Getting on Board with GradeCam

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post on modern grading software, namely sites like GradeCam and QuickKey, which allow teachers to ditch the traditional ScanTrons in favor of a program that gives them instant data.

While I remain a big supporter of QuickKey’s promise to always remain a free service (EDIT: they recently announced a premium account coming soon – $50 a year per teacher), I recently got my school rolling with a trial subscription for GradeCam.  Ultimately, it came down to technology and hardware.  QuickKey is still limited to only it’s iPhone/iPad app (although they recently also announced an upcoming Android app), meaning that, if a school or teacher does not have an iPhone/iPad, they are out of luck.  My school has just made the transition to having all staff use SurfacePro 3 tablet devices and, with GradeCam’s promise of it being able to work with “virtually any webcam or document camera,” we are able to easily use our SP3’s to integrate this software.

Additionally, even though I am a huge fan of FREE, paying for a service means you will be able to get more out of it.  Response time with the GradeCam help reps is amazingly fast, the site is easy to navigate, and the charts it allows you to create are done in a manner that is both easy to read and nice to look at.  The site also seems to work with just about any online gradebook/student management system out there – meaning my teachers can instantly import their grades from GradeCam into their gradebook with the press of a few keys.  It also has a “patch” of sorts that allows GradeCam and our student management system to communicate, meaning it will automatically update teacher rosters in GradeCam on a DAILY BASIS.  Such a great add on – and it means less work for the site admin!  Additionally, while we are paying $2.50 a student per year for our roughly 825 students, it is still cheaper than the roughly $4,000-$5,000 a YEAR we would spend on ScanTron papers ALONE (never mind maintenance on the temperamental machines).

Yesterday, I gave a training on GradeCam to the entire faculty, with the end goal of having them walk out of the room ready to implement the site in the classroom.  I put together a pretty detailed PowerPoint laying out the steps in setting your account up.  It is linked below if you would like to use it for yourself or for your district.

 POWERPOINT – CLICK TO VIEW

Overall, the teachers are excited and I am looking forward to what the site will be able to help us accomplish!  Does your school use GradeCam or another service like it?  I would love to hear your feedback!

Checking In

A lot has changed in my work life since the last time I was on this blog!

During my “blogging break,” I was RIF’ed from my school district due to budget cuts. I was disappointed since I was already looking forward to new things I was going to implement in the next school year, but, in the long run, I think the change came for the better. I found a new position closer to my family (always a plus) in a school that I think will be a better fit for me as a teacher. It is hard to put into words how I know this, it is one of those “gut instincts,” but I think something that happend this morning really drove it home.

I am working in a private, Catholic high school, one not all that different than ones I went to as a student. Morning announcements are similar to that of any other school I have been in; Pledge of Allegiance, lists of activities that day, etc – with the addition of a short scripture reflection and prayer. At the end of all the announcements today, the teacher leading it closed with, “Have a good weekend everyone, and, remember – your teachers love you”.

Now, I have been amazed for a while now how much I end up caring for my students by the end of each school year. I don’t think it is a secret amongst those in the education field how important our students are to us – just look at any of the school disasters that have happened over the past few years. In all instances, teachers have put themselves in danger in hopes of protecting their class. While this knowledge seems to be unspoken amongst teachers, I do not think many others realize it. Which is why I think it is important to communicate it on a regular basis, especially to our students. Hearing the announcements today drove that home for me – this school makes a practice of regularly telling its students – “Hey – we care about you – we love you and want what’s best for you.” It creates an atmosphere of caring and support – as if we are one extended family.

I love it. It is something I did not even realize I was missing in my past schools, and that I am embracing now. I really enjoy teaching because, just when you think you know it all and have it all figured out, something new comes up. I am looking forward to what other lessons this place can teach me.

OneNote

OneNote

During my time at the Microsoft Innovative Educator training, we spent a lot of time covering OneNote, and with good reason!  Our trainers claimed that OneNote is Microsoft’s best kept secret, and I would have to agree.  In all of the computer/technology courses and workshops I have attended over the span of my education, OneNote has never come up as a topic for discussion.

As I began to learn all of its bells and whistles during my training, I couldn’t stop my mind from spinning as to all of the many ways I could implement it in my school.  Historically, my school has completed weekly SPED reports, of which the main goal is to help keep classroom teachers, counselors, and interventionists all on the same page regarding student performance.  The method of completing these reports has changed over the years, with our current system being run out of Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive).  There are folders upon folders of student work and teacher reports, making it next to impossible to find a specific document quickly.

