It’s everyone’ favorite time of the year–exams!  I’ve yet to meet a teacher who loves grading, even relatively painless marking of multiple choice questions.   If you have a significant portion of multiple choice questions (i.e. both IB and AP exams, as well as many state/federal exams in the US), you are crazy not to use GradeCam, an optical scanner that is going to bankrupt ScanTron.    JIS Teachers click here for setup instructions. Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 9.13.36 AM

It uses the webcam on your computer (or phone!) to instantly grade print-at-home answer sheets.   No more pricey scanners or specialized (AKA overpriced) answer forms.  Need more forms?  Print them.   Don’t want to walk down to the office and wait for the ScanTron to be available? Use your computer.  Don’t have your computer? Use your phone. Slick, slick, slick.

Most importantly, the data analysis of GradeCam is instant, detailed and flexible.  I use it for both formative (“whoops–better go over electron configuration again!”) and summative (“Is my answer key right?”) assessments.

Setting it up is relatively painless, but there are a few parameters that are very important for full functionality.  Mainly:

  • Make sure the number of digits in the student ID field (on the printed answer forms) matches up with your GradeBook.   You can set this permanently in the Settings page (recommended), or you can do it every time when you make a new ‘bubble sheet’.  Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 8.39.53 AM
  • To utilize “autofill” of your GradeBook (which is about as close to magic as I’ve ever seen), you must leave GradeBook running in the ‘scan’ window (i.e. not in ‘summary’).  Make sure the correct class is selected (i.e. Chemistry Period 2)  Then put the cursor into the top row of the appropriate column in the corresponding class GradeBook, and push Fn and your chosen ‘hotkey’ (probably F8 or F6).  Magic will happen and your kids scores will auto-fill.  I’d say to kick your feet up and relax while it does the hard work, but it’ll be done before you even push back from your desk!
  • If students use pen (they can use any color pen, pencil–you could probably use blood in a pinch!), and make a mistake, they’ll need to either white-out the mistake, or you will need to manually over-ride their answers.  One of the drawback of GradeCam is that it will not alert you if students mark more than one answer (and then cross one out).  You must manually check each test–it only takes a minute, but must be done!

Multiple choice questions have their limitations, but they also are the most efficient way to get detailed feedback on where your class needs additional help.  And did I mention how magical it is to watch grades automatically go from a piece of paper to your GradeBook?!