New software facilitates assessment and data management

Gradecam’s software uses an ordinary document or web camera to automate data entry into any electronic gradebook.

During recent ed-tech conferences, a number of companies introduced software intended to make assessment and data management easier for schools.

For instance, CTB/McGraw-Hill has introduced a program called TerraNova Common Core, a national achievement test that represents a field-tested, valid, and authentic measure of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the company says. It is available in reading, English language arts, and mathematics for grades 3-8. TerraNova Common Core offers a full range of item formats in one test, including multiple choice, constructed response, extended-constructed response, and integrated performance tasks. Through this “one test” approach, educators can compare student results on national and Common Core standards across grades and ability levels.

GradeCam demonstrated its software that helps automate the testing process, allowing teachers to get instant feedback from pencil-and-paper tests. The software uses an ordinary document or web camera to automate data entry into any electronic gradebook. Students fill in answers for multiple-choice tests using a pen or pencil, then swipe their test under a document or web camera—or the teacher can do this after collecting the tests.

When a GradeCam form is moved into the camera’s field of view, the software reads the data it contains. GradeCam forms have an area for a student’s identification number (which is how the software knows whose test is whose) and an area for answer choices. The software also includes analysis and reporting tools, so teachers can make easy sense of the results for an entire class or multiple groups of students.

Pearson demonstrated PowerSchool for Parents and PowerSchool for Students, new apps for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Available free of charge from Apple’s App Store, these apps provide real-time access to attendance, grades, assignments, scores, and more for the 10 million students and their parents whose schools use Pearson’s PowerSchool student information system.

“Our new PowerSchool app revolutionizes the way that millions of busy parents can stay in touch with their children’s lives at school,” said Jonathan D. Harber, CEO of Pearson’s K-12 Technology group. “When I ask my children what they did in school today, the answer is usually ‘I don’t know.’ Now, parents will have the power in their pocket to stay connected. As we replace textbooks with digital personalized learning environments, parents will have more real-time access to their children’s lives, and students will have more ability to learn anywhere, anytime.”

Both apps were designed for fast, easy “one-thumb” browsing, helping students and parents quickly access the latest school information from any location. For parents, a “Live Feed” streams all information for all students for the current week in a single view. Integration with the social media sites Facebook and Twitter also allows students and parents to share official grades and scores with their friends and family.

“With our two new PowerSchool apps, we are moving the honor student bumper sticker into the 21st century,” said Bryan MacDonald, chief technology officer for Pearson’s student information systems. “Now, by using the PowerSchool apps to post scores and grades on Facebook or Twitter, parents and students can share their academic success with their friends and family members.”

To use the apps, students must attend a school that uses PowerSchool version 7.1 or higher.

Skyward Inc. unveiled a redesigned web user interface for its School Management System. The new version, SMS 2.0, makes it easier for users to navigate between screens in the software, reducing the time it takes to find and display important information to just two clicks in most cases. That, in turn, helps users manage their data and school operations more easily.

“By carefully watching how a number of Skyward’s customers perform their jobs, we were able to understand, at a very specific level, what we could do to streamline their tasks and help them to be even more successful,” said Tom Gomoll, principal for Gomoll Research+Design, which designed the new interface.

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