Entries in GradeA (7)

Friday
Oct212011

Attendance and GradeA updates

Please note: all new Attendance updates will require iOS 4.0 or higher.

This has been a particularly busy semester for me so I haven't had time for many updates other than quick bug fixes. I had tested Attendance on the iOS 5 betas and while it seemed a little slow, that's fairly common for beta releases that are not fully optimized. Unfortunately, Attendance was still slow in the iOS 5 release, especially on the Take tab when selecting a date to take attendance for that date. I was able to track down the problem to a slow calculation for computing the attendance totals for each student. I am surprised that it became much slower on iOS 5, but I was able to add an index in the SQLite database for the table used there and it seems to have improved the speed significantly. I also fixed a crash on iOS 5 when using the option to tap and hold a status (gives you a popover on the iPad with the statuses so you can select one and a new screen on the iPhone/Touch for selecting a status). I've submitted this update (version 4.6.3) to Apple so I am hopeful it will be out late next week (i.e., late October 2011).

I see at least one review in iTunes asking about iCloud syncing. True syncing (i.e., if the data can be changed on multiple devices between sync) is very difficult. As far as I can tell, iCloud doesn't actually provide any help for true syncing but can copy the data between devices. Attendance supports using Dropbox (options on the Add/View tab) for copying data (not syncing) between devices so for now I'm going to continue to recommend that for copying data between your multiple iOS devices. The rule is you need to be using a device that has the latest copy of the data before you start changing the data or you will lose information. So if you have an iPhone and use the Backup to Dropbox/Attendance on it, you must use the Restore from Dropbox/Attendance option on your iPad before you use it to take Attendance. When I have more time I will look into iCloud again but I'm not optimistic it has any support for true syncing. And any support for true syncing would require a complete rewrite of the application to include the internal data structures for syncing.

I've also been working on an update to GradeA. The Mac App Store is going to require that all apps for sale in it are "sandboxed." This limits the data they can access on your computer. The only real limitation this applies to GradeA are the ability to email grades and records automatically from GradeA. Apple is recommending a separate process (they call it an XPC service) for services such as this where they will allow (at least temporarily) exceptions to the sandboxing rules. So I have been working on an update that will use an XPC service to send the data. This will be transparent to the user (i.e., you won't notice it), but does require significant changes to the emailing portion of the app. I am in the final testing phase and plan to submit it to Apple sometime in the next week. This will be version 2.1 of GradeA.

 

Wednesday
Jun292011

GradeA 2.0 available

GradeA 2.0 is now available in the Mac App Store (link). It adds the ability to take attendance and also import/export data to my iOS Attendance app.

If you plan to use GradeA with my iOS Attendance app, you must enter a unique value for the ID (identifier) field for each student as that is the value used to match students between the two programs. The simplest way to use them together is to create your class using one system or the other and enter an ID value for each student and then import the data into the other system. I have made a few videos showing these features (link) with higher quality versions here: http://gallery.me.com/dave256. I've also started a FAQ for GradeA (link).

Version 2.0 also includes an updated Help file (available from the Help menu of GradeA) describing how to use these new features in more detail. The free demo version available here has also been updated to version 2.0.

 

Monday
Jun272011

GradeA 2.0 with attendance support coming soon

I've submitted version 2.0 of GradeA to Apple for them to approve. It adds attendance support to GradeA. Using these new features you will be able to:

  • use GradeA as a stand-alone system to take attendance in addition to recording grades
  • if you also use my iOS Attendance app, you will be able to import your Attendance records into GradeA
  • use GradeA to enter your names and export them into my iOS Attendance alleviating the need to create CSV files for importing into Attendance

If you plan to use GradeA with my iOS Attendance app, you must enter a unique value for the ID (identifier) field for each student as that is the value used to match students between the two program. I have made a few videos showing these upcoming features that you can view at http://gallery.me.com/dave256. Version 2.0 also includes an updated Help file (available from the Help menu of GradeA) describing how to use these new features in more detail.

I will also update the GradeA demo version when Apple approves the new version. Even though the demo version limits you to five students per class, it will support exporting students to your iOS Attendance course. You will be able to enter five names, export them, delete those names from the GradeA file, add up to five more names, and export them.

 

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.