GradeProof – A review

So I saw this on FreeTech4Teachers and thought that this would be a good site to review. The service is called GradeProof and you can get there by going to https://gradeproof.com/ . Here students can write their own paper right from their editor, upload a document, import from Dropbox or you can add it to Google Docs. GradeProof then analyzes your paper and looks for spelling, grammar, and ways to improve phrasing. There is a free and a paid version. I’ll only be checking out the free one because … money.

To get started you can sign in with your Facebook account or give them an email account. Either way it’s pretty straightforward and easy as one would come to expect from a service like this.

Once you’re in, it drops you into your dashboard. Its very simple and minimalist design makes it very easy to navigate. There is nothing hidden, nothing that you need to “dig” for. It is all right there.

Any document that has been imported, uploaded or created on the service will show up right here. You can select any of your documents to open and edit or you can chose to upload, import or create one from the block on the far left.

So let’s go ahead and open a document. I’m going to use their demo document Long Odds. As you can see below the interface is pretty simple and clean. Easy to get the feedback the GradeProof is trying to share with you.

The text is in the middle and you may notice the different colors. Here is what those mean.
– Red = Spelling mistakes (just like most word processing programs)
– Yellow = Grammar mistakes or suggestions
– Green = Phrasing
– Blue = Eloquence (this is paid feature)

To see the feedback just click on an underlined word and GrammarProof will give you its thoughts on it. Check out some examples below.

Grammar example:

Spelling example:

Phrasing example:

Eloquence example:

Then you have the choices in the far left hand column.

Here you can toggle on and off the suggestions. For example if you only want to focus on grammar issues, you can hide the spelling, phrasing and eloquence suggestions.

Then you have, what I think, is a stroke of genius. You can ask GradeProof to Improve writing, Decrease words or Increase words. We’ve all had to write essay that has to have a minimum word count. This can help lengthen your paper.

Now you language arts teachers fear not. GradeProof does not make suggestions on what the content should be. More so if someone has written a sentence and used a conjunction It’s. GradeProof may suggest expanding that to it is. To add an extra word.

There is also an Auto Advance feature which is what it sounds like. When you click on an underlined word and resolve that issue, it will auto advance to the next underlined word automatically – saving you a click or some scrolling.

Then there is the plagiarism check. A feature that some people may want to pay for. I don’t know how it checks for plagiarism and I am not sure how accurate it is, but when I click on Plagiarism Check this is what pops up.

Below that is the summary. Here it will tell you how many characters, words, readability, grade level, words per sentence and other stats.

Now, let’s say you’ve edited the document and your ready to download it. This is the only “tricky” part. I put the word tricky in quotes because it really isn’t that tricky.

At the top right hand corner of the screen is a checkmark. Go ahead and click that bad boy.

It will then bring up a summary. This is kind of neat. GradeProof will show you all the changes that you were made in the document. Kind of neat. Now if you would like to download it click on the download icon in the top right hand corner of the document.

It will download an edited version of your document in a .txt file format which can be opened everywhere in any word processing app.

Now you may have noticed a Use in Google Docs option. That does not load a Google Doc into the editor. Instead, it is an Google Doc Add-on that you would need to install. It is free as well and is actually pretty handy.

Once installed go to your Add-ons and start GradeProof.

A side menu will appear giving you your summary statistics and how many spelling, grammar, phrasing and eloquence suggestions it has to show you.

To actually start viewing the suggestions you will need to click the View Suggestions button. When you do a pop up window will appear that should look pretty familiar. After you’ve made your changes go ahead and click the Apply Changes button at the top and you Google Doc will be updated accordingly.

Going Pro!

As you can see from a number of my screenshots, that it really wants me to fork over some money to get the Pro features which include the eloquence suggestions and the 50 plagiarism checks per month. To get those feature here is what you’ll need to pay.

They do have special pricing for schools and institutions but not for an individual educator.

Wrapping it up!

I like GradeProof and I think for young writers that this is something that can help them refine their documents and help them correct simple mistakes. I am not sure if the Pro version is worth the money, but that Plagiarism Check is a mighty strong draw for some.

