Monday, January 19, 2015

Increase the Feedback Loop with Google Apps!

Increase The Feedback Loop With Google Apps

Educational researcher, John Hattie, in his book Visible Learning, has identified Feedback as one of the top ten influencers on student achievement. Further, in Dylan Wiliam’s book Formative Assessment, Wiliam cites a study that showed that comments-only marking of work had a greater impact on student achievement than did grades-only or even a combination of grades and comments. Google Apps in the classroom can easily harness the power of feedback in many ways!

Some Notes On Feedback

Not all feedback is created equal and it is not enough to just say what you think. Feedback should be timely and specific. Avoid generalizations and don’t be afraid to point out errors. However, be sure to point out the good things students are doing as well! It is important students know what they are doing right.

Further, feedback should be a continuous “loop” of student/teacher, student/student, or student/teacher/student interaction. It should not be a one-way street. Engage students in a conversation and get peers involved to get the most out of them.

But how can Google Apps help?


Let’s just start with the most basic and important function of Google Apps: Sharing. When a student shares a document, presentation, or spreadsheet with a teacher, that action immediately opens the door to feedback. Teachers can review work at any time and hold conversations either virtually, or in person, about the work. In the old way, if students wanted the teacher’s feedback, they would have to find a time before or after school, which is a precious commodity for both parties!

Insert Comment

This feature is great for offering more specific feedback to students. By selecting a sentence, word, paragraph, or character, the teacher can open a conversation about that specific element. To do this, simply select the element on which you want to comment and select “Comment” from the “Insert” menu (or click the shortcut in the toolbar).

A “sticky note” will open off to the right where you can type your comment. This “sticky note” will be attached to the element you highlighted and will become active when either the element or note is clicked. Collaborators can reply to the comment as many times as necessary until the issue is resolved.

If the document is shared with multiple people, and the comment is for a specific person, there is a great feature that makes this simple! In the comment “sticky note” type a plus sign followed by the person’s email address (ex. This comment will be emailed to only that person and not all collaborators.

This type of “asynchronous” collaboration makes Google Docs very powerful in the classroom!

Suggest Edit

A relatively new feature allows collaborators to “mark-up” the paper with suggested edits. To utilize this feature, you must be in “Suggesting” mode. You can switch to “Suggesting” by clicking the “Mode” shortcut in the top right corner of the document and selecting “Suggesting” or via the “View” menu.

When this feature is used, the old text gets a line struck through it and the suggested change is added in green. A “sticky note” is activated off to the right and collaborators can decide to accept or reject the suggested change.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom was developed to make the dissemination and collection of digital work simpler for teachers and students. An added bonus is the amount of feedback opportunities that are inherent in Google Classroom.

To begin with, when a teacher creates an assignment using a template, or when the student submits a document, sharing is immediately established between student and teacher. The teacher can insert comments, or use Suggest Edit mode, to offer feedback throughout the assignment.

Further, each assignment has a comment feature where students and teachers can communicate privately about the work. This is great to offer general, more holistic, feedback to students to keep them on the right track.


Kaizena is a Drive App and Add-On that makes the feedback and commenting features even more personal and powerful. The reason for this is that it allows the teacher to record their voice in making comments. I have seen this used with students and they love it because it feels like the teacher is sitting right next to them, helping them. Teachers love it because they can talk faster than they can type so “marking papers” can be a much easier task.

Teachers can also provide other resources to students besides just their words of wisdom. They can provide videos, websites, or other digital resources that might help the student with their project.

To make Kaizena a part of your Google Docs experience, just go to the Add-ons menu in a Google Doc and select “Get Add-ons.” You will then search the window for Kaizena and click the “Free” button to install. Kaizena will then be available in every Google Doc you create.

Watch this video to get started with Kaizena.

It is important to note that Kaizena only works with Google Documents and must be installed for both student and teacher.

Timely, specific, and meaningful feedback helps move learning forward more than most strategies we use in the classroom. Google Apps is a great tool to accomplish this in the classroom.

This is a post I wrote for Synergyse