The Evolution of the Online Gradebook

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:

  1. Parents can see the grades online, which means (theoretically) that parents will not call teachers constantly wanting to know his/her student’s average.
  2. Teachers can write comments for parents to view.
  3. Accessible from any computer…on campus or off campus, so many find such programs extremely convenient.
  4. Parents can view their student’s grades and discipline activity online.
  5. In some programs, parents can update their contact information.
  6. Parents can view lesson plans to see what upcoming tests and assignments his/her student has due in the coming days.
  7. 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.
  8. Such programs automatically compute averages.
  9. Grades are accurate as human error is no longer part of the equation, as long as teachers key in the correct grades.
  10. 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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