The fact that it has an Add-on for Google Docs is what really seals it for me. That is a great convenience that sits right there in your Google Doc. That and the refined interface makes GradeProof worth checking out.

GradeProof – https://gradeproof.com/

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Episode 144 – Look to the right

Good day everyone and welcome back to another scintillating episode of the IT Babble podcast. This episode is pretty darn good. Check out the talking points below.

As always be sure to subscribe to us on iTunes, follow us on Podomatic or subscribe to us using your favorite podcasting app.

  1. The buzz be gone!
  2. Kiddom – A newish LMS for the classroom
    1. www.kiddom.co
    2. An overview video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpwIXxd3nHI
    3. A Silicon Valley startup is quietly taking over U.S. Classrooms by Kia Kokalitcheva from Aixos
    4. https://www.axios.com/a-silicon-valley-startup-is-quietly-taking-over-u-s-classrooms-2511356737.html
    5. Standards driven
  3. Why Perfect Grades Don’t Matter – A Youtube video by The Atlantic
    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=82&v=KShfEMy8UZQ
  4. What is STEAM Education and Why It is the New Engine of the Future Job Market? By Karol Górnowicz CEO of Skriware
    1. https://blog.daftcode.pl/what-is-steam-education-and-why-it-is-the-new-engine-of-the-future-job-market-1c0430587bbf
    2. https://skriware.com/
    3. MIT Fab Lab – http://fab.cba.mit.edu/
    4. Lucid Chart – https://www.lucidchart.com/

You can always download the episode here or listen below.

 

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Episode 143 – Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving listener! IT Babble is back and better than ever. This week Tony and Patrick talk about a whole bunch of good ed tech topics. Check out the talking points below. As always be sure to subscribe to us on iTunes.

  1. The Push for Education Programs that Pay People as They Learn by Lolade Fadulu
    1. Apprenticeships sound like a good idea
    2. Down sides?
    3. Does it take away a person’s choice?
  2. Does Educational Technology need to be its own discipline in universities?
    1. Contours of a New Discipline by Carl Straumsheim
    2. Disciplining Education Technology by Audrey Watters of Hackeducation
  3. Apple’s ‘Everyone Can Code’ initiative expands to colleges and universities outside the US by Jon Russell at Techcrunch
    1. Should high school be doing this?
    2. Problems with Apple’s Swift Coding
    3. https://www.apple.com/everyone-can-code/
    4. https://swift.sandbox.bluemix.net/#/repl
    5. https://developer.apple.com/swift/

As always you can listen to or download the podcast below!

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How to install MAMP and GLPI for your own inventory

Early October I wrote a post about why your school should have an inventory and I talked about using MAMP and GLPI to create your own on an older MacBook that you may have in storage.

I thought the post was good but it could use a little more detail about how to do the initial set up. Well here’s the video to help you out with that. Enjoy!

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Google Sheets – Query Function a Video Tutorial

Recently I posted about Google Sheets and how awesome the query function is. I thought it was so cool that I would make a little video about how to do it, in case my instructions were not super clear. Watch it below and leave comments about how you would use the query function in your classroom or school.

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Project Based Learning and Class Size


By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

The Class Size Issue in Project Based Subjects

The relationship between class size and project based subjects is inverse compared to studies that look at traditional courses where instruction is rote, and the differentiation needs to be very focused.

Of the top 22 Hattie indicators (The Hattie data can be viewed here. ), 10 connect directly to courses that at project based:

  • Self Report Grades
  • Piagetian Programs
  • Response to Intervention
  • Cognitive Task Analysis
  • Classroom Discussion
  • Teacher Clarity (Students Questioning Teacher Instruction)
  • Reciprocal Teaching (6 Facets of Understanding)
  • Feedback
  • Formative Evaluation
  • Self Questioning

Class size has been a central focus in nearly every school improvement plan I have been connect with. In fact, I recently helped build a schedule that was nearly solely dictated by class size.

As some one who solely works in project based subjects, team driven contests, and peer reviewed assessment I can attest that small classes are detrimental to learning in these environments.

When a class falls below 12 students, the student input, instances of serendipitous discoveries, the diversity of teams, and the needed conflict to fuel trial and error scenarios  all diminish. To be clear: the class becomes boring and stagnant.

