Price: Free for first 3 months; $15/month/teacher or $2.50/year/student
Every five years in South Carolina, teachers have to “re-up” their teaching certificates. The regulations vary by state, but in South Carolina, we have have to have a certain number of graduate classes (if you don’t have a certain degree level) and a certain number of professional development points, which some have to be classified under “technology.”
We have a curriculum resource teacher (CRT) who is responsible for developing all these professional development classes, and each year we have an in-house technology symposium where teachers volunteer to do PD throughout the day on different technology they use in the classroom.
Every year, I get asked to do a professional development on ActivInspire, and because of that, I usually don’t get to go to any of the other events (because I get the points I need by teaching the class). This year, another teacher in the building did a class on this new program that she somehow found out about called GradeCam, and when I heard about it, I thought, “I don’t need that, I have my set up, and it works just fine.”
Holy moly, was I ever wrong.
GradeCam is a website for teachers. It provides quick and easy grading with powerful long-term item analysis.
When you go to the website, you create an account, and you start out with three free months of the paid service. If you can get people to sign up through you, then you get extra time for free, and if you run a professional development about GradeCam at your school, then you can get the entire year for free.
The first thing you need to do is set your classes up. If you use an attendance program such as PowerSchool that comes with Gradebook, then you can easily accomplish this. By going under Report>Student Roster in Gradebook, you can export your students names and ID numbers into an excel sheet or .csv file. On the GradeCam website, you simply upload this to the website, and your classes are good to go.
Sidenote: I went through and edited everything that I needed to edit to make everything look more attractive. The GradeCam website copied first and last names into both spots in their program. For example: If my student’s name was John Smith. His name would “Smith, John” in the first name spot AND the last name spot, so it showed up online as “Smith, John, Smith, John.” It’s really just cosmetic, and not anything that will affect how the program functions. And there may be a way around it, but I just don’t know what it is.
After you’ve set your classes up, you click “create” and it will ask you what you want to create. Exams are what will usually get used. You can have multiple choice questions with up to five options and true-false questions. There is nothing else: no matching, no short answer, no essay. So if you want anything else other that MC and TF, you’re out of luck. Pick the number of questions (up to 100 on the paid edition; 10 on the free).
Once you’ve created the assignment, a blank key will pop up on the screen. To create the key, simply click on the correct answer to darken it. You can have questions worth different amounts of points (or no points if you just want a survey). then click on “Forms.” Here, you have the option to print blank forms OR print forms with student names and number already on them. No more trying to figure out handwriting or determining which Sarah’s paper you’re looking at!
The forms will print out and then it’s just simply giving the form to the student with copy of the test. Since you are using an answer key, you will only need a class set of the test, so that will help conserve paper (and if you’re a seasoned teacher, chances are, you may not even need to print new tests).
The students simply take the test and turn it in. Then the real awesome happens: place the answer document under a camera that is attached to your computer and GradeCam will grade it for you!
You can use a document camera, a webcam, or even your smart phone. You read that right: GradeCam has an APP FOR THAT! I simply turned on the scanner on my phone, hovered over the students answer document, got their grade, and gave it to them before I even picked up the test.
Once everyone is finished, you can click on the “summary” section of the assignment and get all the item analysis you could ever want. As a science teacher, I dream about graphs and data, and GradeCam gives me a graph for every single question so that I can easily see if a question was confusing or where the students are having problems understanding.
And you want one more bonus to all of this? You can import your grades from GradeCam back into Gradebook. You don’t even have to enter ANYTHING!
In My Classroom:
I haven’t switched fully to GradeCam yet. I plan on starting this tomorrow with my students next test on Mitosis. Since I’ve been using the ActivExpression 2’s almost exclusively in my room, switching to GradeCam means that I am going to have to create new tests; however, I will be able to make my tests more dynamic and more similar to the EOC, which the students face at the end of the year.
