Technology Tool for Increased Student Achievement

I can’t believe it is October and I haven’t yet touched Recipe for Time. As many of you know, I am teaching a few sections of English this year, and wow, what a wild ride it has been so far. I am blogging about my experiences as a way to process my thoughts and reflect. Recently, I posted information about using screencasting as an assessment tool. If you are interested, please read on. I have copied the post for you to read here in Recipe for Time:

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Today, my students reviewed their first graded essays. I tried out a new way of assessing student work — screencasting. Instead of collecting printed papers, I asked students to write in Google Docs and then share their papers with me so I would also be able to view them online. Instead of scribbling marks in the margins of printed papers, I opened each student’s paper in Google Docs, highlighted text and inserted comments to clarify my thoughts, and then turned on the screen recorder (Jing) to record my voice as I scrolled through the paper and pointed to items with my mouse. Right after recording, I uploaded the finished recording to Jing’s companion hosting site, and then I simply copied and pasted the link to the recording directly into the Google Doc. It was slick like butter.

I waited while they listened to the feedback today. It was strange, watching my students as they stared at their screens, headphones covering their ears, no typing, just silence. After about four minutes, they began the next task, copying and pasting my reflection questions into the bottom of their docs, and then responding to those prompts as they reflected on their work and my feedback.

They were engaged, and I was impressed with their dedication to the task. As I watched them, I couldn’t help but remember the way that I used to provide feedback. Students would receive their graded papers, flip past the comments I had scribbled in the margin, glance at the final grade, and then forget all about it. Over the years, I used various strategies to get my students to reflect, some of them more effective than others. Still, I knew that the written comments were incomplete. I always knew there was more I wanted to convey to them about their writing, about how they had or had not created meaning for the reader.

Using screencasting for assessment has been one of my grand experiments. It took me about 10 minutes per paper, times 68 papers, so the last week and a half have been intense. If you’re doing the math, that’s over 11 hours of paper grading. If I am going to put in that kind of time for grading, I must see my students growing as writers. Period.

I “collected” the next round of papers today. “Collection” simply means that I told the students that 3:00 today was the cut-off time for any last minute edits. The finished work awaits my feedback in Google Docs, bu prior to grading this new batch, I just had to know how my students felt about the first round of assessment. I solicited responses via a Google Form.

All I can say is “wow.” Check out a few of the comments:

“I loved how in depth and personal jing allowed you to be in grading me.  Unlike years before where I was unclear on what teachers meant, I am not confused with this method.”

“I liked how personal and clear it was because it was like having a conversation with you.”

“I really liked the verbal feedback. It was like actually having a conference, which I find really productive.”

“I liked the verbal screencast because it also portrayed your emotions and reactions to our writing.”

“I like that i could hear you telling me what i did wrong. It was very helpful and now I know what i need to improve on for next time so I can keep improving my writing and growing.”

And my favorite…” I liked knowing that my essay got individual attention, individual feedback, and I feel like you cared about what I wrote.”

This is not to say that everyone was thrilled. A small number of students (actually, fewer than 5) said that they didn’t feel that the verbal comments were all that helpful. Two of those five said that it felt more hurtful to hear me say out loud what was wrong with their papers. I will be speaking with them individually to clarify my intentions. I don’t blame them for feeling hurt. Writing is personal, and feedback can feel like an attack. I have to minimize that.

Still, the vast majority of my students indicated a sincere appreciation for this assessment feedback. Simply put, it really worked for them. Their gratitude fueled me for the next round.

I love my job.

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This post generated a bit of traffic on my blog. I have over 250 hits per day for several days. It was gratifying to me to see that others found the information useful. One man used Diigo to highlight and comment on the post, and because he made his notes public, I was able to read them as well. I thought he made a very important observation. He said, “Technology tool is NOT a time saver. The main goal for using the tool is not increased productivity by the teacher, but instead increased understanding by the student.” YES. This is so true. It is very important to realize that sometimes technology doesn’t save anyone any time — and that’s ok! We don’t just use these tools for expediency’s sake. We use these tools because they help kids. Period.

If you would like to meet with me to learn more about using screencasting as an assessment tool, please ask.

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One Response to Technology Tool for Increased Student Achievement

  1. ken says:

    I smell a PETE&C presentation!!!

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