Thank you, friends, for all of your supportive comments on my last two posts.
And what a relief it is to think about work! Sure, that has its emotional ups and downs, but it's rarely gut-wrenching. And so here's a teaching post:
A couple of years ago, FGS adopted Schoology as our course management system, and it's been great. (Before that we'd been using Moodle, which was not great.) It has its quirks, as all systems do -- I finally adopted the troubling mnemonic "Remember that advisees aren't people" to remind me how to access my advisees' information -- but it's got a clean layout and is reasonably easy for teachers and students alike. So all good.
It also has a gradebook, and I'm using it for the first time this year. It's my first experience with having an online gradebook that students can access, and there have been pros and cons of this:
First, it means that I haven't had to give a grade update all term, which has been nice. And when a student is missing an assignment, my putting a zero in that grade column does wake them up in some cases.
But this is exam week (we're on a trimester system), and last night I also realized a major downside -- only a downside because I let it be -- which is that I was feeling enormous pressure to get the exam grades posted before I leave to visit my family tomorrow morning. But those grades aren't actually officially due for another week! Traditionally teachers give the exams back to students on our first day back at school, which is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, but the fact that I can post the grades means that the students can know how they did on the exam before they actually get it back. There are definitely some good things about that -- no tears in class, one hopes -- but there's also new time pressure. It used to be that I could stay up late Monday night finishing the exams if I needed to, but now the students want to have the grades as soon as I finish them. But they can darned well wait. I'll still post the grades before the Thanksgiving break ends, but probably not until Monday. After all, the students are getting a break as well, and if I can keep all of us from obsessing about grades for a few days, then that's good.
But before I realized all that last night, I was getting seriously stressed about how slowly the grading was going. Once I realized that I'd created an artificial deadline for myself, I relaxed, but it was definitely a moment where I recognized the pressures that technology puts on us as workers. Answering email on the weekends doesn't bother me, but feeling that I have to grade faster definitely does.
The other realization about the online grade book that I had last week is about essays. My students submit their essays via Schoology; I then push the essays over to Notability, grade them on my iPad, and then return them via Schoology. As I return them, I also enter the grade in the online gradebook. What I realized last week is that some of my freshmen were basically ignoring my comments on their papers, in some cases not even looking at them, and concentrating only on the grade in the gradebook. Well, this will clearly not do! So now I have a new policy, which is that I won't add the grade to the gradebook for a day or two after I return the essays. My comments on their essays include a letter grade, so they know how they did on that assignment, but they won't know how it affects their overall course grade for a couple of days. I'm hoping that this means they'll actually focus on that essay for awhile. But it also means that I now have stretched out the grading enterprise for a couple more days and given myself a new task to do once I've had the blessed relief of finishing a stack of papers. We'll see how this new policy works.
I have a few colleagues who aren't using the Schoology gradebook because they really don't like having students obsess about their grades. And I agree with not wanting them to obsess, but I do think it's reasonable for them to want to know how they're doing in a class. (These colleagues do give regular grade updates to their students.) Others are uncomfortable with it because any teacher can look at any student's grades in any class at any time; that is, I can see how a colleague of mine is grading a student who isn't even one of my students. That openness in Schoology is a little weird, but I don't have anything to hide, so I'm not letting it worry me, and it's convenient to be able to see how my advisees are doing in their classes.
As far as I'm concerned, the online gradebook has been a fine thing, but I have to remember that it's not the boss of me! I set deadlines, and I decide what gets posted when.
I'd love to hear from folks who have more experience with online gradebooks accessible to students. Has it helped or hurt your classes, do you think?