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School: Assignment Tracking

April 29, 2010

As I’ve mentioned, my daughter, who I refer to as Ocelot, is a freshman in high school, and has PDD-NOS. She has always had trouble with executive functioning and organization. Keeping track of school assignments has been a nightmare.

We’ve tried calendar-format planner books, and calendar software, with no luck — Ocelot does not like calendars. [This is one of these cases where I have to parent the child I have, not the one I wish I had. I prefer calendars, and will tweak formats until the result is visually pleasing. For my daughter, this is too distracting.] So, she and I talked about what she needs in a system to track assignments:

  • computer-based (she uses her netbook at school for note taking and homework)
  • her resource teacher can add assignments, meaning an online program is best
  • ability to work offline, as Ocelot does not have net access at school (we’re working on it)
  • I can review assignments, and possibly add things (as Ocelot often forgets to tell me what materials I need to get for a big project)
  • free, at least for a trial period
  • list format, easy to use, from a company that’s been around a while.

I looked at the homework trackers aimed at students, and they were all lacking. None could work both on- and off-line, and did not allow two people to access the data. They were calendar based, and had an “amateur hour” look to them. So I looked at task planners for adults, and found one I had tried a couple of years ago:

Remember the Milk

RTM is a sophisticated task planner, that has been around for almost 5 years (a long time for an online program), with 2 million users. It is list based, though there are add-ons that work with various calendar software. [I have RTM as a sidebar on my Google Calendar.] Almost all the functionality is available for free. The ability to use RTM offline is something the developers have worked hard on, and there are apps for several mobile devices (in case Ocelot ever gets an iPhone). And Ocelot can share her Homework task list with both her resource teacher and me, so we can add tasks.

But is it hard to learn? I used to train office workers on software, so I’m not the one to ask. Ocelot picked it up quickly … but the real test came this morning, when I went in to Ocelot’s school to train her resource teacher on RTM. Ms D is not a computer geek, nor has she grown up with them. Within 15 minutes, she was signed up and adding homework assignments to Ocelot’s list, and one of the social workers was thinking of how useful RTM would be for her personally. If you want to learn everything about RTM, it will take a while, but to just enter assignments … easy!

Conclusion: if you have a child (or are a teacher with a student) who needs help keeping track of homework assignments, and is on the computer a lot, check out Remember the Milk.

And Ocelot officially said the cow on RTM’s logo is cute.

25 August 2010 Update: Remember the Milk has made their iPhone app free for everyone — previously, it was a $25 a year upgrade.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 29, 2010 4:29 pm

    Here’s a question Cathy asked:

    I’m curious about RTM as my 10th grader really struggles with organization and remembering to turn in his work. He currently uses Google Calendar. The RTM webpage says RTM works with Google Calendar. Can you explain the benefits of using RTM instead of or in addition to Google Calendar. And, do you know why you would use both?

    I’ll try to explain this quickly, as entire books have been written about this!

    If you look at the things you need to do, you can divide them into tasks and events. Events are linked to a specific time/date, such as Math Class or Daniel’s Party. Tasks may have deadlines, but you can do them at any time before (maybe after) the deadline, such as Chapter 8 History Homework, due Friday.

    Google Calendar is great for events, Remember the Milk is designed for tasks. I like keeping he two separate, so I use both programs.

    Some highly visual people will prefer to use a calendar for everything. Others, such as Ocelot, find calendars confusing, and will use a task manager for everything. Cathy, I’d let your son decide what works best for him.

    And if you are interested in exploring events vs. tasks further, look at the book Getting Things Done by David Allen.

  2. Mike permalink
    November 6, 2012 5:10 pm

    I found this post b/c I am the parent of 3 home school kids and we are looking at ways to organize the assignments more effectively. I am also a developer of web based applications and am considering creating an application for this purpose if there is a niche for it. I thought I would check with you and see how RTM has worked out for you and if you had any ideas for what would make a great assignment tracking application. Thanks for your input, Mike.


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