Tami Porter is a veteran teacher who faced a familiar challenge – handling endless paperwork with limited time – and set out to find a solution for teachers everywhere. Tami is the co-founder of GradeCam. We turned the tables on the veteran teacher and quizzed her to find out how she did it.
Q: What is GradeCam?
A: GradeCam is a web-based application developed by teachers, for teachers, so they can work smarter instead of harder. It gives teachers the ability to create their own custom exams, grade them instantly with their own devices, automatically transfer scores into their own grade books, and analyze and share the results with other teachers and administrators.
Q: How did the idea for GradeCam come about?
A: When I began teaching almost twenty years ago, I didn’t just want to be a good teacher, I wanted to be a great teacher. I started teaching 3rd grade and was surprised and a little overwhelmed by the volume of paperwork. I immediately started trying to find a better way. And one day as I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store, watching the cashier scanning my items, it clicked.
As soon as I got home, I enlisted the help of my husband and two sons. They got to work designing and creating the GradeCam technology. Of course, by the time it was actually ready to use, I was teaching 7th grade and had more paperwork than ever.
I’ll never forget the first time I used it to quiz my students and then customized my lesson plans based on the results. It was a game-changer for me and I knew it would be an enormous help to other teachers, too.
“One day as I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store, watching the cashier scanning my items, it clicked.”
Q: What type of assessments can GradeCam accommodate?
A: One of the great things about GradeCam is that it’s extraordinarily flexible. It empowers teachers to create forms according to their own unique needs, regardless of their particular grade or subject matter.
Whether it’s multiple choice, true/false, number grids, rubrics, or credit assignments, GradeCam makes it easy. It even allows for individual customizations like larger print or alternate versions for students who need special accommodations.
Q: Where do the assessment forms come from?
A: Our goal was to ensure GradeCam would be accessible to all teachers, and part of making that a reality was allowing them to create and print their own forms on ordinary paper using a normal printer. It was important to us that GradeCam could conform to teachers’ needs rather than the other way around.
Teachers not only make their own forms, they can use them however they choose. For instance, they can simply use form code identifiers on regular assessments, create new answer sheets from scratch, embed them into existing worksheets, laminate forms for reuse, or even print multiples on a page to save paper.
“It was important to us that GradeCam could conform to teachers’ needs rather than the other way around.”
Q: How does the scanning part work?
A: As with the forms, we wanted GradeCam to be accessible to all teachers, so we set out to make sure answer sheets could be scored instantly and accurately using everyday devices teachers already have on hand – a smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or document camera.
We’ve fine tuned the scanning accuracy to such a degree that you can even scan forms that have been crumpled up and flattened out again – which I can tell you from personal experience is something that happens from time to time when students get frustrated.
GradeCam literally allows teachers to scan and score anytime, anywhere, with their own devices. I’ve had teachers tell me that now they grade papers with their phone while waiting to pick up their own kids.
There’s even a Student Mode that allows students to scan their own forms privately and instantly see their scores, so that when the last sheet is turned in, the whole class is already graded.
Q: What kind of data does GradeCam generate?
A: There really isn’t a short answer to that question. As soon as a form is scored, the results are immediately accessible on both an individual and on a cumulative basis. And the resulting information can be viewed through any number of perspectives – by question, by score, by student, by class, by teacher, by school, by existing or custom standards, etc. It will also generate reports and facilitate direct sharing between educators and/or administrators.
But what’s truly amazing is that GradeCam enables teachers to give students instant feedback and make formative choices in real-time. There is no longer an inevitable delay between asking the questions and knowing whether or not the students know the answers. That not only saves time, it helps teachers make the most of the time they save.
“I’ve had teachers tell me that now they grade papers with their phone while waiting to pick up their own kids.”
Q: Can you tell us about the grade-transfer feature?
A: This is the part that elicits the biggest response from teachers when they see it demonstrated live! It’s actually remarkably simple, but I suppose that’s why it’s so surprising to people. GradeCam can automatically transfer grades into any digital grade book – even Excel spreadsheets – with the touch of a button. F8. I know that probably sounds like it’s too good to be true, but seeing is believing.
One of our very enthusiastic users once exclaimed: “F8 will save your life!” Now I won’t go as far as to say that it will save anyone’s life, but it sure will save a lot of time.
Q: How much does GradeCam cost?
A: Our Basic plan is always free. Our Plus plan offers a 60-day free trial, with opportunities to extend the free trial time through sharing and referrals, and then $15 a month after that. There is no commitment required. For School/District plans, we also offer a free 60-day trial, and the subsequent fees are based on the number of students.