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!

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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!