Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2017

ThinkWave Educator

Cloud-based gradebook helps manage content, grades, and communication

Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K–12
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Pros: Very useful support, reporting, grading, and class messaging features work on any browser or device.

Cons: Lackluster user interface means all pages look alike, and the free version's minimal file storage makes it unrealistic for multiple classes to submit work.

Bottom Line: A good option for teachers who need a free gradebook, but additional storage is needed to effectively manage large quantities of teacher and student content.

For many teachers, online gradebooks provide a time-saving alternative to pen and paper, and ThinkWave Educator is an option that allows teachers to manage content, communication, attendance, and student progress via any web browser. Create assignments in seconds, and add detailed directions and exemplars by attaching multiple files. Remind students about upcoming due dates, share class news, and post positive feedback with the whole-class message feature. View uploaded student content, grade assignments, and give feedback that students can view on any device, saving your students and yourself from the trouble of searching through piles of paper for one assignment.

Want to reach out more to parents? Improve school-to-home communication and student accountability by sending home weekly progress reports or classroom newsletters. Note: ThinkWave is more a gradebook than a learning management tool, but it does have flexible grading options and several customization features, making it a decent tool for monitoring student attendance and progress over time. Features such as two-way messaging capability, the option to add standards to assignments, and the ability to create folders for assignments would go a long way toward improving the user experience.

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ThinkWave Educator is a cloud-based gradebook and classroom management tool for teachers. Signing up involves a few steps to help users set their calendar, grading preferences, assignment categories, and category weights. Teachers can manually add students to classes -- or upload them from CSV files -- and send students a link with a login code. Students sign up with their email address, a username, and a password. From there, teachers can assign content, attach files, view student uploads, track attendance, send messages, and more. Built-in video tutorials appear on each page to help users get started.

The quality of data users can get out of ThinkWave will depend largely on what they put in, so teachers should be deliberate about what information they want to have on hand for each student and enlist help from school administrators or parents to get the information they need into a spreadsheet up front; this will help them avoid time-consuming individual data entry later on. Users should be aware that there's no autosave feature or save prompt, so they'll need to save every entry manually before proceeding to the next. A paid plan offers additional tech support and 100 GB of storage. However, if teachers don't plan on having students upload much content, the free version should suffice.

For teachers who want to wade into taking their gradebooks digital, ThinkWave Educator (despite its somewhat dull interface) provides key setup support, can handle a large variety of student data, and comes with both standard and customizable reporting options. As a learning tool, however, ThinkWave is somewhat limited. Teachers can provide exemplars, detailed directions, and feedback on student work, but students can do little more than upload work and view grades and feedback. While this is considerably more useful than what a traditional gradebook offers, the digital version favors reporting tools and data tracking over collaborative or creative features that would enable students to take more ownership of their learning. Still, parents and students will appreciate the ability to see student progress, and everyone benefits when fewer consumable resources are used to create and submit assignments.

Teachers will want the premium version of ThinkWave for the extra storage to support the uploading of many different file types, including word processing documents, picture files, videos, and PDFs. That said, the onus is on the teacher to create assignments that promote creativity and collaboration so that the work the students are doing is engaging and builds higher-order thinking skills.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Students and parents will appreciate the ability to see assignments, grades, and class messages, but the tool interface is somewhat dull and doesn't provide many features to engage students.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Giving students ownership over their progress and teaching them to track it over time is an important organizational concept, but the lack of student-centered features clearly makes this gradebook most beneficial to teachers.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Video tutorials on every page provide teachers with the information they need for successful setup and use, but harnessing full functionality will take a good amount of time up front.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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