Ok, I know it’s something I should do, but I don’t. Not regularly, not as a habit, and to be honest, not in a way that I can really work with well afterwards.
Why not? My main excuse would be time. When one class finishes and I have another to teach coming straight into the room, when do I have a moment to make a note. And where would I store it, and ….. It’d be easier if I only ever taught one class, but with 5 on the go it’s not something I’ve developed as a habit.
But I’m doing this MYP course and seeing that I really should be doing this. So how? Well, I think technology is the answer to my problem, but we have to think about this carefully.
I need something I can use to make very, very, very quick comments without it taking much thought on how I’m going to do this. So, this is what I’m setting up.
Using ActiveWords, I can set up keyboard shortcuts I can use from anywhere in windows. So I’ve created a text file for each of my students. Then I’ve created a VBScript which records my input and appends it to the relevant text file. Then I created an ActiveWord for each of my students, which runs the VBScript.
So, now, all I have to do, for example, is type David and hit the confirmation key (which is F8 at present but I think I may change to Space Space), wait half a second for the VB InputBox to pop up, type my comment (did amazingly well at solving today’s maths problems), hit enter, and my comment is appended to David.txt (with the date in front of it).
Cool. And since I can do this in any window, I don’t have to worry about running the application or anything, I can just pop to my machine and in a second or two make a comment. When I need the comments, I just read the textfile.
Ok, that’s what I’ve come up with so far. There are a few things I’m not happy with, I’m going to list them in the hope that someone will help me find a solution.
- ActiveWords appears to be able to work with a line of input, using <LAST LINE>, so theoretically I could work without the VB InputBox which slows things down, but I can’t work out how to pass the contents of <LAST LINE> to the clipboard, or alternatively how to pass it to the VBScript as an argument.
- I’m having to write a VBScript for each and every single one of my students. Fortunately I only have about 80, so it’s a hassle but is doable. I’ve written an ActiveWord that creates a textfile with the appropriate name, but I have to run it for each student. I’ve written another ActiveWord that uses the textfile name to create the appropriate VBScript. So it’s a relatively smooth process, but timeconsuming. I think I can set it up so I only have one ActiveWord that sets up everything for each student, so I’ll only have to run it 80 times (Woo!) but that’s the best I’ve come up with so far.
As it stands at present, there’s some time consuming setup but it works beautifully when it’s all done. We’ll see how I get on with it after we get back to school. I’m not sure, but I think ActiveWords works on some handhelds – if that’s so there’s real potential for this to be used in that way, together with a synchronization script.
I also think this could be an outstanding tool for teachers in general, but you have to be pretty tech-savvy to set it up. It involves buying the ActiveWords software but honestly, I think it’s worth the $50. I use it for so many other things too. If there was some way to streamline the whole set up process, perhaps a GUI involving a few options (where do you want to save your files? Where are your students names?) it would be incredibly powerful and I think very popular. Maybe ActiveWords and VB aren’t the right way to achieve this, I’ve been reading a little about AutoHotkey and AutoIt and maybe they are more suitable, but I’m not going to put in the time (not at present anyway) to learning whether that is the case.