Teaching and testing are so inextricably linked today that you can’t teach anything to a class without having an assessment at the end. Pearson’s AIMSweb delivers a wide variety of tests that track student and class development over time with access to data analysis tools. The package is Web-based and provides unlimited use of its tests in reading, literacy, language arts and math that range from letter-naming to fractions.
It was just a matter of time before more printer companies would create the software for making and automatically grading scannable test forms like Lexmark’s Hosted Testing and Grading system. OKI Data has done just that with its Docu Tool software. Just pick from a series of test formats, print them on an OKI MB700 multi-function printer and distribute it to the class. After the test, run the completed tests along with the answer sheet through the printer’s scanner and OKI’s software does the rest, grading the tests and compiling results for each student.
eInstruction’s Insight 360 just got a lot better at giving tests with the integration of the ExamView module. It now allows teachers to not only create and manage tests in a variety of formats from a library of 9,000 textbooks, but now lets them deliver questions one at a time, create more exacting reports and instantly can show the right and wrong answers. Booth no. 4307
If there’s one thing that all teachers hate, it is grading tests. It’s a good reason why many take weeks to correct and return even the simplest quiz. Lexmark changes the teaching landscape with its Hosted Testing and Grading system, which lets educators create bubble answer sheets and then automatically correct them. As good as it is, the system requires using one of the company’s multi-function printers (MFP).
Getting started with the Testing and Grading system is simplified because the hosted service doesn’t require any software to be installed on a school computer. All of the action is done via a Web service on Lexmark servers. Because of this, you can use any connected computer with a recent Web browser, regardless of whether it has PC, Mac or Linux software; it even works with Android tablets and iPads. I used an Acer Veriton M4 desktop computer to try it out by creating and correcting a variety of tests and looking at the results.
Lexmark has several versions of the software including ones for districts that want the data to reside locally on a school server. Unfortunately, only the top-of-the-line Custom version lets schools automatically transfer the test results into grade book software.
The process starts with discussions with Lexmark as to what the school wants from the Testing and Grading system and which version makes the most sense. It often leads to a pilot set up for the school to try it out.
Getting it set up is eased by a visit from Lexmark technicians, who get the system connected and working. They also train teachers and administrators how to get the most out of the program so that they can then train teachers and staff to make it fit into the school’s daily operations.
Lexmark charges $1,000 for the visit, but it’s more than worth it when it comes to making the system work with often-complicated firewalls and internal security systems. During the set up phase Lexmark provides the phone number of a dedicated support person in Lexington, KY to help if there are problems. The company charges $50 a month per machine for the service.
By far, the biggest stumbling block is that the Testing and Grading service requires a Lexmark laser multi-function printer, although it can be used as a regular printer, copier and fax machine when it’s not grading tests. I used Lexmark’s X656de, a high-speed multi-function printer that’s aimed at being in the school’s main office, a teacher lounge or in a hallway; it costs $2,500.
Testing and Grading is surprisingly simple and secure. That’s because all the heavy data lifting takes place at Lexmark’s server farm out on the Internet. The data is encrypted while it travels to and from Lexmark’s servers.
After the teacher has created the test’s questions, she uses the Testing and Grading system to create test sheets for the class by pressing the Print Test icon on the printer’s touch-screen. There are sheets with 15-, 30- 60- and 100-questions, but nothing bigger to simulate taking an SAT test, for example. Lexmark can create custom test blanks or you can use two 100-question sheets to cover a large exam.
Each question has up to five potential multiple-choice answers or can be filled in as a true/false answer. Some of the test sheets have blanks for entering the grades of essay or fill in questions, but the teacher will need to manually grade those sections and enter the results on the answer sheet. The Lexmark sheets show how to correctly and incorrectly fill them out for those unfamiliar with this way of testing.
After logging in to the system, I chose the teacher and the class for the test. I then created a 15-question test for the class of 20. The system then prepared blank answer sheets for each member of the class, complete with the name, ID number, class and other data. Each also has a unique bar code on each and the system can print blank ones for new students who aren’t in the school’s student database.
The next part of the sequence is pure magic and can be a real time-saver for every teacher. After pressing Grade Test on the printer’s screen, I ran the answer sheet followed by the class’s tests through the MFP’s scanner. The automatic sheet feeder can hold 75 pages at a time. It can handle ambiguous situations, such as bubbles with nothing filled in or two answers marked and did well on tests with a partially filled bubble.
With the tests graded, the software produces a sheet for each student that contains a smaller version of his answer sheet next to a question-by-question rundown of the correct answers. It shows which questions the student got right or wrong, the raw score and the letter grade. This document can be stored or sent to parents or administrators.
