Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On My Way Up Another Learning Curve: Kaizena Voice Comments

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that I plan to experiment with Kaizena, a voice comment application for Google Drive. I've been toying around with the idea for several months, buying a decent microphone to augment the basic mic that came with my computer. Over the past few months, I've screened a couple of the tutorials available on YouTube. And several colleagues are using voice comments and having success. It all looks and sounds promising. So this semester, I'll break open the shrink-wrap on my new microphone and give Kaizena a whirl. 
As with most teachers, I am inundated with papers to grade, not to mention all the drafts and revisions that deserve substantive feedback. I already make handwritten comments on drafts and final copies of students' work. Not as much as I'd like to write. But by the middle of a grading session, the law of diminishing returns kicks in and my comments get less and less thoughtful.

So last semester I experimented with Google Docs and its commenting functions.  I'm gaining more and more proficiency giving feedback using Google Docs, and now, Google Presentations. Yet the most effective feedback strategy has been individual conferences.  Face-to-face. Even just ten minutes in conference is highly productive, even more than the 10 minutes I might spend composing written comments. But with over 100 students, conferencing more than once or twice a semester, regardless of how valuable, is impractical.

So I find myself wanting to experiment with voice comments, not to replace written comments or conferences, but to augment what I do, to give myself more options. More gadgets for my toolkit! Voice comments may serve as a middle ground between high-contact conferencing and the often distant, impersonal written comment strategies.

One concern I do have about using Kaizena, or any voice comment program, is whether or not the time I spend commenting will actually be useful. Am I merely using educational technology because it's "sexy" and convenient? Or will the time and energy I spend learning and using voice comments enhance student thinking and writing? I'm also curious about how to gauge the effectiveness of voice comments. How will I know if it works? Another major issue is access to technology. What if students don't have or cannot easily access computers that support Kaizena? What can I offer them? And how do I make sure that differently-abled students get commensurate types of comments as I add voice comments to the my feedback toolkit?

I'm looking forward to testing out voice comments, and I will likely post about my experiences in a month or so. Anyone use Kaizena or any other voice commenting program? What advice can you offer me? What's the learning curve like? What are some of the pros and cons using voice comments? Please type your comment (or if you'd rather leave a voice comment, post a link to your podcast) below.