Last year, while working at a university in China, I decided it was time to join the 21st century. Every day I carried a big folder of handwritten notes and printed papers to and from my classroom. At home, I kept my grades in Excel spreadsheets, which I would print out and hand in to my bosses at the end of each semester. It was a messy system and, although it worked pretty well, I was eager to improve upon it. I tried different approaches with minimal success. No one programme could cover everything I needed, and of course the Chinese government’s heavy-handed approach to censorship meant that many of the most useful apps and websites simply were out of bounds.

Thankfully, I soon stumbled upon iDoceo, an all-in-one iPad app for teachers. It was really very expensive compared to other apps, but after reading about its features and checking out a few YouTube videos, I decided to take the plunge. After all, although £12 seems a bit steep for an iPad app, I’d happily spend that on a single meal or a few drinks.

At first, I struggled badly. The app is actually quite complicated and it doesn’t feel very intuitive. I could see all the features that I was supposed to use, but I didn’t really know how to use them. There were YouTube tutorials available, but I didn’t want to spend ages learning how to use each individual component of the app. I tried and failed at a few things, and quickly gave up.

However, not long after that, when I was handed a few more classes to teach, I decided it was high time I got things in order and figure out how iDoceo really worked. I spent just a few hours plugging in information and doing some trial and error exploring of the app’s numerous features before I really got the hang of it.

Making a timetable with iDoceo isn’t difficult.

For a start, you can enter your students names and other related details, separated into different classes. After a long and tedious process, I soon realized that this could be done by importing an Excel spreadsheet – something I of course already had on my computer. Once this was done, I could keep track of different sorts of grades, and these would generate interesting reports, giving me some useful visual records of my students’ abilities and progress. Best of all, the grades are automatically colour-coded so that you can see student levels at a glance.

There is a calendar and diary, as well as places for taking notes, but of most interest to teachers is the schedule section, where you can input your timetable. Of course, it is colour-coded and clicking on any lesson will take you to details for that class.

If you need to make a seating plan, iDoceo has you covered. You can take your students’ names (which have already been uploaded) and even their photos, and easily drag them around to create simple seating plans suitable for any classroom. Once you are engaged in an activity, as simple click of a button will randomly pick a student if needed.

Essentially, iDoceo is a way of taking all those sheets of paper in your bag, and all those files on your computer, and all that information on the annoying school computer system, and gathering it in one place. Of course, this place is your iPad – something you can easily carry into the classroom with you, and then take home at the end of the day.

I’m still learning how to use the app, but I’m already impressed. As an ESL teacher with several hundred students, it was a really helpful tool for keeping track of all their grades, classes, and overall progress. There are loads of features – many of which I haven’t figured out yet – to make your job a little easier.