When I first started teaching, I marvelled at my colleague’s neatly tended mark books. The amazing array of handwritten marks, numbers and codes in different coloured pens were almost like a work of art. Unfortunately for me two of my greatest weaknesses are record keeping on paper, and filing paper. I also thought I didn’t want to hang on to physical mark books for years on the off chance the inspector came knocking. As a result I started my quest for a digital solution. Nothing really fit the bill – Excel was not portable around the classroom, Google Sheets didn’t have the flexibility. I even bought my ancient PDA out of retirement for a term. In desperation I started looking into writing my own app. Luckily for me, this is when I stumbled across iDoceo.
iDoceo is best described as a teacher’s assistant. It can do pretty much everything except make the tea at break time. For starters, you can sign into either Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud or connect to your school’s server via WebDav. This provides you with a way to back up your mark book, and also allows you to attach links of files you might use in your lessons to the calendar part of the app. For example, if I have my lesson objective slide sitting in Google Drive, I can link it through to that particular lesson in the iDoceo planner. Technically, using AirServer or Apple TV I could run my whole lesson from within the app. If you use an existing calendar (Google for example), you can link this into the iDoceo planner so you don’t have to write your timetable out again.
The real strength of this app lies in the mark book section. It really is one of the most flexible apps in terms of customisation options that I have come across, and the great thing is the array of configurations doesn’t come across as overwhelming. For a start, you can import your class as an Excel file. This was a simple process. Once the class are in you can import a photo of the class and iDoceo will use facial recognition to pick out the faces which you can then assign to each student by drag and drop. This is so much easier than having to import individual photos of each student 20 plus times.
Once your class has been imported you can then use the seating plan part of the mark book to assign seats to students. I’ve done this by simply projecting the seating plan on the board. They can see their face and name and they know exactly where to sit. If you need to change anything, you can drag and drop students to different seats. This is a huge help, especially at the start of the year when you are trying to learn a couple of hundred new names. One of the other features of the seating plan is the random name picker. You can press a button and iDoceo will cycle through the students on the seating plan roulette style and pick one at random. This is certainly a good way to get them concentrating in a Q and A session.
The actual mark book itself is extremely elegant to operate which is a massive help in the middle of a busy lesson. You can set up pretty much any parameters for your marks, from icons, phrases, numbers, colours or a combination of both. I have mine set to automatic colour codes depending on what numerical grade I give them for the lesson. This creates a quick way to see if your students have understood what you taught them in the lesson. As well as being able to set pretty much any mark parameters, iDoceo has a very handy annotations feature. In each mark you can put a written annotation, for example “struggled with HTML colour codes”, and attach a picture, audio recording (for you languages teachers) or even a video of their work. This sort of feature is priceless when it comes to parent’s evenings as you can bring all of that student’s work with you on the iPad. No more am I faffing about with loads of sheets of paper!
I’ve actually found that iDoceo has improved my classroom practice. Because I’m marking how students are getting on during the lesson, the nature of the mark book, and the fact that I grade every student every lesson means that I see every student every lesson. If I don’t have a mark recorded for them, this means I haven’t seen their work. iDoceo highlights this and it means I can go and give the student a bit of one to one time.
iDoceo seems to be one of those rare apps that has been designed by a teacher. I’ve no idea if it actually has, but the way the features are implemented, from bulk imports and exports, and silky smooth operation of the mark book, really have improved my workflow, given me more time in and outside of class, and most importantly, given me an assessment method which is not bulletproof, but as good as I’ve ever used.
iDoceo is available in the App Store here and it’s priced at $6.99
Disclaimer: I purchased iDoceo with my own hard earned cash.