Using Apple Pencil to grade student essays--best apps?

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by kipwheeler, May 5, 2017.

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  1. kipwheeler macrumors member

    kipwheeler

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    Nov 1, 2016
    #1
    Academic here--one who marks up a lot of student essays.

    I'm thinking about going physically paperless in my classes (again), but I've never liked inserting typed commentary using the comments function of Word. I've always preferred handwriting my comments directly on top of their text. Even when I've had the students submit their papers electronically, I tend to print them out so I can mark them up physically. However, I don't like carrying around 60-80 printed copies of essays--especially the 12-20 pagers, or wasting a lot of paper.

    My query--do any of you MacRumors folks mark and grade your student essays or similar documents as PDF files using Apple Pencil and any particular apps? Do you recommend this, or something else? What tips or tricks do you suggest? What apps do you recommend?

    I currently have a non-pro model of the iPad, so no apple-pencil support. However, if others have had good luck with this, I might upgrade to an iPad Pro 9.7-inch and give it a try.
     
  2. lyngo macrumors 6502

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    #2
    I like to GoodNotes for things like what you are discussing. It makes it easy to interact with and write what needs to be applied and correct papers. I use it for grading papers and what not as an adjunct professor.
     
  3. kipwheeler thread starter macrumors member

    kipwheeler

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    #3
    GoodNotes, eh? I'll give that one a gander. Thanks!
     
  4. AlliFlowers Contributor

    AlliFlowers

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    #4
    I use NotesPlus. Same principle. Of course, I use OneNote for this, too, since we're a MS district and I already have my students in the habit of submitting papers there.
     
  5. kipwheeler thread starter macrumors member

    kipwheeler

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    #5
    Interesting. I will look into these.
     
  6. RevTEG macrumors 6502

    RevTEG

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    #6
    My wife and I teach in a developing country where our students have limited access to computers. However, for those that can complete their work in via computer tend to share. My wife and I simply have them email their work in PDF format to our school email and we grade them using the Apple Pencil. It works great. I use an app called PDF Expert and my wife uses an app called Goodreader. We use the Apple Pencil to write notes thoughout their papers then email it back to them.

    As a side note, I use the 12.9 pro. My wife uses the 9.7 pro. I prefer the larger screen while preparing lessons.
     
  7. kipwheeler thread starter macrumors member

    kipwheeler

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    #7
    Thank you. That's very helpful. What distinguishes PDF Expert from Goodreader (if anything?)
     
  8. Kostas3000 macrumors member

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    #8
    check notability

    by far the best app for what you need to do

    I also own and have tried extensively pdf expert, goodnotes and a ton of other apps
     
  9. RevTEG macrumors 6502

    RevTEG

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    #9
    Goodreader is a great app but it doesn't have a Mac version. Every once in awhile I still like to grab my MacBook and read papers. Granted it's very rare, but I like the option of having PDF Expert on my Mac. But don't let that turn you off of Goodreader. It's an excellent product as well.
     
  10. kipwheeler thread starter macrumors member

    kipwheeler

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    #10
    Notability. Roger that. I'll check into it. Thanks!
    --- Post Merged, May 5, 2017 ---
    Good to know. Thank you.
     
  11. JD2015 macrumors 6502

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    #11
    Loads of great PDF annotation apps available. PDF expert is my goto one as use this on IOS and Mac. I however, have used Iannotate (very good imho) and Liquid text (also very good). Both offer different features compared to PDF expert. There is also PDFPen 2 which is most expensive but has more features which can be useful such as editing text, removing images etc. I have not tried this out but this gets good reviews also. It depends on your needs. The ones mentioned have search functions but they do not have OCR function, which is essential if you wish to search documents you are annotating and marking.
     
  12. kipwheeler thread starter macrumors member

    kipwheeler

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    #12
    I've never been very impressed with OCR so far--is that changing/improving?
     
  13. alecgold macrumors 65816

    alecgold

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    #13
    Acrobat DC has reasonable OCR, certainly with higher resolutions in the scanned document (600dpi and better).
    The reason I use OCR is not to get the asci-text out of the document, but to really size down the file size.
    As far as I know there still aren't any good OCR options in iOS. PDF scanner does scan your pictures, but I do need to size down PDF-files with a decent OCR.
     
  14. Abazigal macrumors 604

    Abazigal

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    #14
    I am an elementary school teacher who tried this a few years back and gave up due to sheer frustration. Perhaps the technology simply wasn't available back then but perhaps you may want to consider the following points first.

    1) How will you collate all their assignments? Email is actually pretty cumbersome. You will need to open each email and then open the app in the PDF app of your choice. You will likely need to mandate that your students type in a certain format to ensure you have sufficient space to annotate your comments, and maybe even require them to save their work in a particular format for easy sorting. I know I found it frustrating because I was working with very young children (9-10 years) so maybe you will have an easier time here, given that you will be working with adults.

