Sheryl Winter, an educational technologist, shares with us how the stress of grading papers as a teacher motivated her to find a digital grading solution for her fellow teachers. Then, how she overcame the hurdle of teacher buy-in with the power of teachers helping teachers.
The Constant Stress of Paper Grading
As a classroom teacher, I spent countless hours grading assignments and assessments. To this day, I am haunted by memories of carrying stacks of papers everywhere I went and squeezing in a little bit of grading whenever and wherever I could: doctors office waiting rooms, long car rides, soccer fields – too many locations to name. In fact, for fourteen years I never watched an NFL game on Sunday without a stack of papers in my lap.
I would try and recruit anyone I could think of to help me grade multiple choice questions. My daughter learned the first part of the alphabet by “helping” mommy grade papers. My husband eventually told me if I asked him to help again, he was going to start giving everyone A’s. Right now you are probably muttering to yourself, “Amen, sister, you’re preaching to the choir!”
Searching for a Solution for Teachers
Three years ago, I became a district educational technologist, and my job no longer required grading papers; however, the memory still lingered. I could not believe how much of my time was now my own again. I was so excited to cheer my Seahawks to Victory without quizzes or chapter tests in my lap. The wind no longer interfered with grading student work. My career change helped me realize how much of my life I had spent grading.
That year I made it my goal to unearth programs that could help teachers become more efficient and give them great data on student performance. We had been introduced to grading programs in the past, but they were too involved and overly complicated. I was on the hunt for something that would be easy for the average teacher to learn how to use, would save them time, and give them the information they needed to inform their instruction.
Enter GradeCam – The Digital Grading Solution
I stumbled upon GradeCam at a booth at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference and decided to set up a district trial. The first month of the pilot was a little rocky. Getting the program linked to our student information system and using the online training went really smoothly, but getting teachers to buy into a pilot in March, right before state testing season began, was quite the challenge.
I touted all of the great features:
– The app that allowed them to grade using their phone
– The fabulous reports they could access and tie to their standards
– The online testing portal
– And, the magic transfer of grades into the gradebook
I wanted them to see how they could now grade from anywhere in the building; they were not tied to a copier, scanning machine, or even a computer. That any device would do; no waiting in line to scan or copy during exam season, no more running to a machine during class changes.
I wanted these teachers to see that they were no longer married to a teacher bag or cart they wheeled home every day full of student work. I wanted them to be able to sit and watch the football or soccer game, to garden, to read, and to get some of their life back!
Developing Teacher Buy-in
You would think teachers would have been knocking on my door saying please tell me more, but instead, I got crickets. I had trained a few teachers and they were using it, but no real buy in yet. I thought to myself are they jaded, have they seen too many products come and go, is this the wrong time of year for a pilot? Maybe they were too busy with prepping for state tests, AP Exams, and finals to really take the time to think about how much GradeCam could help them. Why are they not all running to me for information on this?
I decided that I needed a change of tactics. Instead of chasing down and training new recruits, I convinced the teachers I had already trained to become GradeCam warriors (I may have resorted to a little food-related bribery). To do this, I snagged some time from building staff meetings, not for a full training, but to set up teacher-users demonstrations for the rest of the staff.
One of my favorite moments was at the high school. Jami Kruithoff, a high school health and physical education teacher, who swears technology is out to get her, presented how GradeCam had helped her save time and gave her great information on student performance.
It was a pivotal moment when Jami, who struggles with technology, showed the high school staff how to scan assessments, and then transfer the grades to the gradebook in a short period of time. She had them hooked. I spent the next week training most of the rest of the high school teachers how to use the product so that they could grade their exams.
Jami has since become one of my biggest champions, and she is always willing to try new GradeCam features out with me before I share it with the rest of the staff. Here is what she has to say about how Gradecam has revolutionized her grading process:
GradeCam has changed my life! It is one of the most useful tools in technology I have ever used and one of the easiest to learn!
I love the immediate feedback you get on the assessments. The information really helps you refine your lessons. It saves a tremendous amount of time in grading and input of grades since it is compatible with our online grading source.
– Jami Kruithoff
Health and Physical Education Teacher
A GradeCam Revolution!
It has been wonderful watching teachers learn to use this, and though I still have a few holdouts that insist on using the old scan forms, my list of warrior users has grown, so much that they now train each other and draw other teachers into the program for me.
Recently, I had a high school teacher stop me and thank me for saving him so much time by bringing the program into the district. He told me he was working on convincing other holdout teachers to join in the GradeCam revolution.
I learned a valuable lesson implementing GradeCam district-wide. While I thought the awesome features of Gradecam would sell themselves, nothing actually beats teachers showing other teachers how valuable the program is to them. GradeCam has become our teachers new best friend.
Sheryl Winter is an Educational Technologist for Springboro Community City Schools in southwest Ohio. Sheryl has 17 years experience teaching middle and high school students. She has a Bachelors of Science and Masters in Educational Technology from Wright State University.