Saturday, November 05, 2011

Grading Papers on the iPad Redux

(Go here for the original post.)

Here's an update, part experiential and part technical. The technical part is here because I hate it when people rhapsodize about doing something on the iPad that you know from experience is tricky to do and then don't tell you how it's done.

The experience: grading on the iPad now doesn't take longer (or much longer), and it's fun. [Update: It now doesn't take any longer, although it would if I were including long explanations of errors as is possible with autotext.]

Experience update

1. I invested in a wireless keyboard, which makes the whole typing on the iPad thing much easier and with many fewer typos.
2. I like reading the papers on the iPad. It seems to be easier to get a sense of the big picture of the paper, since the .pdf conversion usually changes double space to single space.
3. I didn't time the papers this time, as I did before, but the cumbersome features that made the process longer last March have largely been eliminated.

1. There's still no Autotext feature. That means that students have to rely on their handbooks or other aids to look up what may be wrong with a sentence, since I am certainly not going to type out 5 sentences on what a comma splice is every time they write one. On the other hand, we've already talked about these things in class and this isn't their first paper, so perhaps it won't be a problem.
2. There's still a few more transfer/downloading/renaming steps than if I were using Word.


Importing the papers

First of all, it's not necessary to change the papers (which are usually in Word or some variation) to .pdf using a third-party program. iAnnotate will do that if you open them correctly.

Do NOT try to open them directly in iAnnotate unless they're already in .pdf format; they won't show up.

1. Open Dropbox. Go to the folder where you've stored the student papers.
2. Touch (click on) the paper to open it. It'll show up in the Dropbox window, but tell it to "Open in" iAnnotate. Click on the box with the arrow in the upper right-hand corner to do this. You may have to scroll down to see iAnnotate as an option when the menu for this box opens up.
3. iAnnotate will convert the file to .pdf and then open it.

Marking Up the Papers

Second, write your comments using iAnnotate's commenting features. I don't draw freehand lines and circles, since it's slower for me than just inserting comments, but it's possible to do that.

Update: In addition to using the commenting features, I now mark directly on the .pdf with a stylus. I don't do much with the stylus--circle a few words, add a "good point" in the margins--but the paper looks a little more as though it has been touched with human hands if there's handwriting on it. It's also a more immediate and "natural" way to respond it you're used to writing on paper.

1. To insert a comment, tap on the pencil icon at the side of the screen and tap on Note. You'll then have two choices: Note and Typewriter. Choose Note.
2. Type your comments in the Note space just as you would do with the Word comment feature. [Thanks to Stacey for bringing that up.] It works exactly the same.
3. Click on the minus sign to close the note when you're finished typing.
4. I used to use Typewriter for a final comment, but it shows up as a big black oblong with no text in some readers (like Adobe Acrobat). The Notes, on the other hand, seem to show up fine in Adobe, which is probably what most students have installed.

The Notes will show up in most desktop readers (including Adobe and Preview for Mac) and in iAnnotate but not in Goodreader, NoteTaker, CloudReaders, and other readers for the iPad. You can also "flatten" the annotations so that they'll be more readable. If you "flatten" the annotations, they will show up as a numbered list of comments at the bottom of the page instead of a pop-up message that shows up when students mouse over the comment.

Return the papers

Third, either re-upload the paper to Dropbox or email it to the student. You can email it by clicking on the box, which is on the left side.

But what if you want to re-upload it to Dropbox so that you can later upload the papers to a CMS? This is not an intuitive move in iAnnotate.
  • File cabinet icon? No.
  • Upload arrow? No. It will tell you that the file has been uploaded to Dropbox, but the file doesn't upload.
You would never guess this one (or at least I couldn't after many attempts), but here's what I found from drilling down on the iAnnotate support site:

1. Click on the file folder-like tab at the top of the document (the Document Context Menu).
2. Click on Share.
3. Click on Upload.
4. Now you'll see your Dropbox account. Click on it and your file will upload.
5. Note: It will probably upload to the iAnnotate folder rather than to the folder from which you downloaded it.

You'll still be stuck with the same filename, since the Gods of Apple Products have an insane prejudice against a Save As feature, but at least you'll have them all where you can rename them and upload them to your CMS or whatever.


Stacey Lee Donohue said...

This is not selling me on the ipad. One question: is there any way to use Word or an Apple version of Word on the ipad so I can use the good ole comment feature?

undine said...

Stacey--the pop-up notes ARE the comment feature--sorry. I will amend the post to make that clearer. The only difference is that Word puts them on the side, whereas the other comments appear in the document and reveal the comments as you scroll down.

About Word on the iPad--nope, not as far as I know. You can use DocsToGo, which works more or less, but you can't do the comment feature with that or with the version of Pages that's available on the iPad.

Stacey Lee Donohue said...

Our college library has an ipad I can borrow: I'll try it Docs to Go and iAnnotate. Do you use Blackboard on the ipad? Does that work well? Thanks for the update: I do want an ipad but I need to make sure it works for this key component--grading;))

undine said...

From what I've read and seen, Blackboard and other CMS platforms don't work on the iPad. The frame around the CMS makes it so that you can't scroll down.