning students into celebrities • Using iPad as both a carrot and a stick


Brainstorming

BrainstormingWhy brainstorming is better on iPad • Fast, text-based just-get-it-down brainstorming • Sketches and diagram based brainstorming • Classic Buzan-style mindmaps • Capturing sessions on audio or video • Asynchronous Brainstorming


Calculating/Measuring

canstockphoto6258327

Calculation with working(!) and rewind(!!) • Themed, fun and quirky calculators • Calculators on demand • Using iPad to measure everything from angles and distances to seismic activity • Conversion tools • Calculating with Siri and Google Search • Timers and Stopwatches


Co-curricular/Coaching

canstockphoto11121938Video analysis • Slow motion replays • Highlights and blooper reels • Virtual back page newspaper reports • Playbooks • Scoring and stats • Drill compendiums • Team management • Managing temporary groups within a squad


Communication

communication1Setting up group email for instant classwide contact • 
Alternatives to face-to-face meetings for busy parents • Creating an online document repository for students and parents • Plugging iPad into existing schoolwide communication management systems • Setting up a class website or blog


Creative Writing

canstockphoto3592668Using iPad to generate random creative writing triggers • Triggers for younger writers • Tools for fleshing out characters • Apps to help students find the right words • Drafting tools for poetry and lyrics • Planning and outlining • Writing collaboratively with iPad • Drafting, editing and proofreading


Demonstrations

demonstrationsUsing iPad to create replayable video instructions • Archiving your demonstrations • Freeing yourself to teach more, repeat yourself less • How students can access your video demonstrations • Creating help-on-demand with QR codes • Student-created demonstrations • Using existing video libraries


Device Management

thiefMaking iPads harder to steal • “Branding” iPads for easy identification • Setting up a serial number database • Preventing damage • Recommended usage rules • Monitoring usage • Making students accountable: setting up a licensing system


Discussions

discussionsUsing iPad to involve shy or unengaged students in discussion • Working with asynchronous discussions • Maintaining a record of who said what • Giving speeches to the class...from home • Recording and annotating discussions • Using iPad for groupwork assignments


Drilling

canstockphoto4209397Apps for traditional flashcard-based test preparation • Going beyond what’s possible with traditional flashcards • Math drilling for basic arithmetic, tables, mental math tricks, pre-algebra, basic algebra and geometry • Options that work with the entire K-12 math syllabus • Spelling Drills • Foreign language vocab drills • Music drills • Gamification of drilling


iPadoPedia

Also included in the iBook


Handing in Work

Freeing yourself from needing USB drives • “bumping” ipads to hand in work • iPads and email-based submissions • Using DropBox • How your iPad can accept handwritten submissions


Managing Homework

Using iPad like training wheels for time-management • Standalone homework management apps • Syncing homework online • Using GTD to organize their whole week • Basic homework management with Calendar


Marking Work

Annotation options for iPad • Marking handwritten work • Going beyond written feedback • Iterative marking • Peer review • Pre-emptive marking • Marking by panel • Using your class Archive to calibrate your marks


Photocopying

Entering the post-photocopy age • Five reasons you can replace most of your photocopying with your iPad • Using your iPad as a scanner • Apps that turn handwritten words into wordprocessor-editable text


Planning

Using your iPad to plan the year ahead • Freeform planning • Managing the teaching day • National curriculum references • Referencing plans and notes from previous years • Planning classroom layout


Presenting

Going beyond PowerPoint • Creating Keynote presentations on iPad • Non-linear presentations • Getting iPad onto the big screen in your classroom • Using iPad as a speaking prompt • Presenting directly onto your students’ iPad screens • Dazzling with Augmented Reality


Publishing

Rapid repurposing of one source into many types of publications • Setting up a class blog • Creating a magazine-quality PDF • Turning work into an iBook • Creating a comic • Producing a class radio show • Building a self-guided kiosk • Turning assignments into a movie • How younger students can create eBooks


Quizzing

Setting up and working with paperless quizzes • Paperless testing with Google • Real-time testing with Socrative • Turning testing into a game • Students as quizmasters • Creating QR-triggered video walkthroughs of the answers • Adding mystery and anticipation: Using QR to reveal questions


Reading

The case for students doing most of their reading on iPad • The essential reading apps • Creating notes, bookmarks and highlights • Accessing a free library of all the classics (over 42,000 titles and counting) • Reading on the web • Deferred and curated reading • Magazines and journals on iPad


Recounts

Turning field trips into publications • Adding high impact production values to raw media • Your excursion as a comic strip or slideshow • Creating written reports on iPad • Using iPad to edit and assemble video recounts


Report Writing

Using your iPad classroom Archive as a comprehensive student reference • Summoning examples of written work • Attendance and photo cheat-sheets • Tracking and annotating student behavior issues • Customizing your own records • Keeping your records secure


Researching

Collecting and organizing information on iPad • Setting up and working with curated resources • Researching with apps (atlases, encyclopedia, Wikipedia fractals • Resources for the classic elementary school units • Options for upper secondary students • Referencing and citation generators


Taking Notes

Getting past the input hump: using keyboards with iPad, writing directly onto the screen with styluses, or using iPad to annotate recordings • Working with Cornell or guided notes • Options inspired by traditional blank page notebooks • Indexed notes • Managing huge collections of notes • Notetaking with mindmaps • What notetaking with iPad means for students


Video Learning

Helping students work with tens of thousands of teachers • Auditing lectures from around the world with iTunes U • Curating YouTube and Vimeo for your students • Stealing brilliant ideas from great teachers • Commercial video libraries • Creating your own video library