Monday, September 16, 2013

Kaizena: Providing Differentiated Feedback on Essays

Although I love my job as a Technology Integrator in my district, sometimes some new webtool comes along that gets me jealous that I don't have a group of students ready and waiting to get some good, old-fashioned essay feedback, 21st-century style! (Then I typically remember how long essays took to grade, and my jealous attitude fades)

However, Kaizena, a new version of 121writing's "Voice Comments" feature, makes it an exciting time to be an English teacher. Here are a few of the great aspects of Kaizena as a feedback tool...

1. Improved Voice Comments

In 121writing's old version, the voice comment feature was a bit clunky. The recordings were contained in bars across the top that weren't very intuitive for the student, and they felt "tacked on" rather than a natural part of the essay itself.

In Kaizena, the comments are snapped to the highlighted section they describe, making it clear for the reader where the comment belongs and how to find it.

The above picture shows how the recording is embedded right with the highlighted text - pretty slick!

2. Typed comments for old-school types

For those who hate the sound of their voice, or those who think students would prefer or benefit from written instead of verbal cues, you still have the "old school" typed comments to use (obviously I am using "old school" loosely here). This gives teachers options to choose what feedback method is most appropriate. In the same vein as the voice comments, this type snaps to the highlighted text, as seen below:

3. Adding web-based resources to help "re-teach" important concepts

I might have accidentally pushed my favorite feature to the bottom... I think this particular addition is wonderful. Teachers have the option to start adding web URL "Resources" to their Kaizena account, allowing them to stockpile web-based grammar instructions, videos on how to construct a body paragraph, and any other web tools that would benefit a student refining an essay.

Here's where Kaizena could really shine - I picture teachers creating customized essay refinement videos and uploading them to a SchoolTube or YouTube, then stockpiling the videos in Kaizena. After they are in, teachers now have the option to "attach" a resource to the part of the essay where the student needs individual guidance in that issue. 

If Billy struggles with Fragments, attach the Fragments URL. If Susie doesn't understand a thesis statement, attach the PowToon cartoon of what makes a good thesis statement. The student clicks on the area, watches the video, and makes the changes, all with a couple of clicks by the teacher. The attached resource option comes up as a green eye by the highlighted text:

Kaizena aligns with Google Drive to let you open your documents, so it is available across platforms. I can't wait to see English departments in my district experiment with this new technology! If you want to find out more, go to