Taking attendance is important.  I was told early in my teaching career, by an unforgettable assistant principal, that it’s the most important thing I do all day. My first few years of teaching I sent my attendance down to the office on a piece of paper.  Those days are over. Today I would like to review some ways to use technology to help you with the first thing you do each school day, and perhaps, most important. As teachers we certainly want our students to become independent, but we also need to verify. Technology can help us achieve both.

Web-Based Attendance: Our district uses a web-based grade book and attendance register called Progress Book. I like it. I still use some of the various methods below so the students can participate and I always verify before I hit send.  I like that it tells me if it is a student’s birthday and other extra info.

SmartBoard: By far my favorite attendance method.  I have a list of my students on the board and they scratch their name off as they enter.  It’s big. It’s bright. It’s fun to cross your name off.  I have a friend that made a check out box and individual sliders per student.  Pretty nice setup.  I take a look, verbally verify and enter my attendance.

iPad, Ipod Touch, and iPhone: I’m always looking for ways to use my iPad and students love to touch them.  Why not create a simple name checklist and have them check themselves present each morning.  You could have the iPad stationed somewhere in the classroom like a kiosk and then verify before entering attendance yourself. Is there an app for this? But of course.

RFID Chips: I don’t recommend this one.  Northern Arizona University is taking attendance using proximity scanners to verify RFID chips in students identification cards.  The system knows if you are there and the university penalizes you if you are not, or don’t have your ID with you.  Students and privacy advocates are outraged.

Clickers: I haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks easy enough to set up.  My only problem is with the Smart Response System students have to log in, etc. and that seems like a lot to do when there are easier methods. Now if the system went ahead and sent the count to the office, or if I was using the clickers at the start of the period, I would be more willing to utilize this technology for attendance.

Biometric Attendance Readers: Imagine students entering the classroom and using their fingerprint or an eye scanner to register their attendance. They exist, but I don’t personally know any schools that use them yet. I read about  The Don Estridge High Tech Middle School, in Boca Raton, Florida installing hand-measuring biometric technology in their cafeteria, library and  medical office (For nurses dispensing medicine) and in each classroom to take attendance. The biometric system is fast and accurate.

Worldwide sales of biometric technology are expected to grow from $2.1 billion in 2006 to $5.7 billion by 2010, says Philip Youn, an IBG senior consultant. However, privacy rights organizations have raised concerns and have questioned how safe biometric data is from hackers. But educators interviewed say they have run into few objections from parents.

Robot Teacher’s Aide: Sadly, we aren’t there yet.

Wired Educator’s advice: Yes!  Use technology for attendance. Keep it simple.  Verify.

Please: Send us your technology attendance taking ideas.

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