Students need to be formed and re-formed into teams and groups in a project based environment. They need variety of opinion. They need to take the lead and be the teacher; they need to lead their peers; and they need their peers to explain “what went wrong” when failure happens. And failure will happen more often than trophies are presented.

If a class size is too small, this process (learning spiral) becomes repetitive and predictable. In my experience, small classes can be a stimulus for groupthink.

 

Read More At The International Educator

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Inventory – Just do it!

For the past three weeks I’ve been putting together an inventory for our school. We’ve never had one here before so I thought it was time to make that change, but this post will explain why we did it, how we did it and how we will use it going forward.

I will start off by explaining why we didn’t have an inventory in place and what prompted me to decide now was a good time to set one up. My school is small, less than 500 students and it only goes up to 8th grade. Like a lot of schools (large and small) widespread WiFi is pretty new. Less than 5 years old. Before that we had desktop computers, plugged into our local network with an ethernet cable. So if we had a room, we most likely had a desktop computer in it. Taking inventory would be as quick as looking at a map and counting.

With WiFi at the school people no longer wanted desktops. They wanted laptops. Fair enough, now we have devices that are no longer “chained” to a desk and most likely leave the campus every night when our teachers would go home. This would have been an ideal time to start the inventory. Now we have student iPads, computer carts, teacher iPads and spare laptops. Now there are a lot of moving devices on and off campus – I felt an inventory was essential.

Why

A lot of people think that the purpose of an inventory is track who has what device and you know what? They’re not wrong. It is good to know who has what device and to track any problems with the device and so on. Having a record of the device itself is also valuable. If we know it is a device that is constantly causing issues, then it may have to be taken out of service for repair or replaced. An inventory helps you track these issues.

Also, when budget time rolls around it is good to know how many older devices we have and how many of those we need to recycle and replace. Instead of guessing, jotting down notes, setting up multiple meetings with people, you can run a report and discuss who has what device and if it does need to be replaced. Now you have concrete numbers to work with, not just educated guesses. When you are dealing with concrete numbers, then you greatly reduce the risk of over or underbuying a product. This is a good.

How we set it up

There are a lot of inventory systems out there and most are expensive. I didn’t want to spend money on this system. As I mentioned we are a small school with one campus. Most proprietary systems are way more than what we need. Here is what I wanted. A system with a lot of search features, a number of fields that I could manipulate for each device and a way to export that data (PDF, CSV or Excel). Oh yeah, I didn’t want to pay for it or pay very little (ideally less than $100/year).

I found (thanks Tony) GLPI. This is a free open source inventory and ticketing system. It does a lot more than just that, but this is all I needed. There are others out there, Spiceworks and OCS. They seemed pretty good but I was familiar with GLPI and I didn’t see a real advantage of the others.

There is a catch with open source software. There is no support line. You need to trouble shoot it all on your own. Also, you need to host it. We have it hosted locally on a Mac Mini using MAMP (which is also free). I’ll write more about how to set up GLPI and MAMP on a Mac – it’s easy and you don’t need to be a super techy person either.

Once installed, I started to configure it. I wanted to know where in the school (middle school, lower school, office, etc.), if it was working, who was using it, inventory number, serial number, etc. Check out the screen shot below.

When I add a device, it looks like this. I have a few templates. They basically fill in some basic information about the device ahead of time.

Then I can input all the information I need. If you are setting up your own, don’t feel the need to fill in al the information. Only record what you need. Sometimes too much information just gets in the way. This info is basically all that I needed. With this info, I can tell if the device is allocated to a student or faculty member, where, who, what type of device (which gives me a solid idea of how old it is) and if it was a student, when they graduate.

From that first screen. I am able to search based on any of those criteria that I inputed. So, if I want to see how many MacBook Air computers we have allocated to students, I can see that!

If I want to export that search result, I have a bunch of options. I can do PDF, CSV or SLK (apparently this is Microsoft format meant to transfer info from databases to spreadsheets).

The system wasn’t entirely free. The software (GLPI and MAMP) was free, but I wanted a bar code scanner and a label maker. Here is what I purchased (all from Amazon). The bar code scanner is this guy. He s cheap and seems somewhat reliable and so far has worked fine.

