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Data Collection

This really is the main reason I got the iPad. I wanted a way to be able to collect data on my students while I walk about the room. We do a lot of whole class and small group discussion. I found I really needed a good way to keep track of not only whose participating, but of who knows what. With this in mind I realized I needed something portable that I could carry around my class to collect and review data on. I still haven't found the perfect tool, but here's what I know so far.

Approach 1: Google Forms
My first attempt was with Google Forms. Below you will see a video walking through exactly what I mean by this. The primary advantages to this is that I can pull up the data on any device that reaches the internet. It also keeps track of data over time so that in theory I could, relatively easily, chart an individual student's progress. The video below demos this on my MacBook, but it really is seamless on the iPad. You can easily tap to rank the student in each category and submit. Works great.

The problem is that while I'm on the form page I can't see the class as a whole. In fact the incremental nature of the form makes it difficult to get a quick snap shot of the whole class. This is so close to what I'm looking for, but it's just not there.

  • Data entry is very quick.
  • I can instantly select any student in my class.
  • A new dated entry is created every time data are entered allowing me to see growth. 
  • Works flawlessly on the iPad or any device with a web browser. 
  • Totally free.
  • The data are not easy to organize. 
  • Some students will have several entries while other will only have a couple. 
  • Must be connected to the Internet to access the data. 
  • Difficult to get a quick “whole class” picture.

Approach 2: Numbers
No video for this one yet. Numbers is Apple's own spreadsheet program. In order to take full advantage of it you really should have the Desktop version to go with it. However, you don't absolutely need it. On the iPad Numbers has a Form function, which ends up being very similar to the Google Forms version I created. At first I had to poke around a bit to figure it out, but now I've got it working along with no problems. The primary advantage that Number has over my Google solution is that I always have my whole class snapshot whenever I want it. However, I don't get the really nice change over time data as easily.

Spreadsheets can be copied to or from iWork.com for free. Just use your Apple ID (the same one you use to buy apps). From iWork.com you can export excel versions if you want. In order to get some sort of incremental data I just upload a new copy of my sheets every week or after an assessment. So far I haven't looked at that data and I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but if I don't save it now I'll never have the option later of working with it.

Numbers really isn't the perfect tool either, but I do prefer it over Google Forms. It is not free, however. It costs $10.

  • Works perfectly on the iPad. 
  • Can back data up to iWork.com for free. Note, you can export an Excel version of your sheet from iWork.com. You have the data anywhere you are. 
  • Very easy to have a “whole class” picture whenever you want.
  •  Cheap, only $10 for the iPad App.
  • Not easy to get serial data to chart student growth. I’ve taken to making secondary sheets following each quiz in a unit for this purpose. 
  • Selecting a particular student in form view is not easy, which makes it difficult to switch between them during discussions. 
  • There is no way to work on the same copy of the sheet on your iPad and computer at the same time. So I end up with three different copies of every sheet. One on my iPad, one in the cloud and one on my laptop.
Approach 3: ActiveGrade
This is actually a webpage for keeping a Standards Based Gradebook. It is so close to what I want. It will keep serial data of student growth. It puts the most recent entries in a big, whole class spreadsheet. I can even use it to print out custom progress reports for my students that show which standards students have mastered and which they haven't so that they know what areas they are weakest in. So, what's the problem? It runs on an iPad, but was not designed for it. Of the three tools I've focused on it is the closest to what I want and yet the least compatible to what I need! You can try it for free, but an account costs $12 for a year (as of 2/11/11).