No doubt all our readers in the education field are well aware of the explosion of iPads and tablets in the classroom and their ability to make learning easier and more interactive. But we suspect at least some of you are still reluctant to turn the new tech loose on grading, an area where you could be needlessly wasting hours assessing students with an antiquated system. We know change can be daunting, but we promise that within this list of apps teachers love, you’ll find something you love, too.
If you’re a teacher who’s been hanging on to a hard-copy gradebook, this app is your invitation to see what all the fuss over grading apps is about. For $10 the app comes packed with features like automatic grade calculation, status report notification emails for students or parents, attendance reports on PDF, and more.
Teacher’s Assistant Pro: Track Student Behavior:
For elementary teachers, this app is a great option for recording behavior infractions and easily contacting parents and administrators with all the details if need be. Tardiness, forgetting books, being disruptive, all this and more will never go unrecorded or unpunished again.
Ah, the dreaded essay. We’re not teachers, but we have to assume the joy you get out of torturing kids with essay assignments has to be somewhat tampered by having to grade them. iAnnotate takes the pain out of it, letting you ink, highlight, underline, stamp, make notes, and more on a PDF version of your kids’ essays via your iPad.
For an app specifically designed for grading essays, try … Essay Grader. The standout feature is the wide variety of stock comments, including praise, grammar and style critiques, and organization and documentation notes it comes loaded with. Or you can import your own customized database of your own patented phrases, so you can pick one and go.
Not every assignment is as easily graded as making a check or X mark on each number. Tasks like oral presentations have to be graded on the fly, and that’s where this app shines. Use sliders to add or subtract points during a speech on things like delivery and tone, then let the app add the scores. It even lets you record video for playback later if you want to review the performance before assigning a grade.
Like A+ Grade Calculator for Android (see below), Groovy Grader is a simple, no-charge app for inputting the number of quiz or test questions and getting back a chart of scores based on the number missed. The iPhone version can handle 150 questions and the iPad 300, but both get the helpful ability to either round off numbers or display them with either one or two decimal places.
Grades are just a part of this app that’s like a social network for teachers and students. If it would save you time to have an easy way to communicate with students about their grades, send them assignments, and hear back from them on what they need help on, this free app is worth a look.
We have to dock some points for the high cost ($31), but if you’re serious about a grading app this is one to consider. It will give you suggestions for mid-term and final grades, know based on your calendar what you’re teaching when and adapt accordingly, and of course keep copious grade and attendance records.
Anything you used to do with your grades on a spreadsheet program — compiling averages, producing class reports for the principal, using weighted formulas to determine grades — you can now do quickly and easily on your iDevice, be it an iPhone or iPad.
It’s got a downright iClunky title, but iTeacherBook is a scheduling, attendance tracker, assignment allocator, and grade recorder and reporter all rolled into one. For $5 and compatibility with both iPhone and iPad, you can’t go wrong.
Teacher Aide Pro:
Winner of 2011’s Best App Ever award in the teacher category, Teacher Aide Pro can handle 90 students per class and makes communicating with students a cinch via text, mass emailing, and CSV compatibility. This version runs $8 but the lite version is free.
The self-proclaimed “smart app for busy teachers” (redundant, are we right?), Teacher’s Pet has a solid if somewhat quirky array of features, like the ability to record a student’s attitude with just the right emoticon. But with a clean interface, calendar integration, and add-ons like student photo uploading for easy recognition, this app’s well worth the $1.99.
The developer claims a Boston high school math teacher said (s)he saves 80 minutes a week in grading time thanks to this free app. That alone is reason enough to take a flyer on it. Socrative Learner requires each student has the tech to run the app, but it turns multiple choice, true false, and “quick quiz” answers digital for instantaneous grading.
On multi-page exams, many teachers find it necessary to write the number of points deducted per page at the bottom of each page, then they have to go back through at the end to add it all up. Streamline that process with Grade Ticker, which lets you see what you’ve deducted as you go and adds it all up for you at the end.
There may be a bit of a learning curve before you get the hang of this app, but once you do you’ll appreciate its customizability and intuitiveness. Break grades down into homework, classwork, test, participation, or other divisions, track attendance, and even get reminders of students’ birthdays.
