Speeding Up Grading with Online Resources

Use websites and apps to increase peer editing, digitize your papers, and automate the objective editing.

By Elijah Ammen

Woman grading papers

Educational technology can be overwhelming and often very frustrating. Even as a member of Generation Y, I find myself sticking to the good old-fashioned essentials of paper, pencil, and printed-out papers. Unfortunately, those essentials leave me buried in hundreds of papers every weekend, much to the chagrin of my wife and newborn son (who expresses his disappointment with loud crying).

Technology, however, is rarely kind to me. It requires equipment, training, and remembering passwords. We all have had administration throw complicated technology at us, which often creates more work than it saves. 

But fear not—there are some programs out there that are user-friendly, and help reduces the amount of time spent grading. 

Establish Peer Editing

Peer editing is a time-honored strategy that many teachers use in the classroom. It helps writers with the editing process, and provides a fresh perspective for the author. Technology can assist peer editing in two ways—it can speed up the process between corrections and editing, and it can be moved outside the classroom.

Since studies continue to show that teens rarely ever use e-mail, and it's still important that the teacher has some sort of supervision and quality control, there are several sites that can help the process.

  • Edmodo is the social media of the education world. It's a favorite of teachers because it has so many different features—chief among them the ability to upload assignments and have other class members critique and comment on the work. This promotes discussion, collaboration, and can be done inside or outside the classroom (especially when incorporated with the Edmodo app).
  • Wikispaces is a little more work to set up, but it allows for a greater degree of customization than Edmodo, which focuses more on the social media aspect. It still allows users to comment on other assignments, and complete teacher control.
  • Google Drive doesn't have the social media aspect of Edmodo or Wikispaces, but it does allow for real-time editing in an Internet browser—no need for Microsoft Word or any other word processor. Peer editors can highlight or add comments, and the author can make the edits.

Digitize Your Papers

I firmly believe that it is a universal law that my coffee is attracted to any stack of papers within spilling distance. (The same law applies to rain storms when leaving school with the afore-mentioned papers.) Fortunately, most of you are currently carrying a high-resolution scanner in your pocket right now--in the form of your smartphone. 

There is a glut of scanner apps out there for free, but a few stand out. CamScanner and PDF Reader both allow you to mark the PDFs that you scan in, which means basic paper editing can be done on your smartphone or on a tablet for the optically challenged (like many English teachers, I blame my poor vision on years of flashlight reading after bedtime). 

Other basic scanners for Apple and Android devices include Tiny ScanHandyScanDocScan, and GeniusScan. The basic versions are all available for free, though usually with an option to pay for more features.

Automate Objective Editing

Despite the development of computer systems intended to completely grade essays (including the GMAT), the English purist in me acknowledges that there is a subjective element to writing that can never be replaced by a machine. That's not to say that we can't take advantage of programs to do the menial editing tasks for us.

  • Plagiarism Checking: Thanks to technology, we're fighting an uphill battle against plagiarism, so there's poetic justice in fighting technology with technology. While Turnitin is the king of plagiarism and editing feedback, it can be pricey on a teacher's budget. Thankfully, there are free plagiarism-checking sites like Small SEO Tools and Plagiarism Checker that check copy-and-pasted text. Dustball and Plagiarism-Detect also allow you to upload text files.
  • Rubric Creating: I wish I could have back the hours of my life spent creating rubrics on a word processor. Thanks to sites like Rubistar and iRubric, you can create rubrics quickly and with less formatting hassle. In addition, you can edit rubrics that have already been developed for a variety of subjects.

Time is something we teachers are sorely lacking. That being said, put a little of your time to good use by investigating some of the time-saving technology available to assist with the monumental task of grading. 

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