Friday, October 21, 2011

Tech tools to avoid the midterm slump

You walk into a classroom to see students huddled over stacks of papers, note cards, and graded quizzes with either a coffee cup or a wad of tissues in their hands. They are in various stages of preparation and dress--from pajamas and crumpled pages of notes to meticulous dress with color-coded flash cards. As you enter the classroom on exam day, they look up at you with equal expressions of wariness. Based on your excellent deductive skills you know it must be midterm season. Why else would they give you such a look as they sniffle their way through another cup of coffee?

Photo by Lora Helvie-Mason, edited using

There are a few things we can do to ease the midterm season for ourselves and for our students. These are minor actions, but they may guide us to better manage the mid-semester slump.

Check out some technology that can assist your grading (see previous entry "Grading Gadgets"). Such tools often help students to track their progress and receive more detailed feedback. There are many opportunities these days and, to update the nearly 1-year old "Gadget's" entry, there are more grading tech options than ever, including:
You might consider the free trial options for some of these programs OR explore the rubrics in your LMS, if you have one. Technologically adapted rubrics can provide easy grading and opportunities to insert more comments than you would if your hand is cramping up on the sixtieth time you write "restructure for clarity" or "unclear thesis" on an outline or paper. Using the LMS rubrics can need some clarification -- it is easy to seek the Help features, but I also love to search for a video explanation/demonstration -- these are often on YouTube or Vimeo and provided by the companies themselves OR by users who can answer the exact practical questions I might have. (Example: Blackboard Rubrics Explained video).

Though some options cost, there are also many free resources for educators, the trick is finding one that works appropriately for your needs and that you feel comfortable with. Start with your LMS, but don't feel locked into their system. Go explore! Consider sharing your ideas of what works best (and what to avoid) with a comment or suggestions.

Best wishes for a productive midterm season! 

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