My feet are aching from walking around this vast convention center, but my head is full of new ideas and my heart is glad to be in the company of so many English language teachers!
The very first presentation I attended here in Toronto made me reflect about the way I’ve been correcting my students’ writing assignments. There are times when I use part of a private lesson to guide a student through a first revision. I try to make it a two-way exchange. I help students spot errors, and I encourage the them to search for and suggest alternatives. We screen share and discuss possibilities until a stronger draft is created. I realize this one-on-one process is time-consuming, so it certainly isn’t an option for a teacher grading a large load of papers.
For some student-written texts, I make use of track changes and comments on Word documents. There’s usually some back-and-forth through email until a final draft is produced. But what other options are there?
Nathan Hall of Douglas College here in Canada provided an answer. In his session Recording Oral Feedback on Writing Assignments, he introduced us to free online resources. Crocodoc Personal lets you upload a document and then insert comments and markups. Students can review your comments and reply once you send them the link to the edited copy. Taking it a step further, Nathan also demonstrated how Screencast-O-Matic allows a user to record oral feedback. Simply open the Crocodoc file and record your screen as you talk the student through the text. You can record for up to 15 minutes, but Nathan explained how 5 minutes of concise oral feedback can replace the usual 30-some minutes of written feedback.
Nathan listed benefits beyond saving the teacher some time. Students upon receiving their oral feedback become active listeners. He’s observed his students thinking critically, transferring the information they receive through listening to their writing. The process then makes use of multiple skills. In addition, Crocodoc lets you view and markup images. That means students can scan and send a handwritten assignment to you. As Nathan noted, handwriting is a skill not to be neglected.
Can you challenge yourself to be more concise and deliver feedback in a new medium? Nathan suggests turning on the webcam during the screencast. By including your image in the feedback, the listening experience will seem more like a dialog and perhaps strengthen the student-teacher relationship. To that end, participants were reminded to include positive feedback as well. So true! Let’s not get too caught up in revisions that we fail to note the strengths of a student’s writing.
Of course, there are other tools for recording oral feedback. Nathan pointed out that Mac users can screencast with QuickTime, and he also mentioned a favorite software of mine for Windows — Camtasia Studio, although it’s not free.
Nathan has generously uploaded his presentation files for teachers to view. Click here. My sincere thanks to Nathan for allowing me to share highlights from his session.