Sunday, May 12, 2013

Essay Due 9PM; Feedback in a Couple of Weeks

“This essay is due on Sunday evening at 9PM.” That’s a new concept. No more working until midnight, when the project is due at 9PM. Unfortunately, the student may not receive any feedback for weeks. Then, from the student's perspective, the feedback is just a bunch of circles, arrows, and comments in the margin. The student asks, “What on earth does that squiggle mean?” Often times, there is a “See me,” written at the top of the page. However, once the assignment is returned, does the student approach the teacher? Does the teacher have uninterrupted time to go over the comments with the student? How can we, as teachers, provide students with timely feedback?

In prior blog posts, I’ve mentioned OneNote. Today, I want to focus on the ability to provide nearly instantaneous feedback with OneNote. Imagine the scenario above. Instead of marking up a piece of paper, the student hands in the assignment in a shared OneNote notebook (shared via SkyDrive, Office 365, SharePoint, or the school network). The teacher opens the student’s assignment, selects Insert/Record Audio, takes out his/her digital stylus, and marks up the “paper.” The significant difference is that the teacher makes audio comments, while circling text, writing notes, and highlighting text of note.

When the teacher is finished, the student can see that his/her page has been updated, because the title is bold. The student can click the audio icon  and listen and see as the teacher gives feedback. The teacher’s audio comments and notes are in sync with each other. How cool is that! When the student goes back to a particular note, she/he can click on the mark associated with the text, and voila! the audio will start playing at the point when the teacher made the mark (actually, at about 10 seconds prior to).  The student may even insert audio requesting more feedback.

Rather than waiting for forensic feedback, this process can be ongoing, while the student is working on the assignment. The teacher does not need to collect the work. Instead, he/she simply opens the notebook, and the assignments are waiting for them. They can even work on it offline. So, while sitting in the car at soccer practice, they can be “grading papers.” When arriving at home and connecting to the wifi, the notebook will sync. Then, the student at home, can log in and see and hear the comments.

Will this scenario ever replace face-to-face conversation about student work? Of course not. But, let’s face it. No teacher can conference with students for every assignment. Let's close that feedback gap!


  1. Interesting. Google has had the ability to have threaded discussion via comments (with email notification) as well as voice comments (but not in sync with pen marks) for some time now. It's too bad that OneNote does not allow for true synchronous editing.
    I have some questions:
    1) Does the OneNote webapp have this functionality, or just the paid desktop version ?
    2) Does MS have any plans to make OneNote available on all platforms (Mac and Linux)?

    1. The app, available on a variety of mobile devices, offers the ability to “ink;” however, you cannot add audio(not sure which mobile devices this works on except Windows 8). The web app offers neither inking nor audio comments. However, if the teacher marks up a notebook using the desktop app, students can see the notes and listen to the comments. They will not be synced.

      According to the Microsoft site: Application availability and features vary by platform and device. Publisher, Access and OneNote available on PC only.