Thursday, October 4, 2012

Feedback 2.0

One beautiful thing about the Web is that it provides creators with an authentic audience for their work. Web 2.0 makes it easy for others to give feedback and engage in meaningful conversations without distance being a barrier. As an educator, Web 2.0 tools allow me to comment on students' work and collaborate in dynamic partnerships with other educators around the world. In my role as Director of Teacher Education, I use Web tools to give feedback to students in my classes and to interns and student teachers working in local classrooms. I also gather feedback from others regularly via the Web. Keep reading to learn about a few of the tools I use to give and get feedback. This list isn't comprehensive by any means, but these are tools that have worked for me and might work for you.

I've written in the past about how I use Edmodo as a Learning Management System for a course I teach for pre-service teachers on technology integration. All assignments for the course are submitted via Edmodo, and I provide feedback through Edmodo as well. Edmodo allows me to go paperless, and it makes giving feedback simple and efficient. When students submit assignments, they can upload documents or links or simply type their response to the assignment. With each submitted assignment, I can provide feedback in a variety of ways. By commenting on student work that's been submitted through Edmodo, I can tell students what they did well and ask questions to find out more or ask them to think more deeply about the topic. Along with my comment, I can also upload a document, a URL, or a link to an item in my Edmodo Library. I use this feature to attach completed rubrics to submitted work. Leaving a comment and attaching the rubric I used to evaluate student work allows me to provide a comprehensive explanation to students regarding their progress toward learning goals. Another handy Edmodo feature is the annotate tool. Edmodo makes it easy to open a student's attachment and annotate directly on the document by leaving comments, highlighting, drawing, or adding a text box. I assign a grade to some assignments as well, and Edmodo graphs students' weekly progress, allowing them to visually see how they are progressing from week to week.
The interns and student teachers I supervise are required to submit a weekly reflection on their experiences out in the field. In the past, they have used paper field reports to do this. Like most areas of my work, I searched for a way to make the process digital and more efficient. This semester, my interns and student teachers are using Penzu for their weekly reflections. They each set up their own online journals at the beginning of the semester, and they add a new entry (or entries) each week. When a student completes a new entry, he/she shares it with me using Penzu's sharing feature. I receive an email notification each time an entry has been shared with me. While I was typing this post, I received a notification that a student has shared a new entry with me. There are three ways for me to comment. 1) There's a link within the email notification that will take me to Penzu and allow me to read the reflection and comment on it online. 2) There's also a link within the email notification which I can click to leave a comment with just one step. 3) I can reply to the email notification with my comment, and my comment will be added to the student's entry. There is a free Penzu app that allows you to create and post to a journal, but the free app doesn't allow commenting on others' entries. In order to use the app to leave comments, you have to sign up for a Penzu Pro account. One Penzu feature I've learned about since the start of the semester is Penzu Classroom, which allows a teacher to set up a class account and give students a code to create their own journals within the class. The teacher can then comment on all student entries and grade them within the Penzu Classroom. Students can choose to share their entries with their classmates in order to generate a conversation around a topic, which is a helpful feature. Penzu Classroom costs $49 a year, but it might be worth it in order to make managing and responding to student journals more efficient and have access to additional features.

I use Evernote for just about everything: note-taking, lesson planning, brainstorming, student observation feedback, grocery-list-making, the list goes on. I love the way Evernote lets me capture ANYTHING in a note - text, a photo, a video, an audio file, an attachment, a web page. I often take pictures of handouts from meetings or class that I don't want to hang onto anymore and add them to notebooks. Evernote allows me to search through all notes for a key word. It even searches within attachments and text or handwritten words in pictures that have been uploaded. Here are just a few cool things you can do with Evernote:

  • take a picture of a whiteboard from a brainstorming session to capture what was shared
  • clip a section of text and/or images from the Web and add your own notes
  • take a picture of a newspaper article or store circular 
  • send a tweet or email to Evernote and add your own notes
  • share notes and notebooks with others
I use Evernote to take notes during intern or student teacher observations and to record my feedback on lesson plans that have been submitted. I've set up a notebook for the students I supervise, and I keep a record of all of my communication with them through those notebooks. Each week when lesson plans are submitted, I upload the lesson plans into a note and add my feedback. Evernote makes it easy to share notes or entire notebooks with others. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a task that you couldn't complete in Evernote. 

Google Forms
Google Forms is one of my favorite tools for gathering feedback from others. I use Google Forms to get feedback from students on how class is going, for registration forms, to gather information from cooperating teachers, etc. My absolute favorite feature of Google Forms is the Spreadsheet that is automatically generated as soon as you create a Form. Each time someone submits the Form, a new row is added to the spreadsheet. Then, within the Spreadsheet, I can easily sort and analyze the feedback I've collected. The Summary feature within the Spreadsheet displays a visual summary of the data collected, including circle and bar graphs (click Form > Show summary of responses).

Recently, the students in my technology class were asked to visit three classroom webpages and fill out a Google Form to evaluate those webpages. Upon completion of the assignment, I displayed the Google Spreadsheet and the summary of responses while the students and I discussed themes and trends across the data that were collected. Google Forms makes the process of collecting and analyzing feedback just about as simple as it can get.

Socrative, Poll Everywhere, and Wallwisher
In a previous post, I wrote about how I use Socrative, Poll Everywhere, and Wallwisher for formative assessment. I use these tools often to assess student progress toward learning goals and identify ways I need to adjust my instruction. I also use these tools to gather non-academic feedback. I often begin and end professional development sessions with one of these tools to find out what participants already know, what they want to know, what they learned, and what they plan to do next. I also use these tools in a similar way in the classes I teach, asking students to give me feedback on which components of class are working for them and which aren't and to make suggestions on things we might do differently. All three tools are user-friendly and easily accessible from a variety of devices.

How do you use Web 2.0 tools to give and get feedback? Please comment with your own ideas and any questions you might have. Commenting on a blog post is an easy way to provide your own feedback!