Last July, Jason wrote an extensive post about Attendance, an iOS app that helps teachers take attendance and more in their classes. After that post I downloaded and started using the app in my classes. Like Jason, I now rely on this app to keep track of who’s in class and who’s not, and to remind me to notify students who miss too many classes.
I’ve found two unexpected benefits from the app, though, that I thought would be worth highlighting here:
Learning student names. As Natalie wrote, “Learning your students’ names quickly is a crucial element in building rapport, creating community within a discussion-based course, and facilitating many classroom management tasks like grading participation or attendance.” Attendance allows you to add pictures of your students to their profiles. You can use the phone’s camera to take the pictures from the profile screen, or you can import them from your photo library. I’ve started adding my class rosters to Attendance before the first day of classes. Then, in the first class, I go through the roll, add any necessary notes to their profiles—such as nicknames, etc.—and snap a picture of each student. I explain why I’m doing it: “this will help me learn your names quickly.” Once I’ve added all my students’ pictures to Attendance, I can click the “Photos” button (Add/View–>Photos) to email all the photos, with the students’ names, to myself. Even better, I can start a slideshow of my students and their names (Random–>Cycle Through Students) within the app. This is how I now learn student names: first I flip through my students’ pictures with their names above, and as I get begin to remember their names I cover the names with my thumb and only flip through the pictures. Before the second class session I have my students’ names memorized.
Forming teams for groupwork. Jason mentioned this briefly in his post, but I’ve found the group organizing feature of Attendance invaluable these past two semesters. When you click the “Random” category within the app, you can then ask Attendance to organize your class into groups of anywhere between 2 and 30 students. This allows me to quickly and impartially put together teams for groupwork, and saves me organizational time. It also saves me any worry that I’m not constituting groups fairly. I use this feature in nearly every class.
If you’re a teacher with an iOS device, I strongly recommend that you try Attendance. Given its many features—those that Jason outlined and those I’ve mentioned here—it’s well worth its minimal price tag of $4.99.