Friday, June 22, 2012

Fooling Around With Bento 4

Bento is a database app by Filemaker. A year ago, we bought it because I wanted to be able to build my own database to make my work easier. Thinking that Bento might be the answer, we bought the app. But I wasn't able to do much with it cos It was rather limited. And so, I left it there, sitting in my iPad, untouched after the initial tries.

For no reason, I fiddled around with Bento again a couple of days ago. That was when I found out that the old Bento was no longer available for the iPad in the App Store. Filemaker had decided to sell Bento 4 for iPad as a new app; that means no free upgrades for the existing Bento owners. 8(

A quick read-up of the new Bento was promising. Words like 'standalone', '4-star rating', 'aiming for the heavens', 'completely redesigned', etc, etc were glitzy enough to make one think that the product must be good. Of course, when I bought the first Bento, the marketing lines were glitzy too.. So, this time I was more sceptical. Anyway, I had a little extra time at work today because the students had to go for some ceramah... and after fiddling with it, have to say that the new Bento 4 is a vast improvement from its older sibling.

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Yup... many of the descriptions are true this time. The interface is easy to use. Also, being written for the iPad HD retina display makes viewing a really pleasant experience.

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I decided to build my class database as part of my fiddling around. Must have something meaningful to do to learn meaningfully. I had to build everything from scratch since I couldn't find a Malaysian sample to work from. Over the last 2 years, I have found the iPad to be a more constant and consistent work companion than my Record Book, Register, workbooks, etc. Those books don't follow me everywhere but my iPad does, well, almost everywhere. As a result, I can now do quick reviews regardless of where I am. The iPad has become a teaching tool which has made my work easier. If at all our MOE wants to look into improving teaching practices, it should start looking into developing apps for us. Tablets are marvellous teaching aid and tools, but with the proper and right stuff.

Being the class teacher of one of the most problematic classes in Form 5 means I have to deal with a high rate of absenteeism. And one way of keeping this problem in check is to hound my students unceasingly; which means that my records must be easy enough for review to enable quick action. Quick action here refers to Warning Letters being sent out on time and as soon as the criteria is met.

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What makes this Bento nice is you can have tabs. This particular tab above is mainly to keep track of the attendance so that Warning Letters can be sent out ASAP. When you have a class of students where at least half of them have a penchant of skipping school, monitoring the letters can be quite a headache. By this time of the year, it's at Surat Amaran 2 for some. I have actually been using the spreadsheet, Numbers to keep track of students' exercises as well as attendance.

It's unfortunate that Bento on iPad does not print. It would be another icing if it has a relational function too. But that would mean that Bento iPad can truly stand alone, and not be the stripped down version of its famed sibling, Filemaker. And if that happens, how would Bento 4 for Mac sell? Business sense rules in the end... So I guess, I'll have to wait for those features to be added. Eventually, it will come to the tablets.

Right now, Bento iPad is awesome enough to make people salivate for the desktop version. And that costs $29.99.

Well, this is a different sort of Bento for a change. I used to prepare all these bento sets for my kids to take to school. One container with many goodies. This Bento is like that too... it contains enough goodies for people to build personal databases.

Anyway, till July, Bento will be offer at $4.99. After that it'll be $9.99. An error of a purchase which turned out to be a fun learning experience.


SM Ting said...

ya i saw it on d my mac book air. Still fiddling with it. M quite slow in learning stuff.

AJ7 said...

I haven't got mine yet.... will prob be a MacBook Pro...

Die, die also hers....

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