Sunday, September 1, 2002

Teachers can go back to school with Tiny Red Book


By Heather Wardell

September. Time to go back to school. Groaning and sighing all across the world, some of it even from the students! This teacher, however, is really looking forward to getting back into her classroom and seeing her students again. Knowing that I have Tiny Red Book ready and able to keep track of my students' performance, grades, and attendance just makes me even more ready to go.

Tiny Red Book (at is, quite simply, a program that all Palm handheld-enabled teachers need. This one program incorporates a very customizable grade book, attendance tracking, and a place to track student behavior. It has a small footprint on the handheld (only 133KB), easy data entry and editing, and a nearly foolproof way to access your data on the desktop.

The old paper grade book

If the old paper grade book was good enough for generations, why not now? Because Palm OS grading software, when done right, simplifies a teacher's life. Students' grades can be calculated on the spot, making impromptu parent-teacher conferences far easier. Comments about student behavior, attitude, and performance can also be stored safely away right when they occur to the teacher--no more trying to remember the comment until paper and pencil present themselves.

When I first found Tiny Red Book and downloaded the demo, I must admit that I was doubtful. The description of the program certainly made it sound wonderful, but the price seemed too low to be realistic. How could it cost only $25 to do everything for me except actually decide on the grades for the students?

The demo lasted for thirty days. Less than two weeks into it, I was hooked.

Tiny in size, not in functionality

Installation of the demo version was simple, requiring only one program file and one library file to be transferred to my Palm handheld. As a lot of Palm OS software these days seems to dump ten or more files to the organizer, this was a pleasant change.

I have the very bad habit of never reading a user manual unless I am completely stuck, so I immediately launched into playing with the software. I entered each of my cats as a test student. I played around with giving them grades and attendance records (that Ninja is quite the slacker!), and then performed a HotSync operation before continuing. Figure A shows my Cats' class and their attendance for August 14.


Tabitha and Nigel came to class on time, while Ninja was more than five minutes late.

After the HotSync operation, I was looking at some information in my Memo Pad application when I noticed some new memos, all with titles including the letters "TRB." I investigated and discovered that the memos appeared to be the data that I had entered!