Monday, March 3, 2014

Slice of Life: Technology as friend and foe

Today, we had yet another snow day. That's the 10th this year. I'm at the point where I'm torn on these "days off." On one hand, I'm happy to not fight with the weather, and I like to have the slower pace I can take at home. But really, these aren't "days off" for me as I tend to work to try to catch up on planning and grading (as with most of me peers, I'm more reactive during the school year than I like to be).  Also, I worry that my students will leave with fewer opportunities to think, discuss, and write than they might need. That's the perpetual fear of most teachers--did the students have enough time?

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.


  1. I like a written manual also. I really like to hold it in my hands as I work on something new. This is our ninth school day out in my part of NC. Try to find some time for yourself. We all tend to think school even in our sleep.
    Visiting from SOLC,

  2. It sounds like you are maximizing the snow days! I will have to check out Kaizena. That is the hard part of learning new tools...even if there is a manual or a video...they don't have all the answers.

  3. I hate video tutorials. They are too slow and I am distracted by the poor audio. It's hard to go back, as well. I tried and failed to learn doctopus on my own. My colleague learned it for me and then walked me through it.

    We haven't had any snow days this year in my part of Colorado. The new weather patterns will take some getting used to. It must be hard to adjust your schedule. I think I would start assigning extra online collaboration to try to make up for the time.

  4. I totally agree. I hate video tutorials; I would much rather read a manual at my own pace. We are told this is the wave of the future, but I really wonder how many people (students) actually sit through a whole tutorial or even a whole YouTube video. I mean, the average time spent on a webpage is, what, 1.2 seconds. I'm pretty patient and a reader, but any video that's longer than about 1.5 minutes I usually don't finish, unless it's really stupid of course!

  5. I have heard about this tool, but I haven't had a chance to play with it yet. Days feel too long as it is to fight much with technology right now. BUT I will have time to test it out in another week... Hang in there. I know spring is on its way...

  6. I am a text-based lifeform, and listening is hard work! Quite apart from the issue of sound quality, so many presenters simply speak faster than I can hear. Videos without written instruction sets are anathema to me.

  7. I've been working on a post about something along this line (for TWT). I will have to check out Kaizena. I hadn't heard of it before you mentioned it.