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EssayTagger is a web-based tool to help teachers grade essays faster.
But it is not an auto-grader.

This blog will cover EssayTagger's latest feature updates as well as musings on
education, policy, innovation, and preserving teachers' sanity.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Grading with EssayTagger on your iPad via Photon browser

Today we discovered that the EssayTagger grading app can run on an iPad with a little help! Here are your step-by-step instructions for accessing EssayTagger through the Photon browser.

Install Photon on your iPad
From your iPad, go to the app store and search for "Photon browser". Make sure you select the iPad version and not the cheaper iPhone version. When I installed it today it was a $4.99 purchase.

Launch Photon
Photon is a web browser and really isn't all that different from any other web browser. There is one big special function you'll need to know about to enable Flash support, but Photon already does a good job of explaining it. You'll see.

Go to EssayTagger.com and either launch the interactive demo from the "try the demo" tab or log in to your account and click "start grading" to launch the grading app for one of your assignments.

When the grading app window opens you'll see a Flash error message instead of the grading app. But Photon explains what to do:

Once you click the lightning bolt icon at the top right, the grading app will be able to load:

Yay! The grading app is running on the iPad!

Adjust Photon settings
Now click the gear icon at the top right to enter the settings options. Change the following two settings:

Bandwidth: 6 - to maximize responsiveness and text quality. Photon runs the grading app remotely on its own server and streams it to your iPad. That's how they're able to support Flash on the iPad--because it's actually running Flash somewhere else! If the bandwidth setting is too low, the essay text will look chunky due to the transmission compression.

Mode: Web - I found this produced the best looking text and further minimized compression chunkiness.

That's all we need to do here. Photon will remember these settings so you won't have to worry about these again.

Using the grading app
A couple tips to make your life easier. Photon's default interactive mode is not a great match for the grading app's drag-and-drop interface. Once the grading app loads, switch to the "grab" mode at the top right:

With this mode enabled, dragging and dropping works extremely well. You can also easily select text passages to mark for errors or enter a free comment.

I would also take advantage of the grading app's built in font size adjuster buttons on the left. Increasing the essay font size will make it easier to read and easier to select text. Here's a set of before and after screenshots:

Use a bluetooth keyboard
The iPad on-screen keyboard does not work well when using the grading app in Photon. It often ends up covering up the text box so you can't see what you're typing:

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D'oh! Covered up the text box!

My bluetooth keyboard worked just fine. The only slight oddity was that I had to press the keyboard button at the top right of Photon to get it to start receiving my typing.

Other minor tips
Horizontal alignment: The grading app makes the best use of space if you launch it while the iPad is oriented horizontally.

Essay scrolling: Scrolling through an essay is a little difficult because the vertical scrollbar in the grading app is so narrow. It will click-and-drag just fine but you'll have to be a bit precise to "grab" it.

It might be easier to just tap the gray area above or below the scroll bar to move the essay.

Quick tips: It's also a little hard to access the "Quick tips" rollout help topics at the top of the grading app. Switch to the mouse pointer icon mode to make it easy to "hover" over the Quick tips help items:

That's it for now! Go grade and feel all super-high tech!