Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Me, Evernote and parent-teacher interviews

Note: ditched Evernote some time in 2016. They changed the conditions of use. Non-premium users were limited to use on two devices only, if memory serves, and the price for a premium subscription went up. Was good while it lasted. Changed to OneNote. It's free.

Yesterday was part one of the biannual torture: parent-teacher interviews.  I've blogged about this before.  Let's just say it was a four paracetamol gig; a variation on a theme that won't end until I leave secondary English teaching.  Just need to remember:  it's not about me.

What was different was my use of the Evernote app on my iPhone 3 - a tad slow, but functional all the same.  (I've just paid off my iPhone and I don't feel inclined to upgrade it just because the newer model is available.  Could be tempted by an iPad though.)

Heaps of tech-savvy teachers are already using the Evernote app. You can read about it in some detail on Richard Lambert's blog.

But as a new user, my experience is thus:

Having decided to give the Evernote app a try,  I photographed at least one piece of all my students' written work.  This added thirty seconds per piece of work to assessment time.  Yes, in my anally retentive way, I counted out the seconds.

You can get Evernote as a free app for your phone or iPad.  However, half way through my piles of marking I exceeded my monthly data upload allowance.  I bought the premium upgrade for $46.99 for a year.  Suppose it's cheap if you use it.

All the students' work is stored alphabetically on my iPhone and on the web, so I can access it anywhere.  It's easier to view the students' work on a computer monitor than on the iPhone, of course.  So without any other records, apart from the VELS grade in my chronicle, I can see at a glance the quality of each student's work, including their typical errors.  I also photographed my final comments.

Unfortunately, I couldn't use my laptop during the interviews because I was sitting in the centre of the indoor basketball court.  My laptop battery is on the wane and only lasts for 90 minutes.  But I could use my iPhone.

At the first round of parent-teacher interviews there's always the concern that one won't be able to provide accurate assessments for parents - given it's week eight of the school year and secondary teachers on a full load teach perhaps 125 students. 

I teach 75 kids this year.  Yesterday, during seven hours, I saw the parent/s of 45 of them.  Mostly, I was able to recall student details accurately.  However, for a number of students, or when parents wanted more specific information, it was Evernote to the rescue.  Had to do a bit of 'finger-spreading' on the screen to enlarge the relevant pieces of work sufficiently to see them, but it worked.  Think several parents were impressed with my efforts too.

So thanks Evernote.  And thanks Richard Lambert on Twitter for giving me the idea.  I expect my Evernote records will be invaluable come report writing time.

Meanwhile, I'm preparing myself to get ticked off tomorrow by the principal for playing on my iPhone during parent-teacher interviews.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Day off.

Day off today.  Besides weekends, I have two other days off a week.  I'm off work more than I'm on.  A good life.

As on every day off, weekends included, I wake up in the morning, full of big ideas of what to do with this brilliant pool of time ahead of me.  Start writing a novel - cos the last one was such a big success - not.  Write a blog.  Maybe.  Do a twenty k bike ride.  Too windy.  Such are my thoughts.

Could have rolled on my back all day in bed, reading.  Currently, I'm reading Kathryn Stockett's The Help.  If I was going to read anything all day, that would be it.  Great book set in Mississippi in 1962, so far, written from the perspectives of a couple of 'colored' maids working for rich white families.  Apparently there's a film too.  I'll get around to that eventually, I suppose.

But the truth is I can only read all day when I'm away from home on a holiday.  If I'm here, there are jobs to do, even though there are only me and my husband living here full time.  My son's in and out.  Tidying around the kitchen - ten minutes, max.  Make bed - three minutes.  Washing:  four minutes sorting and loading then Asko takes over.  Ten minutes hanging it out; five to bring it in; ten to fold and put away.  Gives the day a bit of structure.  Don't know why I felt I had to prune the agapanthus today, but there you go.

Could have spent a few units of time blogging about my feral year eights, but it's the same old.  The fourteen year old kid daubing ink all over the desk, chair and the kid next to him yesterday was a newie, but I'm hoping if I don't detail it, it will recede into my vacuous head.  In that group, it's all about four domineering boys and one domineering girl.  Me standing up the front trying to teach and these five kids keeping me too busy to do it effectively.  Still, it's a breeze compared to all that prep, marking and stress incurred teaching Year 12s for the past thirty years.  Middle school classes are busy at the time, but I've done no homework so far this year, apart from endlessly analysing it all and planning how to do things differently tomorrow to make a success of it.

Got a bit panicky trying to get onto the sodding Ultranet - the DEECT website - at about ten this morning.  Couldn't log on.  Tried the virtual help-desk and went around in circles.  Did a bit of to-ing and fro-ing on emails to colleagues for advice.  Nothing was useful.  Finally decided to start again by re-registering.  Got into the system to discover that not only am I already registered - derr - but I'm a 'designated administrator'.  Well, really, ROFL.  Couldn't do anything on that page so logged out and started from scratch.  Logged in successfully this time, using exactly the same user ID and password that had failed several times earlier.  But you know what?  I had no idea what to do once I got onto the Ultranet.  And clicking around left me no wiser.

It was about 11 am by this stage and the possibilities of my day off were drying up and my anxiety levels were rising.

Seemed like a good idea to ride that bike.  But only a few k.  And how did the wind manage to turn around while I was in the supermarket so that I was cycling into it on the way home as well?

So what's my point?  Too much time on my hands.  And loving it.