On an overcast Saturday in Iowa, I found it hard to stay interested in my school work.  I had plans to make, materials to develop and, every teacher’s favorite, papers to correct.  As I looked at some of the paper clipped, fringe ladened notebook papers in front of me, I had a thought.  I created a little game for myself to keep me interested in working for the next 3 hours.

Last week in school, I was running late with my first class of the day.  I quickly printed out homework for them to complete on paper.  However, with my later two classes, I had the time to upload the homework to Edmodo, an online classroom module where students can complete the homework online.  I asked myself: Is it faster for me to correct these assignments on paper or on Edmodo? And just like that I had a Saturday challenge to keep me occupied.

I set the timer and began to correct 18 of the paper copies in front of me.  It took me 23 minutes, 15 seconds to correct the sentences and write the grade on the paper.  It took an additional 1 minute 50 seconds to put the scores into my gradebook.  That is a total time 25 minutes, 5 seconds for one class of 18 students.  It’s approximately 1 minute, 40 seconds per student.

One student's Edmodo assignment.

I had more than 18 students complete the assignment on Edmodo, but to keep things equal, I only timed myself for 18 of the students.  In Edmodo, the students type their responses in a text box and the teacher has a comment box for comments.  I commented just as I would have on paper and graded the assignments.  I was done with that portion of my work in 16 minutes, 48 seconds.  I then had to transfer those grades over into my gradebook, but since the students are listed in Edmodo in alphabetical order, it took me only 40 seconds.  (The paper homework was in a random order.) The Edmodo grading took me a total of 17 minutes, 28 seconds.  That breaks down to only 58 seconds per student.

Concluding Reflection:

Pros: Edmodo looks like a clear winner in the department of time saving.  The difference between grading the paper copies and the online assignments was about 42 seconds per student.  I average about 65 students in my Spanish sections, which is about 45 minutes of time saved just grading the assignment and inputting the grades into the computer.  That is 45 minutes of “me time” that I can spend watching Bravo reality shows, painting my nails or chasing my dog.  And it’s 45 less minutes I have to spend in front of my computer or with nubby, fringy homework papers.  Also, the students get that feedback immediately.  They aren’t going to have to wait until Monday when I pass back the paper (which takes about 2 – 3 minutes of instructional time) to get their results.  These students can log-in anytime to see their score and their comments.

Cons: I like my Sharpie correcting pens because they make bright, dark marks on papers.  I like to draw in arrows or missing letters on the assignments so that the students see their mistakes and they pop.  In Edmodo, I am limited to making my comments inside of a text box, so my comments cannot be drawn directly onto one of their sentences.  In this particular assignment, students were writing sentences and I was assessing their sentence structure and grammar.  Being able to make visible corrections over top of their work is valuable and something that is lacking on the Edmodo side.  However, as a high school teacher, I usually carefully watch when my students receive these types of assignments back and most of them take a quick glance at the letter grade and start to crumple it up and practice their jump shot with the trash can.

Bottom Line: For future grammar assignments where I am particularly interested in word order, spelling and construction of the phrases, I would seriously have to think about sticking with the paper assignments.  The feedback options and the opportunity for students to learn from their mistakes should outweigh my basic need for more free time.  But I will not lie: the valuable of a teachable moment vs. 45 minutes of being able to kick back and relaxing creates an internal struggle.

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