    How you will get the assignments back to them is equally important. You might want to try google classroom for this. The documents submitted will be stored in google drive, so link that to PDF expert for easy offline access.

    2) I was trying this with the iPad 3, and I still found the screen too small for me to read and annotate comfortably. You will definitely want the 12.9" iPad Pro in portrait mode (which mimics A4 sized paper). I didn't have the Apple Pencil back then, but now that I am using it with my 9.7" iPad Pro, I can tell you that writing with it is a dream.

    3) Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer marking on paper. It's also something physical which I can then return to the students and conference with them if necessary. With soft copies, I don't even know if they will look at it, much less read my comments. But then my essays are typically 2-4 pages, so I may be biased here.

    Just a bit of my experiences. There's actually a fair bit of work you need to be prepared to do in order to make it all work.
     
  15. jeremiah256 macrumors 6502a

    jeremiah256

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    #15
    Try OneNote. It's free and available on every platform. The student sends you the email. You open the PDF and share it to OneNote as a printout. You can make notes both on the a PDF and the page has room on the right side. When you're done, share the page back to email and you're done. You can have a separate notebook, section, or page for each student.
     
  16. kipwheeler, May 7, 2017
    Last edited: May 7, 2017

    kipwheeler thread starter macrumors member

    kipwheeler

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    #16
    Abazigal, thank you for your detailed and thoughtful points.

    Thanks for the detailed response. Here are my thoughts--please let me know if you think this would work....

    (1) Rather than e-mail, I was thinking about using our school's online system, Edvance360. Right now, teachers at our university already have students submit their papers in electronic format in an online dropbox. When the due date comes, the teacher clicks a button to export them all as a zip file. I was planning on doing that on my laptop, then dumping the files onto my iPad all at once via iTunes. The Edvance360 program will automatically add the student's names to the file-name along with any prefix I want (like "Essay1" or whatever) to standardize them. I already require my students to submit projects electronically (usually one copy PDF, the other as Word), so I can use Turnitin.com to check for plagiarism before printing out copies, so I don't think that will be any more fuss than it currently is. Mind you, my lads and lasses are all 18+ in age, typically around 21, and are reasonably tech savvy. Returning papers might be the tricky issue or time-consuming part, as that would require e-mailing them individually. If that does prove too time-consuming, I do have an underutilized office worker that I could make do the work of e-mailing and attaching files one at a time.

    (2) I understand the desire to have room to read and annotate comfortably. I'm hesitant to use the 12.9 because of weight. I'm a very ambulatory grader, tending to pace up and down the halls as I grade. I have no trouble holding a 9.7 iPad and marking on it as a I walk, but I worry that the 12.9 would make my arm tired, and restrict me to counter-top grading. When I've messed around with drawing and sketching apps, I tended to use the gestural controls to zoom in on the 9.7 iPad so that only 50% of the "page" was visible at a time, then turn the iPad sideways, scrolling up or down if needed as I sketch. That seemed pretty natural to me, so I assumed (mistakenly?) that marking papers would work similarly. Do the PDF viewing programs that allow markup make that difficult in ways I'm unaware of?

    (3) I get the desire to have a physical copy to conference with on students, but I'm not sure that students necessarily look at the comments on physically marked-up papers either. I can recall one or two students who merely glance at their grade, then tuck the paper away in their backpacks. For all I know, they may discard it as soon as they get back at their dorms without engaging in the commentary at all. At least with Edvance 360, I have a record of whether the student downloaded and opened the marked-up file--though I still wouldn't have any idea how much time they spent engaged with the commentary.
    --- Post Merged, May 7, 2017 ---
    Very interesting. I will give that a gander. Thank you, Jeremiah256.
     
  17. JackieTreehorn macrumors 6502

    JackieTreehorn

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    #17
    OneDrive has good annotation for PDF, I tend to use that for commenting on stuff from my (PhD) students. Unless they send their work in Word, then I'll just annotate in iOS Word...
     
  18. JD2015 macrumors 6502

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    #18
    I use Finescanner and or Scanbot. Takes bit of time as they upload it to their respective servers to perform the OCR if I remember right. They also have size limits on amount they can perform OCR on as tried to do a 100 + page document and it didn't like it. I however, have found then OCR to be okay. I do not use it much but is nice to have it there.

    All PDF scanning apps for IOS are good for short length documents. Finescanner has a new feature so you can scan in books and it works not to bad.

    As for PDF some are free (liquid text) but I often want to see real world usage of them so look to youtube for this and the videos on the apps respective website. You will however end up trying out quite a few before you settle on one you like and meets your needs. As some one else has pointed out about receiving/sending PDF documents it is if you are doing this yourself and not through a host provided by the institution you work for, then consider something secure and easy to use for all - got to consider privacy issues these days and loss of access.
     
