ED Tech, Teaching Articles

Ed Tech Baby Steps #1

Part of a teacher’s job is making sure that you provide updated content and deliver them in an interesting manner. To be interesting, you need to know what sparks your student’s interest and what keeps them motivated. One of way is to use technology in the classroom. While you no longer have to be the sole expert inside the classroom, knowing how tech works and making it work for you is essential to teaching in the 21st century.

Students relate more and dare I say, take you seriously when they know that you are knowledgeable. This includes your online presence and use of social media, gadgets and whatnot.  So what should a teacher do to keep up? Here are a few baby steps I learned along the way.

Learn to use Google Drive and Apps


First things, first~ backup your files. I can’t express this enough. You need to backup your files. Can you imagine losing all that data? You’ll never know when something will go wrong. So make sure that you back up your grade sheets, worksheets, test questions via the cloud.

Then… start exploring Google Apps. The first time I used Google Docs with my MA classmates, I thought it was hilarious. We were working on one document and there were five different cursors blinking and working on different sections of the word document.  I recommend you try Google Apps like Google Calendar, Google Sheets, Google Docs… Google Classroom! All these apps are integrated with collaboration functions that make working online a breeze. You can even make self-correcting quizzes online! The possibilities are literally endless!

Utilize Social Media


I personally use Instagram to curate my student’s best works. I also use it to recognize my student’s achievements in real time. I post short announcements over Twitter and I use Pinterest when I’m tapped out of ideas and in need of inspiration!

Check your online presence


Believe me when I say that your students will check you online. They will look for your social media profiles: Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter… so do yourself a favor, Google yourself and check if there are any posts that you might not want your students to see. If you intend to add students to your Facebook account, set appropriate filters.

Own a blog


I know, it sounds like another task to add to that already long list of things that teachers have to do. Who has the time? But to be honest, maintaining a blog has saved me tons of time! I use my blog to upload presentations, videos, and handouts. I also post announcements, school schedules, and project deadlines so that students don’t need to ask me every time. It’s a win-win solution. They practice and learn personal accountability because the information is just a click away. You may also add it to your teacher portfolio as a visual representation of your teaching experience.  Another tip, make a separate email for school. I maintain a separate email for online submissions and organize them with filters. Students also email me specific questions that they wouldn’t usually ask in front of their peers so It’s a great way to bridge the communication gap with your students.

Use tech to your advantage


Aside from the obvious use of your laptop and projector for audio-visual lectures, you can explore other applications to make your lessons more interactive. You can also use your iPad apps for grade sheets and bubble tests. I personally love Zipgrade and Additio App. These apps have transformed the way I manage my time. I am still on the look out for other applications or software that will make my teaching life easier.  You can read out my Zipgrade experience here.

On a side note, you can even use gadgets to reward good behavior. Give the student a “Reward Coupon” to listen to music while working on a seat work. I’ve noticed that my hyperactive students tend to mellow down when they listen to their choice of music. So that can be a win-win situation right there. Of course, don’t forget to collect the gadget after your class so that they don’t abuse the privilege. Which reminds me, I’ll  have to post another article about using coupons to encourage good behavior in the classroom.

Understand how students cheat with gadgets and plagiarize content online.


Almost every teacher has had this problem: Plagiarism. They like to copy+paste contents (complete with hyperlinks!)! Some of them are lazy but most of them just don’t know that they are committing this mistake, so teach them the basics of plagiarism and citation early on. There are numerous websites that can help you check for plagiarism.

But cheating during exams is another problem altogether. Some students like to use black markers on their calculator’s cover. It’s not very visible but with the right angle and lighting, it’s easy enough to spot.

Some students also cheat with a smart watch and phones. Yep, those smart watches can receive text messages too. Needless to say, you should know what to watch out for. We were kids once too, so you know how creative they can get. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading about them and that you think about exploring some of the tips I’ve shared. Welcome to the 21st Century! Carpe Diem!





ED Tech

ZipGrade App Review

We just finished our first quarterly exams. It’s the weekend and I’m sitting in front of my computer desk, sipping tea and NOT CHECKING.  I am actually spending the “weekend after” not checking or grading exams. Of course, I still have to grade essays and projects, but I don’t bring those home. I like to spend a productive weekend cleaning my house, doing other chores, planning lessons… but no checking!  I was able to do just that all thanks to this nifty little app called ZipGrade.

First off, I love tech in the classroom and I hate paper clutter. Sure… I love cutting and writing on them but I don’t want them lying around, piling up. It can be a very stressful and constant reminder of unfinished business. So when I started teaching I did my best to implement a paperless classroom. I accepted emailed assignments and I used my iPad to record grades and store my lesson plans.

I also wanted to automate my test grading since I had eight different classes and around 240 students at the time. But my previous school didn’t have a Scantron machine and I couldn’t find a decent grading app that was accessible, cheap, and user-friendly.  I ended up using answer sheets and just checked them manually. It did save me a bit of time flipping through test papers but it was not as efficient as an automated Scantron.

Fast forward to 2015, I came across ZipGrade and GradeCam. They both  function as an automated test checker but there was a big difference in terms of subscription fees. What I liked about GradeCam is that it scans paper quickly. You don’t need to align anything, just flash it in front of your webcam or phone cam and you’re good to go. However, their $15 monthly fee was a tad too expensive for me.

So I tried ZipGrade. At $6.99 per year, I felt that this was the more affordable alternative.  At first, I had a hard time trying to align the guide boxes and I had to make sure the papers lie flat before the app recognized it. But after grading 100 test papers, I eventually got the hang of it. I then came up with a work around using a tripod and phone mount.

I also timed myself and it took me about 15-20 seconds to align, scan and flip to the next answer sheet. It  takes longer to grade because it saves the photos it takes for record purposes. But that’s a good thing. It lets you keep a record of the test papers as graded.


During the preliminary exams, I made the mistake of altering the ZipGrade ID grid: I removed some of the boxes since I only needed 3 digits for my student’s ID numbers. The app couldn’t recognize their ID numbers and so I had to manually assign the graded answer sheets to each student. Lesson learned. So here’s my work around: I reverted to the old format and just pre-shaded some of the ID bubbles. Kids still forget their ZipGrade ID so maybe next quarter I’ll just use their School ID number. There is an option to print individual test sheets per student with the ZipGrade ID pre-assigned but it’s just not economically sound for my school as we only use Deskjet printers and rely heavily on our photocopier.


Back to the App, I experienced a cloud sync issue a few weeks after I used it for the Prelims. It wouldn’t sync the last batch of tests and I couldn’t see them on my iPad or web account. So I contacted ZipGrade and was happy with their response time. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was actually conversing with the app’s founder John Viebach and he was able to narrow down the issues and uploaded a beta update. Within a couple of days, my ZipGrade app was back to normal, synching wirelessly over the cloud.

Overall, works as advertised and at a price that I could afford. I love the item analysis feature and the statistics per quiz. It really helps me visualize how effective my assessments are. I like that the Apple version identifies which student’s papers  I haven’t scanned yet. I wish they could do this with the Android version too.

ZipGrade is such a boon for my teaching practice that I can’t imagine not using it from now on. I look back and I imagine all those hours I lost grading 100-item test! Now if I could only find a affordable app to grade oral reading fluency. Hehehe.

{Please note that I am not paid to talk about this app. This is just my personal experience with ZipGrade and I found it really helpful in managing my time as a teacher and homemaker.}