During the pandemic, digital comments and digital communication helped more students ask questions and seek support when needed

Using digital comments to enhance feedback on student work


During the pandemic, digital comments and communication helped more students ask questions and seek support when needed

As students return to their classrooms for in person learning this fall, many teachers have been reflecting on what elements of remote learning were effective and worth maintaining in a more traditional classroom setting.

In an in-person classroom setting, it is often obvious when a student seeks help from the teacher, and it becomes obvious which students are getting the most consistent support. Some students may feel embarrassed or shy, and thus miss out on receiving support that is crucial to their learning.

Throughout the pandemic, students were completing their work on various online platforms, such as Google Slides and Google Docs. As students worked, teachers had the ability to view their work live and leave feedback in real time using the comment feature available with Google applications (click here for more information about the comment feature on Google products).

This discreet communication afforded the opportunity for more students to express their questions and seek support when needed. Many students who were more reserved in person found great success communicating with their teacher through comments online.

By using this comment feature, a dialogue was established. Students had a written record of teacher feedback–a key scaffold to enhance student learning. Digital comments on written work allow students more time to process the feedback, and revisit it when needed. For clarification, students replied to the comment, and were able to receive a timely response. In many cases, this is also more effective than a teacher trying to circulate the room and provide support to all students; rather than providing a hint and moving to the next student, students can actively engage with the specific area of need in an expanded timescape, and teachers can more thoughtfully respond.

Due to remote learning, many teachers created online versions of their assignments, leaving them with two versions of many assignments. This is an opportunity for choice in the classroom, allowing for differentiation of instruction and the “multiple means of representation” pursued in the principles of the Universal Design for Learning (learn more about UDL guidelines here).

Students who gravitate towards technology can complete the online version of an assignment and have the chance to receive feedback without drawing attention to themselves in front of their classmates. This may provide a chance to build a trusting relationship with a student who has a more difficult time seeking help in a public setting.

While many teachers are celebrating the return to in-person learning, it is important to acknowledge what changes from the pandemic benefitted different types of learners. By using technology, teachers have an opportunity to continue to engage the most reserved students and provide them support in a safe and protected space.

In the example below, I challenge all educators to think about how they can use digital comments as meaningful feedback in all disciplines. While many of us are familiar with comments on written work, technology offers us a new tool for enhancing feedback and communication with our students. I have used comments to engage with my mathematics students, and welcome responses to this post with examples from other educators.

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