I have officially broken up with the Scantron machine. We had a decent run, but the recent mess of semester finals helped me to discover there are far more attractive options on the market.
The best new scoring machine I’ve found is actually my phone, or more specifically the ZipGrade app on my phone. Over the past two months, I’ve run ZipGrade through its paces, scanning in-class surveys, quick formative assessments, and full end-of-unit exams.
The result? I’m a fan and have given away all of my old Scantron forms.
1. Speed. In the time it takes to walk across campus to the faculty lounge and wait in line for the tempermental Scantron machine, I can snap a photo of each answer sheet with the app, transfer all of my students’ data to a PDF, and send the PDF tally sheet to my email account.
2. Accuracy. Unlike the Scantron machine, ZipGrade allows me to quickly review each test paper question-by-question, making sure that the scan was correctly read and that messy students’ smear marks weren’t accidentally miscounted. Oh, and no calibration of a rickety old machine needed.
3. Convenience. The answer key documents are available for free here on the ZipGrade site. The cost of running photocopies of those score sheets is a few pennies cheaper than those green Scantron forms, but the real advantage is that the sheets don’t have to go through our purchasing department and I don’t have to beg a pinch of a stack from the Form Hoarders. Instead, I just go here, print the form I need, and run copies. Done. I also made my own paper-saving options by adding two answer sheets per page, which the app scanned with no trouble. Go here to grab the two 50-question answer sheets per page and the two 100-question answer sheets per page options.
4. Fun. The kids think it’s super-cool that I can zap their answer sheets with my phone and immediately show them their scores. Bubble-dot tests and surveys can be hip? Who knew?
5. Storage. All of my class sets of exams are now stored on my phone for as long as needed. If a student wants to review his sheet, I can send a PDF that includes his scan and the key straight to any email account. Since test security is an issue and I don’t want to re-write tests each year, I send reports only to my own email for in-class viewing on my laptop screen, but you could send copies to students’ or parents’ email accounts, depending on your needs.
6. Item Analysis = Better Teaching. Unquestionably, this is the app’s best feature because it lets me see what percentage of students missed specific questions. With the Scantron, gathering this information was tedious and, frankly, never happened. Now, though, I can immediately see troublespots, allowing me to figure out whether I made an error on the key, used wonky wording on a test question, or maybe, just maybe, didn’t do a good job teaching that specific content. Self-reflection? Yup, that’s actually happening now.
The app costs $6.99 for 12 months of scoring an unlimited number of papers, but the app download and first 100 scans of answer sheets are included in the free trial if you’d like to try before you buy.
(Please note: I have no business affiliation or relationship of any kind with ZipGrade. I just think the app is great. It saves time, makes me look good in front of my students, and facilitates self-reflection. A definite win!)