Monday, March 3, 2014
Slice of Life: Technology as friend and foe
I also tend to use these snow days to experiment with technology because I want to give students something to do to make sure that we don't lose all two weeks of instructional time. My juniors are supposed to be taking their end of course writing test this week, so I used Google Drive to create space for them to review some of the grammar concepts we had discussed and plan for the writing prompts in groups. I also opened up a space for them on Blackboard to allow them to ask questions about the prompts and to get suggestions about approaches from one another. I suspect some of them will benefit from these online collaborations, and I certainly appreciated seeing them edit their writing to address pronoun reference issue and noting which prompts they found challenging.
Today also gave me a chance to try an add-on that allows for voice commenting on Google Drive. Kaizena allowed me to open students' documents, highlight portions of their text, and record comments to share with the students. I managed to comment on 4 papers, once I figured out the general interface. Three seem to have gone well, but the 4th doesn't seem to want to share my voice comments. I didn't discover this until I had spent several minutes on comments that I may be the only one who can see. And, unfortunately, Kaizena's documentation is non-existent. All that there is are some articles on older versions and a video tutorial.
The insistence of companies to substitute video tutorials for actual manuals makes me more than a little crazy. I cannot always use a video tutorial. Watching a video takes time and attention. I may be searching for a quick answer (as I was today) and skimming a manual for the answers I need is so much faster. I may not be able to devote my attention to the video, especially if the software is one I'd use while I taught. Or, I may not be able to play something I'd have to listen to because it would disrupt others around me. Videos aren't a substitute; they are a supplement.
So, while I like Kaizena in concept, I'm not sure that I'm willing to devote much more time to it until the documentation improves. I still like the idea of voice commenting, especially when I can use the comments as instructional, but I'm going to look elsewhere for a tool that will be easier to implement.