Tuesday
Jun072011

GradeA update with attendance coming this summer

For the last few weeks I have been working on adding attendance functionality to GradeA. I've seen a number of search request in the web site logs that indicate people are looking for an attendance app on the Mac. I also figured, I would wait to see what Apple announced at WWDC for iOS 5 before starting on an iPad version of GradeA.

I have the attendance functionality working and am working on ways to import/merge the attendance data in GradeA with the iOS Attendance app since I think a number of people, including myself, will want to do that. The basic copying of data is working, but this is a fairly complex issue. For example, do I always add data? Or should I ask the user if they want to delete the data that is missing in one of the apps? I'll probably provide both options - an option with no user interaction that only adds data and an option that asks if you want to add/delete each missing date, etc.

I also plan to support some of the new Lion features while still maintaing backwards compatibility with Snow Leopard. Initially I will support the Versions/Autosave (see http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/auto-save.html) in the update with attendance support while some of the other announced features in Lion will have to wait until a future update to GradeA.

Because the import/export to the iOS Attendance app is fairly complex, it will probably take me a few more weeks before I am ready to submit the new version of GradeA to the Mac app store. As a result, I will not have time this summer to make much progress on an iPad version of GradeA and may not even have time to start it as I am teaching a new course in the fall semester.

I will also be looking into whether or not to use iCloud for the iOS Attendance app to make it simpler to copy your Attendance database between multiple devices. It is too early to tell if this will work well for Attendance  and can be completed this summer, but I will check into it after finishing the GradeA update.

 

Tuesday
May032011

Updates to GradeA and Attendance and summer plans

Apple approved updates to GradeA and Attendance last week. GradeA 1.0.1 includes a minor bug fix so it does not include negative scores when calculating the median for an assessment. Negative scores are not include in a student's grade so you can use a negative value to indicate assessments a student missed but you do not want to include in the grade. Version 1.0.1 also adds keyboard shortcuts for moving between the tabs. See GradeA's Window menu for the keyboard shortcuts.

Attendance 4.4 adds new options for sorting names and for what is displayed below the student name while taking attendance. On the Add/View tab, each time you press the Sort button it alternates by sorting by one of four options:

  1. By last name and then by first name.
  2. By first name and then by last name.
  3. By the student identifier.
  4. By the student note (not the daily student note).

An alert dialog indicates the current sort order after you press the Sort button. You can still manually re-order the students by pressing the Edit button and then dragging the names into the order you want using the handles on the right side of the screen.

The Take Note setting (Quit the Attendance application, launch the iOS's Settings application, scroll down and select Attendance. There you will see the various options.) now allows you to choose whether to display the student ID (identifier) or the student note or the daily student note. I've heard from a number of people in Japan and other Asian countries saying that they use the student ID for attendance purpose so the options to sort by ID and display the ID should help them.

I'm considering trying to write an iPad version of GradeA while I have some time this summer. I've spent a few hours trying to design a decent iPad interface for it and so far I haven't sketched anything that I think is great, but have one or two ideas that might work reasonably well. So far, sales of GradeA for the Mac have been slow, but that's not too surprising given the timing of its release. I'm curious to see how sales are in August and September as teachers in the U.S. head back to school.

If you would be interested in an iPad version of GradeA, please send me an email to help me gauge interest. Like the Mac version it would also be $15 given the limited number of copies it would sell and that it will require completely rewriting the Mac version for the iPad user interface. A number of people have asked about grading functionality for Attendance. I still don't think I can design a reasonable interface for Attendance on the iPhone/Touch so I'm unlikely to do that. I've also had one request for attendance functionality in GradeA. I may try to add that to the Mac version of GradeA this summer.

Wednesday
Mar232011

GradeA Mac app available in Mac App Store now

Apple approved my GradeA Mac grading app. Initially, I've just made it available in English-speaking countries. Please read more about the app here and try the free demo version available here before purchasing the full version. The demo version limits the number of students and assessments to five. Here is a (link) or you can search for GradeA in the Mac App Store to find it. It costs 14.99 USD. When I have time, I'll probably try to make some videos showing how to use it, but for now the app does have fairly detailed instructions available from the Help menu of the app (also available in the demo version) so that should help you get started.

Monday
Mar072011

GradeA Mac Grading App

I'm just about ready to submit my Mac Grading App "GradeA" to the Mac App Store. There is a demo version (limits number of students to five and number of assessments to five) available now on the web page for the app along with more information about it. I and a few of my colleagues have been using it this semester to test it so I think it is in pretty good shape. I have already added a number of features based on their feedback so the app is much more full-featured at this point compared to the original 1.0 version of my iOS Attendance app. I'm certain there will be more feature requests as more people try it. As with Attendance, I will use the following criteria to decide what new features to add:

  1. Does it fit well with the main use of the app and would a number of people likely use the feature?
  2. Can I design a reasonable user-interface for the feature without making the app too difficult to learn to use?
  3. Is it something I have the time to implement right now?

And as with Attendance, I use the app myself so you can be certain I will try to quickly fix any bugs and keep it updated to work on new versions of OS X.

The web page for the app,  http://www.dave256apps.com/gradea, has more information about the features of the app and includes a download link for the free demo version. I will make another post when the app is available in the Mac App Store.

 

Monday
Jan032011

Chronicle of Higher Education article featuring Attendance

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a nice article featuring Attendance (link to article) and a few other mobile apps. Just in case anyone is curious, as the article states, the initial version did take about two weeks during our 2008 Christmas break to write plus a few more days of getting it ready to submit to the app store and setting up a web site. For those of you who bought the 1.0 version, you may recall the limited feature set. Since then I've updated it numerous times and my best guess is I've put about six to eight months of full-time work into the app during various semester breaks and summers. I've also spent at least another month of full-time working during the two years Attendance has been available answering over 1500 email questions about it.

Thanks to everyone for all the great feedback and for helping make Attendance a niche hit in the iOS app store.

Due to an accident -- I fell off a step ladder in my house and broke four ribs -- and of course, the start of a new semester, the pace of updates will definitely slow for the next few months. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've spent most of our Christmas break trying to finish a Mac grading app that I've been thinking about writing for a while (the new Mac app store is pushing me to finish it) so I'd like to get that done too. My best guess is I'll put the finishing touches on it during our mid-semester break in March (while I and a few of my colleagues beta test it this semester). I will of course continue to fix any bugs in Attendance (4.1.1 that fixes a few minor issues and provides a new preference should be approved within the next week or so) and make certain Attendance runs fine on any new iOS updates. I continue to use the app myself so you can be certain I want it to continue to work reliably.

The planned features for Attendance include saving reports to Dropbox (in addition to being able to email them) and possibly a few new report options that allow you to determine students who have missed a certain number or certain percentage of classes. I will get to these updates this summer, if not sooner. If you have other features that you think are a good fit for the app and many people would use, feel free to email them to me (my email address is in the Instructions tab of the Attendance app).

Dave

 

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