  19. kipwheeler thread starter macrumors member

    kipwheeler

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    #19
    Do you think they would handle International Phonetic Alphabet and archaic letters (such as edh, thorn, aesc, yogh etc.) from Old Norse or Old English? I teach medieval literature and linguistics, so the upper division students often have non-standard lettering throughout their quotations and body of their papers.

    In my experience, such lettering tended to confuse the OCR programs dramatically. Even texts in Middle English that were transcribed into Modern English lettering tended to confuse the few OCR programs I tried a few years back, as the algorithms had no idea what to make of the spelling and tried to "modernize" it in nonsensical ways. (For instance, turning Middle English "wight" into Modern English "might" or the West Midlands pronoun "hoh" into "heh," and so on.)
     
  20. JD2015 macrumors 6502

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    #20
    Finescanner supports 193 languages with its OCR - http://www.finescanner.com Scroll down to find what you want on that page.

    https://support.scanbot.io/hc/en-us/articles/203498316-How-does-OCR-work - Scanbot

    For you level of needs it may not work but if you contact the developers they maybe best able to advise.
     
  21. kipwheeler thread starter macrumors member

    kipwheeler

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    #21
  22. Abazigal macrumors 604

    Abazigal

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    #22
    If you can access all the documents as a zip file, that makes things even easier. Simply email it to yourself and unzip them in Documents or PDF Expert (iTunes transfer works too).

    As for getting the help of office staff, well, that's something you can work out with them on your own.

    The pdf apps should work fine. Just that my experience was that in order to read the pdfs comfortably, I had to zoom in, which meant I was constantly scrolling back and forth, which quickly became very annoying, because it disrupted the reading pace. I was thinking that the 12.9" iPad would allow you to view an entire page on the screen in portrait mode without needing to scroll at all, thereby making the process feel more seamless.

    A larger iPad would definitely require you to sit down. I am a 1.83m male, and holding the 12.9" iPad for a short while is enough to tire my fingers out. It's not all that heavy, just that the size makes it uncomfortable to hold for an extended period of time. This is a device meant for use while lounging on the sofa or resting on a surface of some sort.

    On the other hand. I have used the 9.7" iPad Pro to read my emcee script and can comfortably hold it for hours on end. So you should do fine in that regard.

    Fair enough point. Back in my university days, I didn't even get to see my graded assignment, just the grade.

    PDF expert is a more fully-featured app overall, but also costs more. I know it has features such as merging Pdf documents and just felt more fluid overall, but goodreader has the ability to view two pdf pages side-by-side (something no other app has, to my knowledge), though its of somewhat dubious utility on a smaller iPad screen.

    I have also heard some nice things about liquidtext from Macstories, but haven't gotten round to using it yet.

    https://www.macstories.net/ios/liquidtext-3-0-a-uniquely-digital-pdf-experience/
     
  23. AlliFlowers Contributor

    AlliFlowers

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    #23
    If you use a class binder in OneNote, your students simply attach their submission to their page. No collating, no multiple locations. Very simple.

    I don't know how you manage with elementary! I'll keep my high schoolers.

     
  24. Abazigal macrumors 604

    Abazigal

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    #24
    I couldn't (manage the digital homework submission, that is), which is why I stopped after two tries.

    I got students who decided that bright yellow size-48 Egyptian font was a great choice to submit their work in, or they would save their work as untitled.doc (so I had to manually rename each file, otherwise it would by overridden by the subsequent file). Or their laptops would take forever to boot up or they might have issues getting online and emailing the files to me. I could create word macros to reformat each word file into the desired layout (eg: double spacing, font 14, arial), but at the end of the day, it just didn't seem worth the effort to me.

    The hassle of getting all their work in was simply too much compared to simply getting them to write on paper and hand it in at the end of the lesson (at least this way, I could still hold them back after school and they would have no excuse to not be able to complete their work). It was also easier to mark a physical stack of papers at the time (when the iPad still had not matured in terms of hardware and software support). My school runs a 1-to-1 computing initiative and each student has their own laptop, and each teacher is encouraged to integrate ICT into their lessons and I was this new beginning teacher with more enthusiasm than common sense, so I thought I would try to "digitise" their work.

    Otherwise, I am okay with upper-primary students (those of age 9-12). They are old enough to be able to get things done on their own independently once you have your routines and expectations established, young enough to manage, and I like being to work with them while they are still young and be able to have a hand in molding and shaping them. And I don't need to deal with children soiling their shorts because they are too young and timid to ask for permission to visit the washroom.
     
  25. mgipe macrumors demi-god

    mgipe

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    #25
    I do this all the time. Students are required to submit their assignments electronically using the University Canvas class management site. I can download a zip of all the files from Canvas, with the student names appended to the file names. I pull these into Goodnotes for Mac, which then automatically syncs to my iPads via iCloud. I add my comments using Goodnotes on the iPad Pro, which then automatically syncs back to the Mac. From there, I zip the files and upload them all with one click back to canvas, which puts the marked up files into each student's account.
     

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