Google Docs Comments + Video = Magic

With up to 35 students in any class, and having previously taught as many as 43 in a single period, one of the biggest struggles I face is giving students meaningful, personal comments, particularly when it comes to writing assignments.  It’s a constant battle between making the same remark repeatedly, and offering the student a comment that speaks to his or her needs.

With Google Doc’s text expansion feature, I no longer feel the grind of making repeated comments, especially in regards to superficial grammatical errors.  Catlin Tucker provides an excellent overview of how to make Google Docs text expansion do a lot of the heavy lifting of editing student work with traditional abbreviations.

So, while I use text expansion to tackle superficial errors like pronoun agreement and MLA formatting, the comment feature of Google Docs is where I provide students with content and organizational feedback.  As Tucker suggests, I’ll keep track of these comments to students in a single document per writing assignment, thereby ensuring that I’m providing students with consistent advice, and consistently positive feedback (I don’t know about you, but somewhere after the 40th essay, I’ve been known to get a little sassy).  Here is my This I Believe Essay Feedback.

Where this gets particularly interesting is with Tucker’s suggestion of pairing comments with instructional videos and links.   This year, I’ve been putting her suggestion to work, creating or finding instructional videos for common student errors, including:

Suddenly, it’s possible to provide nearly instantaneous, individualized feedback to all  students, and to embed an intervention in the text of their work. Moreover, many of these videos work well as flipped lessons – or act as a reminder of a previous lesson that we’ve already had in class.  Because Google Docs so easily facilitates student revision – and because it’s so easy for me to track student changes – I find that this is an easy and effective way to deepen students’ learning cycle.

But what excites me the most about this synergy between Google Docs comment feature and YouTube is the potential for department alignment for student feedback and instruction.  One complaint that our English department regularly hears – and that I’ve heard at my previous school sites as well – is that teachers are inconsistent in terms of their writing instruction and feedback.  With the potential to share grading comments and instructional videos per assignment, and between grade levels, students and faculty are ensured consistency.  Moreover, there is a greater degree of transparency for all of the stakeholders.

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