Grading with the iPad

by Dr. Janet Johnson on May 7, 2011

Since I bought an iPad 2, I wanted to figure out how to grade papers on it. At first, I was hesitant until I found three apps that work for me.

First, I discovered Gradebook Pro. Gradebook Pro allows you to input students names, grades and emails. It’s a great app to keep track of grades and even attendance. I usually use the app Attendance, but will switch to Gradebook Pro’s attendance function to keep everything all in one application. What I love about this app is the ease of emailing students as a group or individually. I also like the grade interface.

Second, I found a great PDF annotator called iAnnotate. It works well with Dropbox. I can download the pdf and if the document is not in a pdf, iAnnotate will convert the file in most cases. I then write comments, underline, strikeout, highlight much easier than I did in Word. iAnnotate allows you to flatten the document and email the document from the program. What’s really cool about iAnnotate is the stamp function. I now have stamps that say, Avoid, Awkward, Avoid Passive Voice, Comma, Spelling, Improper MLA format, etc. I just select where I want to put the comment and move on to the next comment. It really has allowed me to focus more on content rather than trying to copy edit every single item in their paper. Instead, I now have a handy app that lets me make extensive comments quickly.

Third, I downloaded Essay Grader to my iPad. This app has saved me a lot of time. The app lets you praise students and tell students their problem areas. The app allows you to select the areas of improvement in the essay and creates a nicely written email. You can customize all you want, which is nice! I customize as I go. The app allows you to write openining statements and closing statments to the email. I usually start with “Here are the comments to your paper”. Then end with “Overall, your paper needs…” Now, I’m getting emails from students thanking me for the detailed comments to their paper. I have time to express my comments to student papers without feeling as if I’m repeating myself or forgetting an item. I just check mark the item needing attention such as “quality of sources” or “language” or “Sharpen thesis.” The comment then appears in the email. The app lets you email the student from the application. This app has cut down on my comment time tremendously.

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Of course, not all the apps are perfect. I would change many things to each one. For example, I do not like how Essay Grader takes away the student I am trying to make comments to while I toggle back and forth between apps. Essay grader should allow me toggle back and forth from app to app without forcing me to reopen a student’s comment sheet each time I stray. I would also like the app to allow me to create customized rubrics to add to the email.

I will continue to grade essays from my iPad. It’s a quick way to sit in a comfy chair, bed, or couch, and read a paper more naturally. I love how the iPad saves me space and time. No papers to lug around and no laptop. My iPad lets me do everything I need at once (most of the time) to grade efficiently and comfortably.

Now, if I could get an app that did all three, I would be happy!


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