That’s just the start because the software can produce eight different reports that look at everything from how each member of the class fared to how each question was answered; some include useful statistical indicators. At anytime, any of these reports can be printed, emailed or viewed on an iPad.
If the district wants to go deeper, the data uses the common comma separated value (.csv) file format, which can easily be moved into a database or Excel. But, the hosted system can’t produce longitudinal reports, which are likely to be the most interesting for district officials. To do this you need the Enterprise version of the software and local data storage.
Using the hosted system is as easy as using a cash machine; at times, the pay-off can be greater. It took less than 2 minutes to grade and analyze a class’s 20 tests, versus roughly 20 minutes for manually grading and compiling the results. Multiply that by 7 classes a day and you have a real time-saver that can liberate hours of time for extra instruction.
Tests are just the start. It can streamline homework assignments and long-term projects for having students do things like complete the problems at the end of each chapter in a math, grammar or science book.
It can also end up being cheaper to use than using Scantron systems, which require a host PC to operate and expensive answer cards. With Lexmark’s system, a school uses plain paper, and costs roughly 2 cents per page to create.
Currently, the hosted grading system is used in a variety of districts, large and small, including the LA Unified School District. As schools and districts test more, the Lexmark Hosted Testing and Grading system becomes more valuable and can open up lots of time for teachers to actually teach. It is the future of testing.
$1,000 set up charge plus $50 a month per machine
+ Creates and grades bubble test sheets
+ Automatically creates reports
+ Variety of different versions
+ Opens up time for teaching
- Requires Lexmark hardware
- Longitudinal analysis requires Enterprise version
Having trouble keeping special needs students and their individual educational plans separate? The latest Super Duper Data Tracker software can help by recording and tracking a school-day’s worth of students. Available as an iPad or Android app, Data Tracker can record and store a variety of lesson and test results; there’s a section of notes. Students can be arranged in several different groups and Add students to multiple groups. The iOS version costs $6, while the Android app goes for $2.
These days, classroom visits to gauge the effectiveness of a teacher are becoming more and more common, but there’s no common language on how to assess an instructor’s strengths and weaknesses. That is until Teachscape’s Reflect Live program, which provides a common language for collecting and organizing classroom activities and securely reporting them. It works with any notebook or tablet computer.
Still creating tests and quizzes the old fashioned way, one at a time? Wondershare has a better way with a program that creates Flash-based assessments in a variety of formats, including multiple choice, item matching, fill-in and even things like map identification. The software can work with math and chemistry symbols, self-scores the results and reports individual students progress. The best part is that the tests can be presented in a variety of digital formats, from Word and Excel to a self-installing .exe file. The software only works with PCs and costs $170, but there’s a free trial for you to try it out.
Having trouble keeping track of individual student or class scores on the ever-increasing variety of assessments? The recently opened SoftChalk ScoreCenter tabulates and consolidates all scores from SoftChalk and can put it into the gradebook. It works with Blackboard Learning System 9.0 and 9.1, and can show a test’s first attempt, last attempt, highest attempt or average. It’s available now, just register.
For good or bad, which college students get into is dependent almost entirely on their SAT scores. We all know that some students – and adults – have problems remembering things, particularly when it comes to tests. LearnLift’s MemoryLifter Learning Suite: Prep for the SAT is at the confluence of those two trends with a programmed approach to the test that can help kids master the SAT material without too much pain or wasted effort.
Using current psychological research and digital flashcards, MemoryLifter works with a student’s long-term memory so that the information stays with them, regardless of whether it’s about homophones or statistics. The Prep for the SAT system uses modules, including ones for Math, Critical Reading, Irregular Verbs, Vocabulary and Writing, which review the basic elements needed for success.
The software comes with a helpful video that explains the different elements and how to use them, but the focus of the course is the included 3,600 multimedia flash cards. The kit includes a printed study guide and audio books of the vocabulary that the test requires.
Along the way, there are plenty of quizzes and at the end of each session the software tabulates how you did and how much time it took. A nifty graph can show visually how well the student is progressing on the material.
All the SAT Prep modules together sells for $50 and students can get individual ones for between $15 and $30 each. I love that it’s all on a USB memory key so it can go anywhere and help students who are short on time in the library, an Internet café or at home late at night. Just plug it into any computer and start mastering the material.
My only qualm about the system is that it might better be distributed without the physicality and expense of the box and memory key in a Web-based online course where kids log on, do their work and then move on to other things. Other than that, I can think of no better way to get ready for the SAT test.