Hello, again! Can I just say that it's been one hell of a fall term? It's ending now, thank goodness -- we're in exam week now -- but naturally I had to fit in one last crisis.
Which is to say that on Wednesday, when I settled down to finish grading my sophomores papers, a task I've been doing in Notability on my iPad, my iPad had some sort of near-fatal problem -- a "this iPad is disabled" message, without one of those reassuring messages I've gotten in the past, such as "try again in 5 minutes" -- which resulted in one of our tech folks completely wiping it and putting it back to the factory settings.
So that was a bummer, but of course I had been reassured so many times that everything is backed up to iCloud that I didn't panic even then. That is, I didn't panic until it turned out that something had gone wrong and that there hadn't been a backup in over two weeks; I'd been getting repeated messages on my iPad asking for my iCloud password, which I thought was strange because it should know the password, but I dutifully would type it in each time ... to no avail, apparently.
But even then, I kept it cool. Until I realized that the iCloud backup only covers certain things anyway, and that one must figure out backup for individual apps oneself. And this discovery came about when it turned out that GradebookPro, the app I'd started using just this year as my gradebook, doesn't automatically back up and isn't part of iCloud.
That's right. On the penultimate day of the term, my gradebook completely disappeared into the ether, never to be seen again.
That's when I lost it and broke down in tears in the Tech office.
Fortunately, I have all of the students' papers, in Notability (which I had set up to backup to Dropbox), on my computer (where I store all of the graded papers), and in Schoology (our new course management system). So all of the major grades were easy to recover.
It was the pesky little grades -- the vocabulary quizzes, other quizzes -- that were gone.
Also fortunately, I had emailed all of my juniors just the day before with their grade heading into the exam. So I decided not to even bother recreating their gradebooks but just to take their grade update as a given for 80% of the term grade; the exam will be the other 20%. I hate to do that -- it feels sloppy to me, and certainly it would be a pain in the ass if anyone challenged her grade -- but it seemed like the best option among not-very-good options.
So it was just my sophomores whose grades I needed. I emailed them to tell them what had happened and asked them to bring all of their quizzes to class the next day so that I could re-record them. Of course, some of them have lost some of the quizzes in the meantime, so there may be holes in my gradebook records. But most kids had most things, and I was feeling pretty good about life when I headed home on Thursday ...
... only to discover that my iPad had once again given me the fatal message "your iPad is disabled." This time, Dylan messed around with it for an hour or so and brought it back to life, without having to do a complete wipe. (In the process, she also did a lot of bitching about what the tech person at school had done to it.)
And this time I was confident in my backup system ... except that I hadn't yet learned the lesson that when one has backed things up to Dropbox, it takes a few minutes for all of those backups to materialize out of the ether. And so I jumped the gun and restored my gradebook from an earlier backup, not the latest backup.
That's right -- I accidentally wiped out all of the quiz grades that I had so dutifully restored just that day.
That's when I completely lost it -- racking sobs, the whole bit.
And now I'm having to redo it all over again.
So it's been a hard week all around. And I'm embarrassed in front of my students and feel that I've lost some credibility as a competent teacher. And I resent the hours of lost labor I've done.
Plus, it's not really clear to me what I should do for a gradebook for the rest of the year. One option is to stick with GradebookPro on my iPad, an app I really like a lot, and just be scrupulous about backing it up, which is the approach I'm taking right now. Another option is to go back to EasyGradePro on my computer, which is what I've used in my previous years at FGS, but it has its own quirks, and I really don't like it as much as GradebookPro. But several colleagues have told me in the meantime that they use their iPads only as a conduit and temporary working platform, but that no data actually lives on their iPads. And so maybe I should take that approach and find a web-based gradebook to use. Some folks are using the gradebook in our new Schoology CMS, but I actually don't like the grades being visible to the students, in part because sometimes at the end of the term I readjust weights a little bit if I realize that one assignment has far too large or too small a value. (This would have been anathema to me in my college-teaching days, but that's when I often had only four grades per term; it's this business of homework and quizzes and the rest that completely throws off my former innate sense of what things should be weighted. And that weight readjustment is something that many of my colleagues admit to doing, but it seems like one can't really do that if the grades have all been published as one goes along.) Another option that some colleagues do is to keep paper gradebooks in addition to a computerized gradebook, just in case of incidents like I experienced this week, but that seems like such a pain in the butt, and I think that I would not stay on top of double gradebooks.
At this point, my big goal is simply to get through the end of Trimester I and calculate grades that the students and I can all live with. I'm worried that there will be more of a fudge-factor than usual, and I'll feel like I need to fudge in favor of students, and the whole thing just feels icky and tiring. Sigh.
As for the kicking anyone else within reach -- we have a great Tech department, but they hired someone new this year to be the iPad person, and I think she's pretty darned bad at her job. She's socially awkward, which is no big deal (we're a pretty forgiving place on that front), but she's also inarticulate and kind of stupid, and we aren't forgiving of those traits at all. She doesn't really seem to know what she's doing, and she certainly can't communicate about what she'd doing.
Plus, I feel let down by our department tech person. A couple of years ago, FGS decided to give one teacher in each department a course release to be the technology guru for the department, which I think has been a pretty good plan, but the English tech guy really can't wrap his mind around iPads at all and in fact is pretty explicitly reluctant to do so, which means that he's no help to us at all. This was something that I was going to have to deal with in my role as acting department head, even before my personal crisis of this week. The one bright-ish spot is that he came to see me on Thursday afternoon to say that he was feeling like he really didn't know enough to be the technology person because he had made all of the same erroneous assumptions about backing up iPads that I had. So maybe it will be easier than I had thought to ease him out of that role and put someone more competent in it.
Here's my plan for the rest of today: Do nothing school-related at all. Go to the gym. Rake leaves. Watch the Dr. Who special for a second time. Maybe bake cookies or something.
In the meantime, I'm happy to entertain suggestions about gradebook technologies that you all have found useful and entirely reliable.