Cambridge start-up building a better Scantron with just the hardware in your pocket

It’s hard to tell how expensive it is to operate a Scantron machine, which is usually a good sign that the answer is “very expensive,” which eBay seems to confirm. So when the founders of Design by Educators promised a better solution that can be run on your iPhone for “the price of a latte a month,” it's already interesting.

But this Cambridge start-up’s software, Quick Key, does a lot more: The company’s test-grading software turns teachers’ iPhones into a real-time assessment of what their students are — and aren’t — picking up on in class, making it easier for a teacher to quickly run through the results of yesterday’s pop quiz and see how to modify the next day’s lesson plan.

Walter Duncan, a career K-12 teacher at South Shore Charter Public School in Norwell, MA, came up with the idea while trying to develop ways to better meet his 7th and 8th grade classes’ needs.

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He posted a YouTube video of him using a prototype of the software and Reddit loved it:

Now Duncan and the Design by Educators team is taking to Kickstarter to get funding and early users to polish the software even more, with a goal to raise $20,000 (they’re almost two-thirds of the way there).

Isaac Van Wesep, chief executive of Design by Educators, said the company plans to do some early test of its software at the Banneker Charter Public School in Cambridge, MA, where DBE’s first employee, Marlon Davis, was formerly the executive director.

Over the summer, the company also plans to offer an open beta on the Apple App Store.

“Teachers can expect to pay the equivalent of a latte per month for a subscription to Quick Key Generation II, which will be continually updated and improved,” Van Wesep told me in an email.

If you want to get early access, learn more, or support the company’s Kickstarter, it is running through June 30, online here .

Burning Scantron image via Flickr user carnivillain and licensed under Creative Commons.