Tool Review: Khan Academy and GradeCam

  1. Khan Academy

Overview: This was a tool I had used 4 years ago. But since then the website has changed a great deal. The core aspect of the website has remained the same. The website is essentially a database of videos that help teach different subjects and for different levels of learning. The founder Salman Khan got the idea when he made video tutorials for his cousin and he said he preferred learning from the videos rather than being taught in person. The website has grown since then and covers a huge number of subjects. Math, Science, language, music, art and more are covered in series of tutorials. And there are practice question sections that test the student on their knowledge after watching the videos. The use of this service is completely free.

Khan Academy screenshot

Potential: The potential of this tool in the classroom is huge. Through the online tutorials, the teacher can assign what is done in the classroom currently, as homework. The web tutorials and practice problems can be done as homework, so that the teacher can then spend the classroom time, helping the students clarify their doubts and working with them one on one. This resource is great for parents who don’t want their children to lag behind during the long summer break or for parents who choose to home school their kids. With the fun and easy user-interface and the basis of it being a game (play for points, badges and unlock avatars), students are engaged in the

Classroom Feature: A new feature I noticed in Khan Academy that I didn’t remember from 4 years ago, was the classroom feature in Khan Academy. A tutor, parent or teacher could set up and manage the accounts of a bunch of students and monitor their progress as they move through the different ‘levels’ of Khan Academy. This is a good tool for teachers to be able to ensure that their kids are able to match the pace of the rest of their class. They can also see problem areas where they can step in and give one-on-one assistance to children who aren’t able to navigate through a certain topic. This also creates opportunities for interaction and collaboration with kids working in groups to get through a set of math problems or a project set up on Khan Academy.

Hardware requirements: The only hardware requirements is having access to a computer, laptop or mobile device and ensuring that there are a set of working speakers or headphones to watch the videos.

Design: The design elements of this website are extremely attractive. The colors and shapes and overall web design are appealing visually. There is just the right amount of seriousness and playfulness to the badges and avatars for the site to appeal to a vast number of age groups and create an environment that seems informal and inviting. The videos themselves haven’t changed much in 4 years. They still involve Sal Khan using a virtual blackboard and writing on it in different colored inks to teach a subject. During the course of the video, you only hear his voice and never actually see him. Visually the learner is focused only on the blackboard and any other visual cues that sometimes appear in the videos (for example: pictures and portraits from the lesson on the French Revolution).

Student engagement: The student engagement is definitely higher than the teacher engagement with this tool. While there is some amount of passive learning while watching the videos, it is balanced out during the exercises in which the student has to apply and test what he has learnt through the videos. This promotes more active learning than passive learning.

Overall, I think Khan Academy is an excellent tool and resource for the classroom.

2. GradeCam

GradeCam

Overview: I had never used or even heard of GradeCam before this assignment and that is why I chose it for the tool review. When I went through the website for GradeCam, I realized that the tool was quite a useful one for teachers. This tool allows teachers to create quizzes with answers to be filled out on bubble answer sheets. Then these sheets can be scanned by a camera and answers can be tallied immediately through GradeCam. The scores then go directly the teachers gradebook. This saves the teacher a lot of valuable time that would otherwise be spent grading and tabulating of all the scores.

Potential: The classroom potential of this product and service is great. Teachers can create as many small quizzes and tests as they need to during their lesson plan and do not have to worry about all the extra time that would be spent grading, tabulating and analyzing the results. The software would do all that for the teacher instantly. The results would even show the teacher the percentage of students who got a particular question wrong or right, which would help her identify the problem areas for her class and what she needs to work on in the curriculum. This would also give students practice with standardized test bubbling during exams. Their new longitudinal charting feature now allows teachers to chart the progress of a child over the course of a semester or year. This seems like a very helpful tool that would save the teacher a lot of time spent analyzing each student’s progress.

GradeCam chart

Free Service with required hardware: While there are some hardware requirements to use this service, other than that, the feature is completely free. The teacher can use some supported camera document scanners if they want to, but if they have a webcam, that can be used as the camera scanner as well. That way, if the teacher has access to a webcam on their laptop or desktop, and a printer to print out the forms, that is all they need to be able to use this free service. Along with that, the actual service is entirely free. The teachers can make an unlimited number of bubble answer sheets forms for class tests where she can customize each sheet to the test she is creating. The teacher can make answer sheets with anywhere from 10 to 100 bubble questions and the sheets can be customized for each student in the class with the unique student ID code. The sheets can also be customized to the student’s age and needs with larger bubbles printed for younger students.

While this tool is not directly related to student learning, it does make the job of teachers easier, thus freeing them up to work on their students. The website and video demonstrations were not extremely clear about the entirety of the service and didn’t highlight many key features. While the website could use some work, the service itself seems like a great resource for teachers.

 

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