Teaching Students About Feedback Using Google Apps

A Happy Accident

So much of learning happens accidentally. As much as I schedule planning time with teachers to work on their 'Personalized Technology Plans' the best "teachable" moments happen on the fly.  Case in point.  Recently I stopped to speak to a 5th grade teacher about introducing her students to their CPS Google accounts.  As I was leaving her I poked my head into the other 5th grade classroom.  I love this teacher (both of them are stellar educators)- as I look to see what the kids are doing on their laptops she starts to wave me over excitedly saying "ooo Mrs. Zumpano, come see what we're doing!".  I love her enthusiasm, openness to all-things-tech and how she wants to share (even though I also laugh and tell her she always grabs me in the hall as I'm walking by and never formally seeks out my help).  She explained that for Black History Month the students were researching African American colleges and creating Google Presentations on them.  That day was the first of their presentations to each other. This alone was a "win" because her students were introduced to Google Apps this year and have been consistently using it.

Today's What?

I suggested we create a TodaysMeet room for the students to give each other feedback.  She hadn't heard of this before so I told her I would create the room and come up to explain how it worked to the students.  For those of you unfamiliar with TodaysMeet the site acts as a "backchannel"- a place that houses everything that goes on during a presentation while the presenter is speaking. I often use it when I give presentations at conferences- this enables educators to share resources and offer suggestions that they might want other people to know about but don't want to interrupt the session for. I also use it when I teach at the University level- students of all ages love to get feedback from their peers. TodaysMeet is free, and allows you to set up temporary rooms in the following increments:  1 hour, 2 hours, 8 hours, 1 day, 1 month and 1 year.

I showed the students how to log in using their name.  Although you technically don't have to use your name (as some of them later discovered) I told them to sign in with their name so their teacher could give them extra credit for constructive comments.  I began by allowing the standard "hey's" and "hellos" from the students and then explained that the purpose was to provide the presenter with feedback that they could read later to improve their future presentations.

In Their Own Words

The students enjoyed the application.  I wanted to make sure they truly understood the purpose and didn't simply see this as a one-and-done technology activity.  That weekend I developed a Google Presentation to teach the students the difference between three types of feedback:  strong feedback, neutral feedback and nonsense feedback.  The presentation explained how strong feedback is specific and detailed and helps the presenter either (a) keep doing what they are doing and/or (b) modify their presentation to make it better.  Neutral feedback may be positive; but doesn't give the presenter any specifics to strengthen their work.  Nonsense feedback is essentially "white noise" that doesn't contribute anything of value to the conversation but simply looks to get attention.  Then we practiced together.  I gave examples and asked students to identify what type of feedback was given.  A few samples from the presentation:

"Change the background so we can see the words better" and "I like that you looked at the audience and not at the screen" (examples of strong feedback).  "Good job!" and "You are doing great!" (examples of neutral feedback).  "What's up" and "LOL" (examples nonsense feedback).

I printed off the transcripts from their TodaysMeet room and gave each group 15 statements of feedback to sort.  I felt it was important for them to use their own words to complete the activity. This allowed them to see value in their own statements.

When they finished sorting, each group had a section of a Google Doc where they could enter one or two examples of each type of feedback.

Was it Worth it?

To finish out the activity I had the students fill out a short Google Form (survey).

I left the teacher with an anchor chart to remind the students of their examples of strong, neutral and nonsense feedback in hopes of seeing an even stronger TodaysMeet session next time they present!


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