I used it in an emergency the other day when one of the ActivExpressions died on me and suddenly I didn’t have enough for my class to take their vocabulary quiz. It actually worked out really well, and the kids seemed to respond to it in a positive way. I think it helped that I was using my phone to grade them because it was “cool.” Afterwards, I checked out the item analysis, but it didn’t give me much information other than some students didn’t study like they should have.
- Easy To Use. GradeCam is extremely easy to use. It doesn’t require that you change anything you are doing except that you make and print your keys online. The only reason it’s a transition for me is that I’ve been using ActivExpressions now for two years.
- Next to No Grading! The answer sheets are graded through the online program via a camera (either one attached to your computer or your phone). All you have to do is input the grades into your gradebook, and if you use a compatible gradebook, you don’t even have to do that: just import.
- Item Analysis. GradeCam lets you see where students are struggling. You even have the ability to assign standards to assignments and see how students are doing on the individual standards. You can assess where holes are in their knowledge and fix it before moving on.
- No Guessing “Who’s Paper is This?” The forms can be printed with student name and number. You won’t have to worry about what number a student is (if you have used ActivExpressions before) or what a student’s handwriting looks like (if they forget to write their name on things often).
- Instant Feedback. With the ability to scan and grade, students will be able to immediately get feedback. No more waiting to see what they made, and no more having to take that grading home with you.
- Quickly Identify Struggling Students. With the item analysis, you can quickly see which students are struggling and where they are struggling so that you can individualize an improvement plan to help them.
- Make-Up Testing is Easy! With the ActivExpressions, the students have to take the test on paper (which is then graded by hand) or they use the handheld (which means you lose the use of your board for a time). With GradeCam, just give them the answer document and the test, and then scan when they finish. No problems!
- Paper Usage. Unlike with the ActivExpressions, you not only need a paper copy of a test, but each student needs their own answer document. The answer documents take up an entire sheet of paper, so it can add up really quickly. If you have 150 students, that’s a lot of paper to give out ONE test.
- Increase Risk of Cheating. Answer documents put all of a students answers in one space making it a lot easier for students to cheat off of each other. It’ll require increased diligence by the teacher to make sure any would-be-wandering eyes aren’t wandering.
- Student Complaints about Grading. When I first suggested the use of GradeCam in my room, a couple of students told me that another teacher had “grading issues” with hers where the students forms weren’t being graded properly (or possibly uploaded properly) and that it was negatively affecting their grade. I, personally, haven’t experienced this yet, but it’ll be something I definitely keep an eye out for.
- Cost. GradeCam that’s worth anything (the version that gives you 100 questions) costs money. It’s money that you either have to pay for by yourself or that has to come from someone in your district. We’re lucky enough that our principal has agreed to buy us out the rest of the year and then look into a school-wide license for next year.
- Low Choices on Question Types. GradeCam only offers multiple-choice and true-false question types. It cuts down the diversity of testing unless you want to create a second section and then grade it by hand. For me, I design all my tests as best I can like the final, so it’s not as important for me; however, I don’t use GradeCam for my Genetics classes, which are 50-75% written.
- Max Number of Question is 100. This may seem trivial, but 100 is not that big of a number. My mid-term for my remedial or lowest-performing students is 125. As a school, advanced students have to have an exam of 150, and the honors classes are all 175. You can create two separate keys, but you’ll have to figure out the grade on your own
I think GradeCam may end up being my new BFF. I’ll still use the ActivExpressions, but probably for their original use: informal assessment throughout a class. GradeCam is by far the more superior tool when it comes to grading and learning where student weakness is. It’s fast, easy to set up, easy to use, and the feedback is wonderful. It’s like teacher-inspired magic, but just like Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time said, “All magic comes with a price, deary.” And if you can’t find funding through your school or district, GradeCam’s price could quickly add up.
Grade: 98, A
- I didn’t give these a higher grade for two reasons: The paper usage and the cost. The cost, while not great, will add up to more than what the ActivExpressions cost in the long run, and there is no way around it: this will use more paper than the AEs.