My vision for next school year is to move all of these reports to a single OneNote binder, hosted through OneDrive.  That way, when one teacher updates their report with an exam study guide, each interventionist or counselor can instantly access it, without having to go digging through folders upon folders.  Teachers can also search the entire binder for a single student, pulling up every instance of their name within seconds.  While it will take a good amount of “up front” work (and teacher training!) before the school year begins, the organizational and time saving capabilities of OneNote will definitely make it worth it!

Have you ever used a single OneNote document with a large group of people?  How did it work for you?  Leave a comment below!

Spread the Word to End the Word

I am taking a step away from all of the tech talk for a post to talk about something else important.

If you have been following my Twitter account this past week, you have probably seen my posts about Spread the Word to End the Word week, a campaign created by Special Olympics to educate people about the  derogatory effects of the use of the R-word (retard/retarded).

I had always been aware of this campaign and would sign the pledge each year out of solidarity to my special education teaching counterparts, but only recently have I become involved with the campaign itself.  This year, in my role as a tech integrationist, I was able to work with my district’s wonderfully talented special education department and their amazing students to create the video PSA you see below.  It was so much fun getting to know the students and their teachers better, and I hope you take their message to heart: that there are many words you can use to describe people, but the R-word should never be one of them!

Enjoy 🙂

The Microsoft Innovative Educator Program

Capture

For the past two days, I have been attending the Microsoft Innovative Educator Training workshop, hosted at the Microsoft offices in downtown Chicago.  Now, normally, I somewhat dread going to technology trainings, since many of them are not very “hands on,” however I was pleasantly surprised by this one!

To start with, this training is not necessarily marketed towards classroom teachers, but rather teacher trainers, such as building or district level technology educators/integrationists/coordinators.  Attendees must first submit an application for admission to the event (see the application here – trainings are coming up in San Francisco, New York City, and Dallas), and then are notified whether they have been accepted.  Once a teacher is accepted into and completes the program, they then commit to train a minimum of 100 educators in their home school/district.  In some cities, there may be a high level of competition for spots in this workshop, however in our two day session, there were only seven people.

In having a smaller group, however, it seems that we were able to get through a lot more material than normally scheduled.  The workshop itself was mainly centered on OneNote, a tool that MIE Trainers David Squires and Benson Kwok (click to follow them on Twitter – they’re great!) claim is Microsoft’s best kept secret – and I totally agree!  As someone who has never really “dug in” to OneNote, I was amazed at all of the cool tricks this program could do.  From recording class notes and tutorials, to acting as a hub for teacher meeting, it seems as if OneNote is pretty all encompassing.

Throughout the workshop, I found my self already thinking three to four steps ahead, planning ways in which OneNote could make my staff’s live so much easier and efficient.  Luckily, we are already a Office365 school, so transitioning to this will not be too difficult in the future (I love Google, but I think it might be hard to convert a “Google Faculty” to move solely to OneNote!).

How have you used OneNote in your classroom or school?  What do you like/dislike?  How does it compare to Evernote?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

(stay tuned for more great things I learned from this workshop…)

Jumping Back in with WeVideo

Hello!

It has been a while since my last post, so welcome to all the new followers, and thank you for stopping by!  I hope you are finding useful information here – please drop me a line if there is something you would like to see on the blog!

I have been neck deep in new projects with teachers at my school and can’t wait to start telling you about some of the tools I have been using.  First up is a great site called WeVideo.

Now that my school is 1:1 with laptops, many teachers are now shifting to having students create video content, mostly for unit or semester projects.  I love the idea of this, but always found it frustrating when I used Windows Movie Maker, the program that comes pre-installed on all of our student devices.  It often would shut down, stall, or pop up error messages, making it hard to get meaningful work done in a short amount of time.  This is why I was so happy when I discovered WeVideo through another tech-teacher colleague of mine.

WeVideo is one of the most versatile free video editing tools out there.  First of all, it is cloud based and will sync across devices (and there’s a app for it too) – always great for people on the go.  Secondly, it allows the user to choose between several different levels of editing tools, ranging from very basic to very advanced, making it a great site to use withe younger and older students alike.  In terms of the actual video editing, it closely mirrors Movie Maker, meaning that, if you have a working knowledge of Movie Maker, you can quickly and easily teach yourself how to use WeVideo.

My favorite part of WeVideo, however, is its ability to “share” video projects.  Similar to Google Drive and SkyDrive, WeVideo allows for multiple collaborators to share and edit the same video file.  As a teacher, evaluating the usefulness of an application in the classroom, this always scores big points.  Now, this feature only comes with a paid subscription, however I feel the cost for the license is actually pretty reasonable, given how powerful of a tool this could be.

I am curious to hear from you out there – what is your video editing tool of choice?  I am always looking for new ideas!