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!

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!

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!

Become Your Own Publisher with ISSUU

Like many teachers I know, I am constantly looking for new ways to switch things up in the classroom. With the increase in 1:1 technology in the classrooms, for most teachers now, this means looking for ways we can use the technology at our students’ fingertips to produce content that is high quality and full of learning (the Common Core is pushing for this too!). This sprang to mind when I stumbled upon ISUU.

ISUU, which is a digital publishing website (with a free account option) allows for users to upload a document, such as a Word document or PDF, and convert it into a virtual magazine. It also encourages for users to search through these magazines, allowing for easy embedding and sharing as well. At face value, the site seems to be geared more towards companies and bigger publishers to deliver content in a digital format, as well the casual reader who has time to fill. As a teacher, however, this website offers limitless possibilities for publication of student work. Not only can students browse through the sites literary offerings for inspiration, they can post their work for their classmates to read as well. Can you imagine how powerful it would be to, at the beginning of a research project, flip through magazines made students that were once in your shoes? I love it and think it is awesome.

Check out my new digital book, via ISSUU, below! It combines all of my tutorials, resources, and a few of my blog posts, all in one, handy location!

Virtual Resource Book

The Modern “ScanTron”

UPDATE: See my post on introducing GradeCam to my faculty for the 2014-2015 school year!

As a student, I dreaded ScanTron tests.  In high school, one of my classes was right across the hall from where the ScanTron grading machine was located, and I remember constantly hearing a noise, which can only be described as a machine gun-like, as the teachers shot the answer sheets through and the grader marked incorrect answers.  I never thought much of it until I was a first-year teacher myself, and my school was fortunate enough to have a ScanTron machine.  Each time I shot answer sheets through, I would cross my fingers, hoping for a “quiet” passage, cringing every time I heard that all too familiar rapid-fire of wrong answers being marked.

While I think ScanTrons are fairly common in high schools, they are much more rare at the lower levels.  When I worked in an elementary school, we did not have a ScanTron machine which, while not the end of the world, would have made the grading process for end of unit exams, much, much easier.  Many schools, in fact, are like this – there are teachers that, if they had this technology available to them (ScanTrons are fairly expensive and some schools can’t justify the cost), would most likely use it.  This is what lead me to find these two great programs, both of which attempt to solve the “ScanTron-less School” issue.

Created by a team of educators through a KickStarter fund, this website and iPhone/iPad app combination work similarly to a traditional ScanTron machine.  Teachers load students into the program, either through their mobile device or computers, and then print out the program’s unique answer sheets.  These answer sheets can be used in conjunction with any previsouly created test, quiz, or exam.  Teachers then use their mobile devices to scan the answer sheets.  Answers are uploaded directly to the program, allowing for teachers to see quiz item analysis, student progress, and download CSV files to upload to nearly any gradebook (their claim).

Pros:

  1. FREE to use
  2. up to 30 questions per quiz/test/exam
  3. iPhone/iPad app to scan answer sheets (from developer – Android app in development phase)
  4. item analysis and student progress can be accessed from phone or computer
  5. still in the beginning phases, so lots of new updates can, hopefully, be anticipated (confirmed by developer)

Cons:

  1. Answers need to be bubbled in extremely dark (think black pen or marker) to be scanned
  2. website is basic, although it gives all the needed information
  3. answer sheets need to be printed – making copies from a blank master sheet tends to not work well when it comes time to scan
photo 1 (1)

QuickKey answer sheet with bubbles filled in with heavy, black pen in order to register on the scanner.

This program has been around longer than Quick Key, so while the two programs essentially do the same thing, their website is more streamlined and offers a few more options.  With GradeCam, teachers load their students into the website and print off GradeCam’s custom answer sheets for students to fill out.  Answer sheets are graded by placing them under a camera attached to the computer – according to their website, most webcams or document cameras will work.  The camera scans the answers and the computer instantly grades the assignment.  The one notable aspect of GradeCam is that it has three access levels for its users – a basic, free package (limited to 10 questions a quiz, cannot export grades to gradebook), a mid level package ($15/month, limited to 100 questions a quiz, link CCSS to assignments, export to gradebook), or a school package ($2.50/student/year, same as mid-level package, with some additional features).

Pros:

  1. item analysis and student progress can be accessed through the website (also charts this data in graphs for you)
  2. user-friendly website
  3. Custom student ID numbers
  4. Can easily scan answer sheets with eraser marks or where bubbles are lightly filled in with pencil
photo 2 (1)

QuickCam answer sheets with bubbles that get progressively lighter – all were easily scanned into the system.

Cons:

  1. No mobile app, for either Android or iPhone/iPad
  2. free account limited to only 10 questions per assignment
  3. Additional (and beneficial) features, like exporting to a gradebook, are pay-only for $15/month

Do you use either of these program?  Do you know of one I missed?  Let me know in the comments section!

GoogleTreks – Exploring the World with just A Few Clicks

Google is constantly amazing me.  Honestly, if I wasn’t in the education field, I think I would want to work for Google, solely because of all of the really neat things they are continuously coming up with!

My newest Google obsession?  GoogleTreks.

Similar to a virtual field trip, visitors can explore unique and exotic locations using Google’s StreetView technology.  I included them in my Virtual FIeld Trip list below, however felt they deserved a post of their own.  My personal favorite is their Trek of Darwin’s Gallapagos Island.  You can click your way all throughout the island, and even take a “swim” with the sea lions off the coast.  It is truly one of the most unique web experiences I have ever seen.

Take a minute this Friday and explore a corner of the world that you might not have ever seen before – and keep checking back, because they are adding more (VENICE! coming soon!).  Tell me your favorite destinations in the comments below!

Socrative – Saving Time, Adding Fun

Like I mentioned in my post about GoogleForms and Flubaroo, grading assignments was never something I thoroughly enjoyed and I love anything (or anyone!) that helps me streamline and save time.  And if that thing that saves me time with grading also brings a fun dynamic to my classroom, I love it even more.  This is precisely why one of my new favorite sites is Socrative.com!

Socrative is a “smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classroom through a series of educational games and exercises via smartphones, laptops, and tablets” (www.socrative.com).  It works similarly to other classroom response systems, however, and this is the feature I love the most, it can be used with nearly any device you and your students can get a hold of.  The program can be run solely on computers or solely on mobile devices using either the Internet browser or their app.  The website’s interface is extremely intuitive to use, making it easy for any teacher to hit the ground running with implementing it in their classrooms.

Socrative has several pre-loaded activities, as well as activities that can be filled with your own quiz, test, or activity questions.  The program will grade your students’ work for you, providing you with downloadable reports that you can use to easily input grades into online grade books.  You can even turn quizzes into a “Space Race” game, where teams of students can compete together to generate the most correct quiz answers.

I hope you can take a minute to check out their site and this video – they really show just how awesome this program is!  When you are ready to get started in your own classroom, check out my step-by-step tutorial to help you get going!