Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Speaking Beyond the Classroom: Using Voice Comments in Google Drive

After seeing a post about Voice Comments via Free Technology for Teachers, I decided to play around with it. I love conferencing with students about their work, and know that many find my handwritten comments nearly impossible to read. Even when I attempt to decipher my hieroglyphics, I sometimes fail to accurately interpret my chicken scratching.

Before launching into the challenges and successes in my journey to learn Voice Comments, I'll share a few ways I plan to use the app in my classes this year:

1. Feedback for students: Students will need to set up a Google account, learn to use Google Drive (particularly the sharing, editing, and commenting features), and install the Voice Comments app. Additionally, teachers will need to "train" students to listen to the audio feedback. We all know that our written comments often get ignored by students, so it's imperative that teachers find ways to validate student listening to the comments.

2. Reflection about Units, Lesson Plans, and Assignments: Voice Comments offer teachers a unique opportunity to reflect on their own practice. I often have good intentions about writing reflections at the end of units, making immediate changes in lesson plans right after teaching the lesson, etc. We all know what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men! Typically, I don't remember what I planned to change until after the next time I teach the lesson! Am I the only one who does that?

3. Sharing Resources with Colleagues: Whether you share within your department, building, district, or virtual PLN, imagine bringing colleagues voices into your classroom and/or onto your couch and learning directly from them as they talk about how they teach a lesson, plan a unit, etc.

4. Peer Evaluating: What if students could peer evaluate by talking to one another outside the classroom? Although not all students will embrace this idea, once a few do, more will. Rather than skyping (as some of my students have done), Voice Comments allow students to highlight sections of text and sync the comments with the highlighted section. I see a much more productive peer evaluating experience than I often get in my classroom.

Additionally, monitoring peer evaluating in the classroom is a challenge for me, especially when I am working in a group. With Voice Comments, not only will I be able to offer students feedback, but I can listen to the feedback they give one another and improve the peer evaluation experience based on what I learn from their feedback.

Launching Voice Comments


To get started with Voice Comments, you'll need to access your Google Drive Page. Once there, select the red "Create" button and navigate to "Connect More Apps" in the gray box at the bottom of the page.

After selecting "Connect more apps," I needed to search for Voice Comments. Launch the app. You should get a request to "Allow" a list of options. Click on "Allow."

After installing the app, choose a file to experiment with. I have not yet figured out how to delete a comment and rerecord it, so I wanted to experiment first.

I decided to experiment with a fudge recipe. To access my voice comment, go to "Comments" in the top right corner and click on the link that will redirect you to my first attempt to use the app. Here's the link to the fudge recipe. 

There is a big gap in the audio where I wasn't sure how to stop recording (Stop is on the right where the microphone icon was located.). To hear the playback of my comments, click on the green arrow. After the gap, you'll hear my dog Snug barking followed by me mentioning my inability to remember talking about a feature of the app, which I still couldn't remember! What I forgot to talk about is the highlighting feature I mentioned earlier in the post.

You might encounter a prompt requesting that access by the app. This shows up as a small box in the middle of the page. You'll need to select "allow" in a smaller box; otherwise you'll get a spinning wheel that will prove very frustrating.

Another challenge I faced in learning how to use the app was with my built-in microphone. Even though I had granted the app access, it still gave me a message saying it couldn't hear me. I was able to fix this by clicking on an additional "Allow" box in the upper right corner just above the "We can't hear you box." Then I had to exit out and reload the app.

For me, technology always poses a learning curve, but once I overcame these initial hurdles, I found the app increasingly easy to use. That said, the real test will be on the receiving end!

Next, I experimented with an assignment reflection/tutorial. I chose to talk about teaching silent scenes in Beowulf. Here's the link. As readers of this blog know, I'm a huge disciple of performance pedagogy in language arts and take any opportunity I get to share the Folger Shakespeare methods with others. Voice Comments will be a useful tool, enabling me to talk about ways I use the Folger methods in my classes.

Since my first reason for learning the Voice Comment app is for feedback on student work, I decided to practice on a student-generated silent scene from a few years ago. Here's the link. I do see some challenges with the highlighting feature and with my ability to compartmentalize in my head what I want to say to students. Even though I mention surface errors in my example here, that's not really what I want to focus on in the future. My goal is to use the app as a way to comment on organization and ideas and only briefly mention surface errors.

Although conferencing with students about content and organization is my main focus in providing feedback, I do see potential for creating tutorials that address surface errors and grammar. That said, there's probably a better way to do this.

Jennifer Roberts has a helpful video tutorial; however, the site has changed somewhat, and I tried to address these in my post.
Both students and teachers know the old story about dropping a load of papers over the bannister and assigning those that land on top an A grade. Most old-timers like me know what it's like to return papers with coffee and popcorn stains. I have shaken my purple and pink pens in attempt to force more ink onto the page, and I've looked frantically for the pen I began grading a paper with days ago. Perhaps these stories will become legends of long ago as technology continues to evolve.

Happily, I can now dismiss students from class knowing that that evening my voice will once again greet them from the virtual beyond. (Insert smiley emoticon here!)


1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a fun way to personalize comments. To be honest I feel more articulate and better able to edit myself in writing and would probably end up writing out what I wanted to say before recording myself which would increase my time spent on the feedback process.

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