The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Friday, August 15, 2014

Time-consuming tech: Jing for student feedback

Last summer, I went to a talk by Russell Stannard about using screencast software, Jing, to give feedback on student writing. I loved the idea, but didn’t have time to download it and try it out at the time. Last week though, I led a week of teacher training workshops on teaching writing skills (part of the ELT summer seminar at Exeter College, Oxford) which seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a go.

At the end of the first session on Monday, I asked all the trainees to email me a short piece of writing; a profile of themselves in 50-100 words. The plan was to give each of them feedback using Jing in time for the session on 'giving feedback on writing' scheduled for Thursday.

For those of you who haven’t come across screencasts before, it’s really very simple. You download a free piece of software. You can then open the student’s writing on screen and record a short (five minutes max.) video of what you’re doing on screen, i.e. correcting/highlighting issues in the student’s text, along with an audio commentary. When you finish, the software creates a link which you can send to the student and they just click on this to view the screen cast. Here’s an example, it’s a mock-up rather than a real student text, but you’ll get the idea:

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

It’s a fantastic way of giving feedback because it gives the student the sense of really personal attention from the teacher and so will hopefully have much more impact than standard written feedback, which let’s face it, tends to get ignored. It also gives you more flexibility to chat and explain things that you just never including writing and to emphasize what are significant issues to focus on. So what’s not to love?

Well … although the actual recording doesn’t take long (in this case, I used an average of 2-3 minutes) and the process isn’t complicated, it did end up being much more time-consuming than I’d expected just going through all the steps needed:

  • open the student’s email and save the document to my computer
  •  open the document and read through the text to get an initial idea of the standard and what to give feedback on
  •  record the screencast
  • download the link and paste it at the end of the document
  •  add any extra brief text comments in the margin to remind students of the voice comments
  •  save the revised document
  •  compose an email to the student including the link and attaching the revised document - although I composed a standard message which I sent to all students, the emails had to be sent separately, checking carefully that each had the correct link and attachment!

With practice, I got the whole process down to around 15 minutes per student, but with 27 in all it took over five hours! Compared with probably 1-1½ if I'd done it old-school style with pen and paper. It ended up taking every spare minute I had over those few days and I absolutely cursed the whole stupid idea!

Having said that, the response I got from the trainees when we looked at it was really positive and did make it feel worthwhile. Lessons learned though … it’s definitely not a technique to use with large numbers of students. If I was going to use it again it would be:

  •  feedback on group writing tasks (with only say 4 or 5 texts to look at per class)
  •  individual feedback, but only for a small handful of students each week, so that everyone gets their turn over the duration of the course
  • for whole class feedback, with one recording for the whole class, or perhaps for something I didn’t have time to finish in class (à la flipped classroom)
Anyone else tried screencasts or other ways of giving voice feedback? How did you get on?

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Blogger Deborah Stevenson said...

Useful feedback on the process Julie - thank you. I agree that you have to be careful it doesn't push more work in the teacher's direction; 1:1 or pair consultations/tutorials are hard to beat for this kind of feedback, if you are in the same location obviously. This year on our Pre-sessionals we are also trying out Critical Friendships to support peer feedback, and then integrating the Discussion Board function on our VLE. I think this has great potential, and keeps a better balance of time/responsibility in the student domain!!As a Programme Leader I'm also conscious that increasing TEL is creating quite a pressure for standardising the student experience. We already have to 'cram' a lot of technical training into orientation, especially for new to the centre teachers: Jing may be a step too far for a large programme with many different teachers/levels of technical experience. On In-sessionals though, I can see great potential as you build up a relationship 1:1 anyway, and are usually less time pressured as a result.

8:50 am  
Blogger Steve said...

Great post Julie. I've been experimenting with using Snagit (essentially Jing by a new name) for providing feedback to teachers on observations. Before doing individual, full-length observations with EAP teachers, we do quick, 20 minute 'buzz observations' around the whole cohort. I've used Snagit/Jing a couple of times now to comment on general patterns of good and not-so-good in what we saw. Teachers really liked this and some commented on the value of being able to watch and re-watch for considering future practice.

3:19 pm  

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