Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

Marking On-line with Kaizena Mini in Docs – How It Went & What I Learned


kaizenaI’ve been wanting to try marking online – not just by using colours (previous post) but by trying out a nifty program called Kaizena. In part I am excited as they are Canadian (like me!) and in part because I am always looking to improve feedback with my students. Kaizena is its own website (with inbox/outbox) but I chose to use their add-on Kaizena Mini in Google Docs.  There’s a bit of a learning curve and here’s what I gained from the experience (and what I learned):

Submitting – I do not come from a 1:1 school etc and want to embrace choice in how students do work – so this was an option for them. In addition, and due to privacy concerns, I cannot demand they use Google Docs — unless I seek parent permission. Students who wanted the online marking submitted in one of two formats – a link to their Google Docs document or an email with an attached Word file that I then uploaded into Docs. What I forgot to do was to remind them that any Docs link sent to me should have file ‘edit’ permissions – and I had to go back to several to get them to turn that on so that I could mark up their document.

Add the Add-On to Docs – easily done and easy to ‘turn on’. What I forgot to do was tell students that they would have to load on the Kaizena Mini in their Google Docs as well in order to get the feedback – lesson learned. Kaizena automatically puts a note in the document header to remind the student to use the add-on to get feedback. Sometimes this didn’t show up (see email note below) and so what I ended up doing is that I copied and pasted it into a header that I created in the document.

Giving Feedback and To Whom – Whenyou open a piece to mark and turn on the Kaizena add-on it asks if you are ‘giving’ or ‘getting’ feedback. Then it asks who you are sending this too. I don’t have a lot of my student emails (and it only trolls your gmail contacts) so I would ‘paste’ in their emails often. For some reason this was a bit troublesome and I was unsure if, when marking was completed they would get an automatic message that it was done. What I ended up doing was sending the link to them. What I forgot to do was to ensure that the link that I was sending back was an ‘edit’ link – not just ‘view’ (default) and I had to re-send a few times.

Feedback/Marking Options – there are 4 options – Tag, Text, Link and/or Comment. You can do all 4 for one thing. Here’s how I will use them in the future:

Tag – This allows you to tag and ‘rate’ at the same time on a point scale – which is great if you are marking on a ‘scale’ for an element such as ‘metaphor’ – you can say “hey this is a 3 out of 5 on our scale”. What I ended up doing is that I used the tag in this round to identify consistent errors in an ‘element’ – in other words with a grammar focus. I also used it to tag frequently misspelled words.  In the future I may use it to ‘tag’ for mastery – tagging some focus point with a “2” for done well and a “1” for not yet correct.

Text – This is, for me, the quick written note section – especially if I want a student to “see” something – such as a grammatical construction. It is nice to be able to have the chance to see it right there on the page and what I ended up doing was using it much like I would if I was marking by hand.  At the end of the document I used it to send back their ‘mark’ based upon the rubric we were using.

Link – This allows you to link to a webpage and for a couple of students – who clearly were struggling with something – what I ended up doing was  linking to a video review of the concept that I had done before.

Comments – Verbal comments are a great option. Students said that they found it a powerful way to receive even more feedback. What I ended up doing was using it for comments when I wanted to suggest an alternative way of saying something. I also used it when I wanted to stress a point – a repeated error  or even encouragement.  Finally I used it on the last sentence in the piece to give my overall comments on what they had done. What I learned was that it picks up any ambient noise so doing this is in a quiet location (if you are using the internal built-in mike) is key!

Due to a learning curve it was, at first, a bit ‘slower’ than hand marking especially as I was figuring out how to use the features, and how I wanted to use them, as I was going along. What I will do next time is plot out how I want to use features, especially tags before I sit down to give feedback. And, honestly by the end I had a real rhythm down…and it wasn’t taking any longer.

My students loved the comments – and especially appreciated hearing me ‘talk to them’ as part of the feedback. I will use this again – especially as more and more of my students are submitting on-line. There is lots of support in learning to use it both from Kaizena itself and via posts to YouTube (just search it). What I will also try next time is having them submit to my ‘Kaizena’ in-box so that I can try out the product in a more robust way. Onward!


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