Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Providing Students With Video Feedback

Screencasting has to be one of my favorite ways to communicate with students outside the classroom.  Each time I have utilized screencasting tools to provide students with feedback, they have expressed that they enjoy seeing as well as hearing critiques, as opposed to just reading written comments.

When face-to-face interaction isn't possible, being able to provide students with direct feedback that includes tone, pitch, and inflection can prove to be very meaningful and useful. Screencast-O-Matic and Screenr are both very user-friendly and can be shared directly to students.  Both of these screencasting tools create videos that can be uploaded to YouTube, making sharing with students effortless.  I have found screencasting beneficial when evaluating online portfolios and providing large group feedback after major written assignments such as a literary analysis paper after reading a novel.  Seniors especially seem to enjoy online feedback because it feels more tangible, especially for visual and auditory learners.  They can watch how I am assessing their work.   *Note: Screencastify is now a Chrome extension that works on Chromebooks!  While I have yet to create an assignment for students to screencast their peer edits to other students, this is definitely on my must-try lists!*  Here are a few samples of sreencasted feedback:

When working with Google Docs, the app Kaizena can be used to comment directly on a student's writing. Using Kaizena allows an individual to comment directly on a specific word, line, or entire section using both one's voice and written comments.  In addition, the evaluator can insert videos or other forms of media.  The information is available to the student in the comments section of Google Docs. I found this type of feedback useful when grading short paragraphs and informal writing assignments.  In three minutes time, I can grade a paragraph and provide more feedback than spending five minutes writing comments that are less detailed.  If students are going to revise their writing, this also provides a visual guide for students through this process.

In my Senior Speech classes, I have also used video feedback to analyze student projects and presentations. Throughout the semester long course, I require students to watch their speeches and reflect upon their performances.  As such, I record their speeches, upload them to YouTube, and email the URL to students.  When students complete a group debate that involves the entire class, I have edited individual videos together, providing direct feedback on each section of the debate.  This has allowed me to thoroughly address the strengths and weaknesses of individual speakers as well as the group as a whole.  Once this process is completed, I share my "play-by-play" with students and then have them reflect upon their individual and group performances. This feedback is then saved and shared with future students, providing them with a better understanding how to successfully complete the debate assignment by learning from the work of others. Here are a few examples of my "play-by-play":

While finding and familiarizing oneself with web tools and apps that can allow a teacher to provide video feedback can be time consuming at first, I have found that video and voice feedback can be a major time-saver.  In addition to saving time, each time I use this method to assess students, I hear them watching the videos in class constantly!  While people usually do not enjoy the sound of their voices, and I am certainly one of those people, I do enjoy knowing that students are receiving the feedback that I have taken the time to provide.  When they can see, hear, and read feedback, they seem more inclined to process what has been shared and make improvements / revisions to their work, and that is certainly a reason to hit the record button.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Authentic Learning: Making Persuasion Meaningful for 4th Quarter Seniors

I love teaching seniors.  The final year of high school is an exciting time for students who are eagerly awaiting graduation and the opportunity to "start" their lives.  After spring break, the senioritis does start to set in, even for the most focused students.  Committing to a college, determining how to fund school, and getting asked to prom are just a few of the rites of passage my students are experiencing right now.  Each day this week, I have been engaged in countless conversations with my enthusiastic students who are ready to live these last few days of high school to their fullest, all while they attempt to avoid any sort of homework whatsoever.

How does one engage those who want nothing more than to disengage from high school academics?  The answer: authentic learning. Providing students with opportunities to use course content in a real-world situations can encourage even the most resistant students to stay focused on the last few days of high school.

This week, my senior-level speech class has spent a great deal of time talking about the art of persuasion.  From persuading one's parents to let him/her take a road trip this summer, to convincing a potential employer to make a job offer, the ability to utilize ethos, pathos, and logos are essential rhetorical skills that students will need to utilize throughout their lives.  To provide students with a real-world experience that they may face in the next two months, I crafted a new speaking challenge that asks students to prepare to present themselves in front of a college scholarship commitment, seeking an opportunity to receive funds for their post-high school education.   With an important community scholarship (that qualifies them for 20+ scholarships in our local area) due this Friday that involves speaking before  committee, students have been encouraged to prepare a short and strong oral representation of themselves, but also to complete the short scholarship application that could lead to thousands of dollars in scholarship money.

While I know discussing prom politics and dreaming about dorm life are far more exciting topics than defining rhetoric terms and conducting research, but today I was encouraged by my students revived fervor for an academic experience.  They were actively working and seeking to understand ways to effectively persuade people to take notice of them while maintaining their likability.  Certainly speaking about oneself can be challenging, but it is essential for them to learn how to convince others of their worth.  Word choice and selecting stories that make these students memorable in a crowd are crucial tactics to develop, and today they were brainstorming, sharing, and reflecting on their accomplishments and how their experiences have shaped them into who they are today.  This level of engagement this late in the high school game is inspiring to witness.

When their parents ask them what they did in speech class today, I truly hope that my students do not simply respond with the cliche, "nothing".  Instead, I hope they share with their parents that they, "Uh, applied for a scholarship. Reflected on the culmination of my high school experience.  You know, no big deal."

Here are a few samples from last year:

I cannot wait to watch their speeches this year and hope that countless scholarship opportunities come their way as a result. 
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