I started teaching at a time when it was normal for teachers to carry around a hard copy gradebook everywhere they went. If we went to the copier, we took our gradebook. If we went to a parent conference, we took our gradebook. That gradebook was our bible, our connection to students who did their work and the ones who did nothing. If by chance a teacher lost their gradebook, it became a school emergency with students being searched, lockers being searched, and eventually being found due to some prank carried out by brave students. This distinctive book (usually red, brown, or green ) was a book that literally held our teaching livelihood.
About a year into teaching, I was introduced to a new phenomenon, online gradebooks. At first I was leery of this new technology, but gradually I started to use one and my life instantly became easier. I could now enter grades and instantly students knew what their grades were. Parents no longer needed to call me to see if their student turned in an assignment- it was all there on the computer screen. Online gradebooks made conferences much easier because I could walk in with a computerized progress report that could make the toughest of students cry out in defeat. I started using an online gradebook as a convenience to myself. Here, finally, was a gradebook that couldn’t get lost or stolen, and it would be automatically backed up. The accumulated scores could also be downloaded directly into a spreadsheet for calculation of grades, a shortcut that reduced the possibility of errors.
For students, the open gradebook made it easier to follow their performance over the course of the semester, and it opened a new avenue for teacher-student dialogue. At midterm, for example, when students received their grades, they could compare daily and weekly scores with a letter grade summary to see how it all added up. They could ask questions or contact me if they thought a mistake had been made. Being able to review and correct entries seemed to increase my students’ confidence in the grading process. They recognized my good-faith effort to handle grading in a consistent and reliable way.
Many school districts now require teachers to enter their grades online in a program that manages gradebooks. There are many benefits of using online gradebooks:
- Parents can see the grades online, which means (theoretically) that parents will not call teachers constantly wanting to know his/her student’s average.
- Teachers can write comments for parents to view.
- Accessible from any computer…on campus or off campus, so many find such programs extremely convenient.
- Parents can view their student’s grades and discipline activity online.
- In some programs, parents can update their contact information.
- Parents can view lesson plans to see what upcoming tests and assignments his/her student has due in the coming days.
- Easily organizes grades for teachers to view, and some programs let teachers know if they have forgotten to key in assignments or what “late assignments” are due.
- Such programs automatically compute averages.
- Grades are accurate as human error is no longer part of the equation, as long as teachers key in the correct grades.
- Teachers can enter grades from home.
In evidently, online gradebooks are easier ( than hard copy grade books) for teachers to manage, they make grading easier by taking the stress out of teachers having to manually calculate grades. Despite it all, sometimes I look at my old gradebook and miss the good times we used to have.
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