For the label maker I went with Brother. They make good label makers and I wanted one that I could connect to my computer and print out a bunch at once. Brother has some software that allows it to pull data from a CSV file so it will print lists of people. Nice.

I spent a little more than I wanted and picked up this guy. DON’T BUY FROM BROTHER DIRECT!! This same printer was $150 MORE!

Then I bought some label tape. I bought black on white but made sure to get the extra strength. I wanted to get the silver with black letters, but I found out that the barcode reader will not read them reliably.

How I can use it

As I mentioned before, I can use this data in a variety of ways. Of course I can track who has what and even record anecdotal notes such as the condition, minor observable damages, etc.

Our school is in the midst of reaccreditation and this data will be very useful for our report. We can say how many devices students have, the ratios of those devices to students in each grade and really demonstrate how many opportunities students have to engage and utilize technology.

From a budget perspective, I now have a very clear understanding of what devices we have and what we need. We budgeted that our devices should be replaced every four years. Running a few reports on GLPI will give me a specific number of what devices are ready to be recycled. No guesswork anymore. We know that we have 47 devices that meet that criteria and therefore that’s what we need to order.

If a teacher wants more devices, since we have such a strong sense of what the budget will be, we can sit down and talk options. It’s not one of those Well, let’s wait and see, situations. You know how many devices you need, you know the price, you have a working budget and should be able to talk intelligently with that person about what to expect.

Inventories are important, but they don’t need to be done just at the upper echelons of administration. You can use GLPI for a lot of different situations. You could use it to set up your own classroom library. This way you could track who has what book and how popular some books are compared to others!

Ever try to keep track of theater or IT equipment? This could be your answer. Know who is working with what and for how long. I am sure there are other examples too, please leave your ideas and examples in the comments section!

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Google Sheets + Query = Hell YEAH!

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon something that has got my a little excited. I mean did you see the exclamation mark in the title? That is not to be trifled with people.

At any rate, I have stumbled upon the QUERY function from Google Sheets and man this is awesome! To be simply, this will allow you to have database like functionality to a Google Sheet. That may not mean too much to you, but it will.

At my school we have a list of approved parental chaperones by grade level. Basically these are family members. This list is made up of interested family members who have had a background check. No background check, means parents cannot attend. Simple as that.

Field trips are organized by the teachers in the classroom. Therefore, they are responsible for not just the students attending but making sure that parents who have been “approved” by the school can go. The teachers should be referring to a list and that is where the problem enters.

It was a mess (organizationally speaking). It was a Google spreadsheet but everything was entered manually. There were tabs for each grade level, but man it was a pain to update.

Here is what the IT team came up with. We will put all the data on one sheet. Then make a tab for each grade level. Finally on each tab we would use the QUERY function to auto populate the tab with the appropriate information for that grade level.

That way the original data didn’t need to be “organized.”

Make sense? It will. I’ve created a new project to show as an example. I have students in different grade levels attending workshops on different platforms. Worry not folks, these names came from a website that generates random names. Any coincidences that may have occurred are just that.

So here is my data.

Now what I want to do is separate it by workshop. That way I know exactly who is going to attend the Apple, the Google, the Linux and the Microsoft workshops. There are plenty of ways to do this using the vlookup function and so on, but this way is much faster and much simpler.

First, I will make tabs for each workshop.

Before I start the QUERY magic I will want to name the range of the data. On the tab that is called All Data I will select all of it by hitting CTRL+A (Windows) or by hitting CMD+A (Mac).

Now I will select Data –> Named Ranges… from the Google Sheets menu.

A new side window will appear asking you to name that information. I named mine workshop. You can name yours whatever you want, but when referencing back to this data the name must be perfect. If you capitalize the first letter, you have to capitalize the first letter in your QUERY.

Now in the Apple tab in cell A1 I will type this formula.

=query(workshop,“SELECT A,B,C WHERE C=’APPLE’”,1)

This is what should happen in that tab.

Now let’s take a look at that formula and break it down.

