This post was written by Andy Waters @peorbust.
With the shadow of Ofsted currently looming over the school that I currently work at, our attention has recently been turned to the manner and way in which we, as teachers, give feedback. After talking with students about the way in which they like to receive and use feedback I thought, in this post, I would share with you how I have been using Google Apps for Education (GAFE) to give instant and useful feedback.
For years I have been giving written feedback to students as comments on Word and Powerpoint documents. About a year ago now Google Docs finally caught up with Microsoft and enabled comments in Docs and Slides, finally I could give written feedback to students within their work. But the major difference between Microsoft and Google is that because the Doc or Slide is a live document you can actually give pupils instant feedback on their work as they write it! This did feel a bit Big Brotherish at the beginning with the students feeling that I was watching everything they typed. They soon realised that the feedback was targeted and so “fresh” that it was actually useful and actionable. Most of the time the changes suggested were implemented straightaway as the document was still open, the work was still in the students mind and the Comment related to a passage of the Doc or Slide that I had highlighted thus easily findable.
Recently, I have taken this a step further and have implemented using voice feedback. The students love hearing me actually talk to them about their work in a way that is not possible in a classroom of 32 students. The feedback is, again, acted upon straightaway and this method of feedback has been extremely popular with most of the students that I teach. To enable voice comments you need to connect your Google drive and Docs to another app called Kaizena. You can do this in Drive, click on new, more and then connect more apps. If you search the apps for voice you will be presented with Kaizena. Connect this app to your drive and then open a Doc. Go to the Add-ons tab and click “get add ons”. Search for Kaizena Mini, enable it in Docs and Slides and away you go. To add a voice comment simply open Kaizena mini, highlight the part of the text you would like to comment on, click “Add new Feedback” and record your verbal feedback. This recording attaches itself to the Doc but to hear it the student must also have the Kaizen mini app open. A few negatives (in my opinion!) exist, the app asks for too much information: the school you teach at, the subject, the class. Why does it need all of this? Not sure. But this still feels like a good way to give feedback to students on the whole.
Google Classroom is a constantly evolving teaching and feedback platform. If you have not used Classroom yet then I suggest you go to a computer now, yes now, and sign up for it. As well as being able to set assignments etc. I really feel that one of the most useful parts of the App is the way that you can give instant feedback. I recently watched my class give presentations on work that they had already submitted via classroom. Through the iPad app I was able to make comments as they were presenting their work so that by the time they had got back to their seats they could read the feedback on their computers. They could then implement any changes if need be to the documents and resubmit them before I had actually looked at them and marked them. Sharing the success criteria with the students before hand and then giving them a nudge to adjust or alter work accordingly meant that the work that the student finally submitted was already superior to anything else that I had seen from them. The students like this as it meant that the feedback was useful and relevant and actually helped them succeed. I think for too long students have felt that feedback and the process of giving feedback was done to them rather than with them and this is really starting to change in my classroom.
The final form of feedback that I have started to use this term is a bit more out there…. I asked all students to produce a quick video clip explaining how they use a specific method of Multiplication. The students then had to upload the clip to YouTube and send me the link. I watched the videos and left comments on the clips as feedback for the students. What is more, the students themselves wanted to see what their friends had managed to produce and then they started leaving comments on the videos and before long other YouTubers started leaving comments as well. Now, I know the risks associated with having comments on but the group of students that I was working with mostly had YouTube accounts already and had posted videos previously. In fact, it was the students that initially suggested turning the comments on with me just making sure that there was some form of moderation. The students loved receiving feedback in this manner and have requested another task to complete to this end. From my point of view, the students get teacher and peer feedback in a manner to which they are accustomed and actually prefer. It was definitely a new experience for me.
With the threat of Ofsted looming having a variety of methods of feedback “on Show” which clearly show that a discussion or dialogue is happening between the students and the teacher is crucial. The ability to make this feedback live and available when the students actually has their work still open is extremely power and is why Google Apps for Education should be used more.
If you have any questions or comments about feedback and GAFE please feel free to leave a comment below.
This post was written by Andy Waters @peorbust.