It is funny how sometimes we have to go far away to hear what people nearby are saying. While I was in Ireland last month, I was sitting in a presentation and the following quote was on a slide:

Providing written feedback at the culmination of a writing product is like doing an autopsy. It’s deconstructing a dead document.

The quote was attributed to Samantha Morra (@sammorra on Twitter) who teaches in New Jersey. I usually do not take pictures of slides during presentations. I find that looking at the pictures later, out of context, is not very useful at all. But, in this case, I did hold up my phone and snap because feedback is something I discuss with teachers every single day. And, while this quote is specifically referring to writing, I believe it applies to all projects regardless of the medium or subject area.

When I work with teachers to plan projects, I discourage single due dates. I encourage teachers to break up projects into smaller parts of the process, each with a deadline and maybe even a grade. While we want students to be independent, we have to understand that they are children, students just developing those skills that allow them to be independent. These intermediate deadlines let teachers see where the final result is headed and help correct the course before it is too late to turn the cruise ship around. Of course, the frequency of the feedback and the size of each chunk in which teachers break down projects should be different at each grade level.

The best part of this idea is that we have the perfect collection of tools for students to share their work with us and for us to provide feedback.

Regardless of what your students are working on, the work can be shared with you using Google Drive. In the past, this was a cumbersome process. Now we have Teacher Dashboard that lets teachers access student work very easily without getting lost in piles and piles of shared documents. Once a student creates or uploads any file, teachers have access to observe and comment. While almost anything can be shared via Google Drive, the easiest way to give feedback from within Google is to type comments on the sides of documents.

In addition to these two tools, we also have Schoology. Instead of creating a single final assignment, teachers create multiple assignments in a folder, with the last one asking for the finished product to be turned in. Anything a student has in Google Drive can be turned in via Schoology. And inside Schoology, teachers can give feedback using text, annotations, voice recordings, and video.

Imagine a classroom full of students turning in a particular assignment to you. You write “Great work!” across the page of a bunch of papers. Or you draw a smiley face. Or you simply check boxes in a rubric. You could have done all these without really telling the students what you think of their work. Now imagine a classroom in which you record a ten second audio message telling the student something about their project. Those are not just words on a page. Students can tell you really liked their work, or not. And it takes no longer than typing or handwriting repetitive, mostly meaningless feedback.

As you see, there is a great area where Teacher Dashboard and Schoology overlap, but the tools are both necessary and useful. I have put together a handy cheat sheet outlining the differences and similarities between the two. Below is the portion related to feedback. If you would like the full sheet, I’ve made that available, too.

Now it is your turn to provide some feedback for me.

What do you think of these tools? What can I do to help you incorporate their use into your everyday teaching routine?