Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Take the pain out of marking homework with CorrectiveFeedback

One of the most time consuming and at times depressing tasks any teacher has to do must surely be marking large piles of student homework. That may sound like an awful statement, but the truth is that however little or however much effort our students do or don’t put into their work, many of us know that when we have marked the work and and hand it back to the student, they will look briefly at the mark and then probably never look at the work or our comments again.

So we all know that homework has to be marked and the students’ efforts have to be acknowledged, but we also know that often this process has very little positive outcome beyond that validation of the work our students have done.

CorrectiveFeedback may well have an answer though to both the problem of the time taken to mark assignments and the effectiveness of the feedback given.

CorrectiveFeedback enables you to automate a large part of the marking process and to also make the feedback you give more effective. It does this through using a number of marking ‘grids’ which you can customise to the needs of your students and the nature of your assignment.
Once you apply a marking grid to an assignment it will automatically analyse the content of the assignment for things like spelling, grammatical areas, use of specific verbs students have studied or vocabulary range related to topic field. It will then even suggest links in the feedback that students can use to revise or expand their knowledge of the problem areas and produce a completed feedback analysis which you can then send back to the students.

This is how it works
Once you log in to the online platform you will arrive at the dashboard. The first thing to do is to click on ‘CREATE GRID’. This is where you select the type of marking grid and rubric you want to use for the assignment. There is a really wide selection of marking grid you can use and these vary from the expected ‘error correction’ of text to ones that you can use to record spoken feedback and respond to audio recorded homework assignments.

 You can also mix grids and combine them so that you have one part of the grid for analysing grammar and another part which includes spoken feedback so that your students can listen to your comments, instructions and encouragement.
Once you have selected and created your grid it will be saved into the ‘MY GRIDS’ part of the site. Here you can store as many different marking grids as suits you and reuse them whenever you need them.

The next stage is to start marking your students assignments. To do this you need to either upload the assignments or get students to email you there assignments. This process is made easier for you in two ways.
  • CorrectiveFeedback creates a dedicated email address for you when you register, so that you don’t have to use your personal one, and any emails sent to this address automatically appear in your assignment section. 
  • The second option is that you can copy paste all of your students’ assignments into a spreadsheet and upload them all together.

Once the assignments have been uploaded, go to ‘CHECK ASSIGNMENT’ on the dashboard and here you can select the grid that you want to apply to each homework assignment. Depending on the features of the grid you select, it will analyse the students work find errors or weaknesses in the vocabulary etc and produce a list of areas in the text for you to comment on or mark in some way.

You don’t have to follow the suggestions of the grid, you just read through them and then select, deselect or edit the point you want to comment on and the comments you want to make. You can also award points based on a rubric or record spoken feedback. Once you have finished marking, your feedback is saved into the database and your students receive an email with a PDF of the feedback or links to your spoken audio feedback.
The feedback your students are sent can also include auto generated links to grammar or vocabulary reference materials so students can follow up your comments in a constructive way.

If you need to go back and check students’ assignments at a later date they are all stored in ‘CHECKED ASSIGNMENTS’ and you can even reedit and change the feedback and resend it.

CorrectiveFeedback really is an impressive pedagogical tool and one that can potentially save teachers a lot of time and also enhance the learning process.

What’s great about it?
  • There is a real variety of different marking grids which you can quickly edit to your needs
  • I love that you can record spoken feedback so that students can hear tone and intonation or even examples of pronunciation
  • It’s great that it can scan for errors or weaknesses in vocabulary and suggest helpful links
  • Being able to collect together all your students work into a database where you can go back and retrieve it can be really useful when it’s time to write reports, etc.

When you first sign up for CorrectiveFeedback you are automatically awarded 100 credits which enable you to mark 100 assignments. At present getting more credit is still free, though in the future there is clearly an intention to make this a commercial product.

Paying for an online product may well be difficult for many teachers, especially when there are so many free tools around, but I feel that if you find a product that can really save you time for a reasonable price then it is worth supporting these products and putting a little money in. Ideally schools should be able to pay to enable teachers to use such things, though realistically we all know that seldom happens. I guess the decision we have to make is around the value of our time and how much of it a tool like this can save.

I hope you give CorrectiveFeedback a try and that it saves you some time and helps to make your marking time more rewarding for you and your students

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Monday, 23 March 2015

ESL lesson plans for the digital world

I think if you asked most teachers, especially in their first few years of teaching, what would make their lives easier, the single most common answer you would get, would be ready made lesson plans and materials. Well there’s good news, because that’s exactly what you get from Off2Class, a huge collection of ready made ESL lesson plans complete with instructions, teachers’ notes, answers to all the questions and even homework assignments.

What’s even better about Off2Class is that the materials are all ready prepared for the digital teaching world, whether you teach in the classroom with an IWB or a data projector, or whether you are teaching online using Skype or some form of virtual platform.

The platform is very easy to use. You start by setting up profiles for your students. You’ll need their email address to do this and you’ll need to create a password for them, but this is quick and simple to do.

Once you have set up your students’ profiles you can choose a lesson to do with them. There is a really wide variety of ESL lesson plans to choose from. Most are organized around grammar topics, but there are also reading and speaking plans too. If you click on the drop down menu for each section you can see the range of plans and if you select a lesson and click on the magnifying glass icon you can preview the main aims of the lesson.
To launch a lesson you click on the rocket icon. You’ll then see the lesson materials with the teachers’ notes at the side. You can then flip through the slides and as you move from slide to slide you see the notes changing and synchronizing with the slide you have selected.
When you use the lessons in the classroom or online you can put the lesson materials to full screen and use a mobile app to follow the teachers notes. As you move through the lesson materials, the teachers’ notes will again synchronize with your mobile device.

Once you have launched your class, you can enroll students into the class. This will enable you to take and share notes with the students during the lesson. The notes can go to all students or you can just select the student the note refers to.

The student can also take notes and access all of these notes through their profile. The notes are also automatically referenced to the class they applied to and have the date added so this makes it easier and more useful when students want to revise.
You can also assign and mark the homework assignments through the platform and again all the answers for the assignments are provided.

The lesson materials themselves are well designed with colourful images and illustrations and there really is a huge and constantly growing collection to choose from. When new materials are added you get a note when you log in to the platform, so you always know what new things are available.

 You can find out more from this video:

There really is a lot to like about Off2Class:
  • It looks great
  • The lesson materials are well structured and designed
  • It’s really easy to find your way around and understand how everything works
  • There’s a really good support blog
  • The company is obviously still developing and adding to it, so it can only get better.

There is of course a downside and one which will put many teachers off - It’s not free.
  • The pricing is very reasonable though, starting from $7 a month for 2 student accounts and rising to $25  month for 15 student accounts.
  • It would also be nice to find some listening materials in the lessons too.

There doesn’t seem to be any large scale pricing or corporate offers, so it looks like the product is being aimed directly at private teachers who are doing their own classes. Considering how much work this would save a teacher on lesson planning and producing their own materials, the price seems very reasonable, though I guess this depends to a large extent on where you teach and what your hourly rate is.

On the whole though this seems like a really great well thought out and useful product. So many education start-ups these days seem to drawn by the scent of big money and have little real ambition to deliver a quality product that will really help their customers. This company obviously has some real insight into their market and has really hit on an area that, particularly in the digital world, teachers need some help with. I really hope Off2Class does well and that you and your students enjoy using their materials.

Related links:

Nik Peachey