I love giving my students feedback on their writing through Edmodo.
There’s nothing groundbreaking or surprising here, but the factors that make it seem more effective, while obvious, are still significant, I think.
1. My handwriting is very messy, so kids give up trying to read it.
2. I type much faster than I write, so I end up typing more feedback.
3. The comments on Edmodo look like replies on Facebook, so kids don’t seem to mind reading them.
I saw this today in the computer lab. I had written comments on each student’s draft (this didn’t take me too long since a small percentage actually submitted drafts through Edmodo by the deadline). I told them to check the comments as soon as they got on their computer. I watched them do it – they really did! They logged on to Edmodo, clicked on the notification they had for new assignment comments, read them, then opened up their drafts and began revising.
Like I said, nothing groundbreaking, but it was still exciting for me to see. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much of the past six years laboring over written feedback to students that I’ve never seen them read. Really, almost never. It’s one of those insidious truths about being an English teacher that makes it feel like the most futile exercise in the world. Like how Lucy (Drew Barrymore) in 50 First Dates repaints her dad’s garage every day only to have him whitewash it each night.
I had a professor at Mills College who attached a half page of typed, single-spaced comments to written assignments when returning them, and I loved reading those. It felt like so much. It felt like a treat, almost. But that was in a graduate education program, where the students were pretty into school and academic things, to say the least. Average high school students are pretty into Facebook, so I wonder if getting comments on their writing in a Facebookish way feels anything like a “treat” to them. It seems so simple, but also meaningful.
And as a general update on yesterday’s post, in which I wondered whether my plan to use the computer lab would be fruitful today, I’d say it was great for my 1st period class and less successful at the end of the day. Again, no surprises. In the morning, the kids were shockingly focused, though. The typing was furious. I was bouncing from student to student, helping them develop their narratives and giving my advice on really specific questions about how to begin or what direction to go. I didn’t get to sit with all 30, of course, but I had good interactions with maybe 10.
In the afternoon, it took them a little longer to get going, and some students never found their focus. I was still able to give serious help to about 10 students.
If no other teachers ever used the computer lab, I could see myself bringing my students down there every other day for half an hour or so. Their work down there strikes me as so much more focused than it was with my students who each had laptops in the 1:1 environment at my previous school.
So, my solution to all education problems is becoming clear: schools should build an entire floor of computer labs underneath each floor of classrooms. There will be one desktop computer for each student. It’s a perfect plan. Wouldn’t it be nice?