A+ Grade Calculator:
We’re sure you know that shaving just seconds off the grade time per test adds up to hours by the end of the school year, hours of your life you’ll never get back. Protect the time you have left with this app that lets you input the number of questions and see percentage and letter grades.
The developer obviously didn’t sink too much time into naming this bad boy, or into creating this hilariously brief user guide. No matter. Here’s what you need to know: you can use it to create grade point systems, it works, and it’s free.
It’s not strictly a grading app, but if you’re going to be saving a lot of graded papers and tests it will be nice to be able to access them from anywhere. Also available on iTunes, Dropbox for Android is a free service that lets you upload 2 GBs worth of data for retrieval from any device with the app.
For a standalone attendance tracker, this app is a clean solution. Present, late, and absent students can be seen at a glance with color-coded labels for each. And if you make the list a Google Spreadsheet at the start of the semester, at the end of the year just check it through Google Docs and Attendance will have calculated all tardies and absences for you automatically.
It requires a free blog with UK site PrimaryBlogger, but teachers ‘cross the pond are loving Classdroid. It lets them take a picture of a student’s work, grade it, and upload it to the web for the students and their parents to view. It may not save time in the actual process of grading, but it could prevent many of your time-sucking parent-teacher conferences by improving kids’ grades.
The essential problem in data assessment is called overfitting, i.e. using a small dataset to predict something. The grading software must compare essays, understand what parts are great and not so great and then condense this down to a number which constitutes the grade, which in its turn must be comparable with a different essay on a totally different topic. Sounds hard, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Very hard. But still, not impossible. Google uses similar tactics when comparing what resulting texts and images are more preferable to different search terms. The issue is just that Google uses millions of data samples for their approximations. A single school could, at best, input a few thousand essays. This is like trying to solve a 1000-piece puzzle with just 50 pieces. Sure, some pieces can end up in the right place but it’s mostly guess work. Until there is a humongous database of millions and millions of essays, this problem will most likely be hard to work around.
The only plausible solution to overfitting is specifying a specific set of rules for the computer to act upon to determine if a text makes sense or not, since computers can’t read. This solution has worked in many other applications. Right now, auto-grading vendors are throwing everything they got at coming up with these rules, it’s just that it is so hard coming up with a rule to decide the quality of creative work such as essays. Computers have a tendency of solving problems in the way they usually do: by counting.
In auto-grading, the grade predictors could, for example, be; sentence length, the number of words, number of verbs, number of complex words and so on. Do these rules make for a sensible assessment? Not according to Perelman at least. He says that the prediction rules are often set in a very rigid and limited way which restrains the quality of these assessments. For example, he has found out that:
- A longer essay is considered better than short one (a coincidence according to auto grading advocate and professor Mark D. Shermis)
- Specific word associated with complex thinking such as ’moreover’ and ’however’ leads to better grades
- Towering words such as ’avarice’ gives more points than using simple ones such as ’greed’
On other instances he found examples of rules poorly applied or just not applied at all, the software could for example not determine whether facts were true or false. In a published and automatically graded essay, the task was to discuss the main reasons why a college education is so expensive. Perelman argued that the explanation lies within the greedy teacher’s assistants who has a salary of six times that of a college president and regularly uses their complementary private jets for a south sea vacation.
The essay was awarded the highest grade possible: 6/6.
To avoid the examining eye of Perelman and his peers most vendors have restricted use of their software while development is still ongoing. So far, Perelman hasn’t gotten his hand on the most prominent systems and admits that so far he has only been able to fool a couple of systems.
If we are to believe Perelman’s claims, automatic grading of college level essays still has a long way to go. But remember that already today, lower grade essays is actually being graded by computers already. Granted, under meticulous supervision by humans but still, technological progress can move fast. Considering how much effort being asserted towards perfecting automatic grading scoring it is likely we will see a fast expansion in a not too distant future.
About the author: Hubert.ai is a young edtech company based in Stockholm, Sweden. We are working to disrupt teacher feedback by using AI conversational dialog with every student separately. Feedback is then analyzed and compiled down to a few recommendations on how you as a teacher can improve your skills and methods. Are you a teacher and would like to help us in development? Please sign up as a beta tester at our website :]