Last year whilst I was working as a specialist Computing teacher with 28 classes of students from FS2 - Year 6 each week, assessing in a meaningful but quick way was essential. The year before I had used Class Act, which has been spotlighted here on the site before. I loved the fact that I could arrange the students Ina seating plan view and just tap on them to add a formative, traffic light assessment. It was also great that I could then flush the assigned colour to the perimeter of each student's avatar so in the following session I could instantly see how they did in the session before and adjust differentiation accordingly. The problem came at the end of the year when I had no way to export the data or even view it beyond clicking on each student individually and reviewing their levels one by one.
I knew that I needed something else, something better and so I started making enquiries within the Apple Distinguished Educator community. The name that kept coming up was iDoceo and I planned to look into it when out of the blue the developer got in touch with me to see if I was interested in trying the app. Yes please!
We didn't do an end of year app awards feature this year for various reasons but if I am asked what was my top app for the last school year, there would be no doubt that I would pick iDoceo. I used it every single day, it did exactly what I needed it to do, it's customisable, versatile and easy to use. When it came to report writing time, my opinion elevated even further as it allowed me to generate an incredibly accurate and useful set of data.
NB student faces have been pixelated for the purpose of this article.
I've now begun to train staff across both of our primary schools in the use of iDoceo as the app's potential has been recognised by others. Here are ten of the top features of iDoceo that I will be sharing with them:
Training and Support
iDoceo offers a wide range of support for educators. The Manual section of the website boasts a huge selection of documents that cover all aspects of the app and how to get the most out of it.
The iDoceo YouTube Channel is excellent too with a selection of screencast tutorials to guide you through various aspects of the platform. Here's an example:
Bulk Import Student Photos
You really need the student’s photo on their tile to get the most out of the visual nature of this assessment tool. These can be snapped in app or imported. As with everything in iDoceo, you can then customise how and where they appear. I suggest adding them both to the seating plan view and the Gradebook for quicker reference to data. The issue I faced was getting 28 classes worth of pictures into the app. I expected this to be a pain but iDoceo made it really easy.
Images can be bulk imported from sources like Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive. I grabbed the student pictures from our school network drive (which were organised by class) and uploaded them to our school Dropbox account then brought them into iDoceo class by class whereupon they could be simply dropped onto the student’s tile. This process could actually have been even quicker if the images had been labelled with the students’ names as iDoceo can marry them up via data like this and tag them to the students in the app for you! How neat is that? You have to love that they have considered all these little things.
Pass The Class
Similarly when I added the actual classes, the data could be imported from CSV files on record at the school. I was planning the trial with a colleague and it seemed wrong that we would both be doing this identical task. We dug into the iDoceo bag of tricks and soon found a great solution.
We split the total number of classes in half and completed the uploads to iDoceo. From here we could then share the classes to each other via email or other apps. We chose to populate a Dropbox folder with these .idoceo files as that way others could access them later if the trial expanded. In another simple but brilliant touch, iDoceo forces you to password protect this potentially sensitive data upon export.
Seating Plans Galore
The ability to set out your class in a visual way using a seating plan in iDoceo is great. The fact that you can have ten different seating plans for each class is just brilliant. This means that you can customise layouts based on AfL for a topic, lessons, subject groups etc.
Whilst teaching Computing, I would have one plan for lessons in the Computing lab, another for lessons based in their classroom when using iPads and then add new ones as different pairings or groups were formed whilst working with different tools. The fact that I didn’t have to pull my seating plan apart and rearrange it each time was priceless. It’s also incredibly handy when a supply teacher is in who doesn’t know the names or where students sit.
Another great touch here is that you can even customise the background of each plan. I would do simple things like change the colour for the classroom lessons or drop a Google Earth logo in behind to cue me up that I was looking at the right plan. There are actually a lot of templates provided here too including sports courts – PE staff could literally layout the students in the positions that they play in whilst assessing them!
I had a very clear idea of how I wanted to use iDoceo for assessment and delved into the custom rubric creation with aplomb when I first started using it. There are a wide range of pre-made rubrics that you can harness from numerical grades to As, Bs and Cs and more. You can also choose the cell editor function – how you will enter the chosen grades.
Though I played around with some variations alongside my good friend Luke Rees, we couldn’t quite get what we wanted exactly right. So I reached out to Bert Sanchis – creator of iDoceo – with details of what we were trying to accomplish. To my delight, Bert replied within a day with sample files attached including a custom rubric and a bespoke cell editor tool! I can’t thank Bert enough for this (and he recently supported us again to work on a new levelling system) and it’s the mark of both a true professional and someone who cares about the educators using his product.
So this is what we ended up with thanks to Bert:
Firstly we had a custom cell editor called Three Smileys that allowed red, yellow and green smiley faces to be dropped onto students in the seating plan view. It was crucial for me to be able to do this as it allowed for roaming, on-the-spot assessments during fast-paced lessons with classes I only saw once a week. Red represented “working towards”, yellow represented “meeting expectations” and green represented “exceeding expectations.” I could also add these in the gradebook view if the session suited or if I was assessing after the end of a session -
This fed into a custom rubric that worked just as we had planned. It graded students on a scale of 1-3 points based on the assigned smiley. It also shaded each cell in the gradebook to match the colour of the smiley. This was great as, when the assessments built up, it provided a very clear visual representation of their progress.
