It's been an exhausting couple of weeks, but I have survived. Maybe not thrived, but survived, and that's perhaps all that one can expect during Exploding Head Month. Not that my Octobers explode for the same reasons that Ms. Mentor mentions; now it has to do with Open House for prospective students (last Sunday) and college letters of rec (done as of Monday) and mid-term grade reports (done as of Thursday) and Parents' Weekend & Homecoming (next weekend) and proctoring SATs and PSATs (tomorrow and two weeks ago). Anyway, it's been hectic around these parts, and several times I've thought "Oh, I must blog that" and then run out of steam well before I could open up Typepad.
One of the many things that happened in the last couple of weeks is that I successfully graded my first set of papers on the iPad ... and I'm happy to report that it was a success, and that I will defnitely be repeating the experiment! Oh, and the Apple Bluetooth keyboard and the Origami Workstation worked beautifully -- definitely a good choice.
I had the students email me their papers in .pdf and required that the files be labeled in a certain way, so that caused a little snafu for a few students who had some difficulty following directions. I was a hard-ass about this, though, figuring that it was a good lesson for them to learn to follow the damn directions. And having students take these two steps made it much easier for me to get everything nice and organized on my iPad so that I could dive right in.
I had wondered in my last post what the advantages to Notability were over just grading by hand. Yes, one keeps a copy of the paper, and I do see the advantages to that, but otherwise? And I was still feeling this way after the first seven papers.
... and then the next morning I (re-)discovered the text box, which is the obvious advantage to Notability/iPad grading that I had managed to completely forget during those first seven papers. I'd been writing my margin comments with a stylus, and then typing the final comment, but I'd completely missed that one can actually type comments in the margins or between lines. Duh! And suddenly it became very clear to me why this is a great way to grade papers. I'm sold!
And then, when I was about halfway through the stack of papers, D. figured out how to do text expansion, by which I can create a replicable comment and give it a nickname and then just pop it into any paper. So, for example, I wrote a long comment about what an essay title should ideally include, and then I just zapped it into every paper that needed it. Very nice!
I used Tanya's suggestion of sorting papers in Notability into A, B, and C folders, and that worked well enough, although honestly next time I might create folders for the full range of grades -- A, A-, B+, etc. -- just because that would replicate my usual piles-of-paper approach.
After I had finished grading them all, I exported them to Dropbox (the work of mere seconds), and then I emailed each student back her paper. That process did take a few minutes, but I wrote up a cover email message (which, among other things, invited them to come in and talk with me about their graded papers but said that they had to read Ahmed Afzaal's "Grading and Its Discontents" before they did so) and pasted it into each of the emails, so I got a little bit of a production line going.
From the students' perspective, once they figured out how to save things into .pdf and remembered to title the file correctly, the rest of the process was great. They seemed to appreciate getting the papers back via email, and they certainly appreciated getting the papers back on Sunday afternoon rather than in class on Monday. This timing let them react to the graded paper in the privacy of their own home rather than in class, when they would have to go to another class right after that. And this was particularly important for this first major essay, since many of them got grades much lower than they would have liked (not unexpectedly for their first major AP paper, but a shock to the system nonetheless). And the students who have come in to talk about their papers have all printed out their papers with my comments, even though I didn't ask them to do so.
So I'm a happy camper, and we're going to do the same thing for their second major essay assignment (which I handed out the next day, because there's no rest for the weary).
Of course, I emailed those papers back on Sunday, and then I haven't opened my iPad since then. I think I'm just not a big tech person, and it's been a busy enough week that I just don't have time or inclination to play around with any more apps. So I'm clearly under-using my iPad, but I figure if the grading thing works out well, then I've made good enough use of it not to feel guilty.
Oh, and plus -- one student who came in to talk with me this week said that all of the students were super impressed at how quickly I got graded work back, that they'd been amazed to get their papers back on Sunday when they'd just turned them in on Tuesday, and that in general they all appreciated the kind of feedback I was giving. It is always nice to have one's labors noticed, even if she really was just speaking for herself and not her 29 fellow students!