  • =query – This is you telling Google Sheets you will be using the Query function
  • (workshop – Remember when we selected all that data and named it workshop,? Well this is telling Google Sheets that we want to look at that pool of data. The comma is there to signify that we are ready to move onto the action.
  • Select A,B,C – This is here to say that of all that data we want to look at these three columns. If you only wanted a list of names you could but Select A and call it a day.
  • WHERE C=’APPLE’” – This tells the query to display only the information associated with the word Apple is found in column to C.
  • 1 – The one at the end corresponds to how many header rows there are (I think – I’m still learning here too 🙂

It’s awesome! One function in one cell is populating the worksheet! It also updates dynamically so when you add another student to the worksheet it will automatically update the correct page with that information.

Awesome!

If you want to see my example click the Google Image below.
It is only view only but you can make a copy and look at the formulas which are all in cell A1 of each respective cell.

Now, I did not just stumble upon this and figure it out all on my lonesome. Oh no, I had a little help from two very good websites that helped break this down for me.

One is from Ben Collins, a spreadsheet Developer and much more. Check out his excellent introduction to the query function on his website.

The other website is Coding is for Losers. This site has a tremendous treasure trove of resources and will take your spreadsheet to the next level! You can find the information on query right here. They also have great YouTube videos. Check out their channel here.

If you have any tips or tricks feel free to leave them in the comments!

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Clarify – Today is a dark day

As a professional, there are those magical moments when you come across a system, technique or app that just works. It doesn’t just works, it works exactly as expected. It crushes those pesky expectations and everytime you produce a product using it, you feel as though you’ve bettered yourself, your peers, your clients or all of the above.

Clarify, my dear friends, is that app for me.

As an educator and working with IT, explaining how to perform tasks is a daily occurence. Whether I am working with administrators and the schdule or students on how not to reply all to an email, I and the IT team are needed. Clarify allowed us to work smarter. We could prempt these problems by using Clarify to make step-by-step instructions. Not only could you make these instructions, easily and quickly, but then you could upload them to Clarify’s server, so you could email out a link, embed it into a website or heck even export as a PDF or Word file. It was awesome.

The app itself is awesome, but Clarify’s awesomeness didn’t stop there. Oh no. Their support was second to none. A couple of years ago I upgraded to Clarify 2 and was having some issues with it. I emailed their support. None other than Trevor DeVore (co-founder) emailed me back. It took about a week and a lot of work (mostly on Trevor’s part) to pinpoint the problem, but it turned out to be a third party app that wasn’t playing nice with Clarify. Most tech support teams would have given up (beliveve me I know) after the first couple of solutions didn’t work, but Trevor kept at it until it was working.

Clarify is a product of Blue Mango Learning and they make a “grown up” version of Clarify called Screen Steps. It is definitely more tailored for larger companies for their training purposes and apparently that part of their business is growing pretty well because they are just in a position to dedicate the amount of time needed to keep Clarify supported and to keep their servers up and running.

You can read their reasons from their blog here.

You can’t blame them, there are only so many hours in a day and instead of letting a service sit their and fester with the “appearance” of support. They are stepping away from it.

Mark my words people, I will use Clarify until the wheels fall off. I’m thankful to the people of Blue Mango for their work and support and having the great idea of creating a program to develop step-by-step instructions for everybody.

Whoever (if anyone) steps up in this niche market – beware! You have some big shoes to fill.

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Episode 141 – GO REDS!

141

Tony and I were in Cincinnati together and took in a Reds game (they won by the way). No, that is not us on the jumbotron. While there we also had a chance to sit down together and talk Ed Tech, which is what we love to do anyway.

Check out the talking points below!

  1. Hello Cincinnatti! 
  2. What’s been going on? 
  3. Tony’s post on Technology Surveys for New Hires. 
    1. https://itbabble.com/2017/07/14/technology-surveys-for-new-hires/ 
  4. Patrick is back on Mac – sort of Extortion = Swivl 
    1. Crazy prices now 
    2. https://www.swivl.com/store/ 
    3. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/satarii/swivl-multipurpose-motion-platform-for-mobile-and  
    4. What does it do and why is it popular? 
https://itbabble.podomatic.com/enclosure/2017-08-25T07_21_04-07_00.mp3″

You can download the show here!

You can also subscribe to us on iTunes or Podomatic.

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