It also fed into the plans I had to turn these assessments into grade point averages…
All About Averages
As with the rubrics, iDoceo offers a range of easy to harness calculation tools including averages, sums and more. One thing I particularly like about the way you use them is that you click on the columns that you want to include in the calculation and it automatically adjusts the weighting based on the number of columns you select -
Being able to select which columns were included was great for me as some of the columns were initial AFL judgements and I didn't want to include them in final grades. What elevated it even more for me though was the fact that I could easily tweak the weighting for a specific column myself - meaning that assessments for longer projects could quickly be given more value.
Behind the scenes was another custom rubric for dealing with the averages data. I set up a series of thresholds as such:
So an average score of less than 1.5 shaded the cell red, between 1.5 and 2.5 shaded yellow and above 2.5 shaded green. It was also set to display the average in numerical form to 2 decimal places. Here's how it looks with some dummy data:
This was a fantastic way for me to create end of year assessments for reports in a subject with no formal testing. Not only could I see student levels (WT, ME, EE) at a glance thanks to the colouring, but I could see their position within a threshold - invaluable when over half your student body are essentially pegged as the same level (ie "meeting expectations.")
For example, using the data above, both Antman and Hawkeye are meeting expectations but I can see that Antman has only just scraped into this threshold whereas Hawkeye is on the cusp on the level above.
One last point of note - do you see that Captain America shows as blue? I set the average column colour to blue so that it stood out. This is just what I did with my real classes. What I came to realise was that if a student had a perfect 3.0 grade average, the rubric didn't know what to do with the cell colour wise - so it left it transparent and thus the blue colour showed through! When I was asked about "gifted and talented" children in my subject, these blue kids were the names I went straight to.
Copying Columns to Other Classes
One absolutely brilliant time saver for me was the ability to create an assessment column with the custom rubric then send it to another class. As I was teaching four classes from each year group, this saved me from creating the same thing three more times. To access this handy tool, just click on the column header and you find the export function. Even better - you can send it to every other class you want to in one go!
Some of the Year 5 teachers I am working with on iDoceo right now have taken this to another level, They are using the app in Maths more like an APP trackjing sheet. As such they have all the objectives for the entire year logged and use the app to highlight when students have met that target. This took a fair while to set up and so rather than ask her team to replicate the task she was doing, the team leader created a template class, complete with all of the assessments columns, then shared the class the same way mentioned above. When you do this, you are given the option to include all of the assessment columns - so that's what she did and saved her team a heap of time in the process.
Any single assessment cell for a student can be enhanced by tagging multimedia content to it. This you can collate evidence to support assessment judgements, inform planning or share with parents or management teams. There are lots of options here including adding text, ink, audio, image or video notes. The choice means that you can harness this functionality in the way that best suits your needs or the nature of your subject. A poetry reading could be recorded in video format for example whereas a painting might be captured in photo form. Audio notes are quick and easy but not always viable in a noisy classroom (or with the student in question nearby) so the text option could be for you?
If a cell has content tagged to it, a corner is shaded to highlight this. Double tapping on a student's name also allows you to access a log of any resources tagged to them - fantastic for parents evening meetings!
You can also access a bank of icons which can be dropped onto a student's assessment to denote various things of your choosing e.g. A plus sign to show effort or a magnifying glass to show inquiry skills - the variations are limitless and completely personalised to your own practice or school system.
Exporting Your Data
When it comes to exporting the data, iDoceo has a raft of options for different reports in various formats including PDF, XLS and CSV formats. You can pull off reports on specific students complete with all attached notes or export entire gradebooks. This was the option I used - exporting to PDF then printing to A3. These hard copies were invaluable for Dave Murphy who took over from me in the role as he has a very clear, visual presentation of the progress and attainment for each class right at hand from day 1.
It should also be noted that iDoceo includes the ability to back data up to all common cloud services including Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and iCloud.
More More More
iDoceo is so much more than just an assessment tool. It contains resources and applications that essentially allow you to use it as a one stop shop for everything a teacher could need to be organised. Here are some of the other amazing features built in to complement the assessment tools:
The Overview screen allows you select widgets that enable you to view key details about a class, use timers, student pickers etc and more.
The Calendar integrates with you existing calendars and allows you to view and set events for your day, weeks month ahead.
The Notes page allows you to scribble quick notes about a class in either text or ink.
Finally there is the Pinboard which is a fantastic tool allowing you to collate notes, resources and more in a really visual way and even share these out to students or colleagues.
Well that makes ten - but I could easily go on and on. In fact there are many aspects of iDoceo that I haven't even begun to harness myself yet. Not only that but as the image below shows, iDoceo is constantly evolving and adding more and more features to it. As mentioned earlier, we are expanding the use of iDoceo this year and I can't wait to see what new tricks all these other great educators can teach me.
As for the title of this feature – yes it’s a Pinocchio reference. iDoceo definitely allows educators to cut some strings. It frees you up from a desktop assessment tool, giving you the ability to move around the classroom and observe progress on the spot and in the moment. The title also refers to the fact that iDoceo’s huge range of customisable options allows you to tailor assessments to your specific needs rather than be tied to using the rigid structure of another tool.
For more on the app and its other features visit the official site at idoceo.net