Improving your Writing Instruction with Kaizena

Like most lessons in life the best ones come through serendipitous learning. I came to my use of recorded feedback, both audio and video, through a session I stumbled into at the Literacy Research Association. I had no plan to attend the session. I just had no where to go so I opened a door and sat down.

There a colleague, whose name I can never got, changed the way I fundamentally teach writing. The speaker send students auido recordings using digital tapes. I immediately began to use screencasting software for Word Documents. If I was using Google Docs, I used a Chrome Extension called Voicecomments.

It was “Good Change.” My time assessing writing went down. Students commented that the recordings help them to become better writers. In essence I enhanced my pedagogical tools through technology by making assessment more effective and efficient.

Kaizen. Japanase for “Good Change” Also the philosophy behind 121writing rebranding, redesigning, and relaunching of VoiceComments into Kaizena.

I was lucky enough to join a #PATUE and Teachercast.tv simultaneous event when Kaizena was launched. Immediately the Kaizena team blew me away. Nothing but “Good Change.”

 

Great Update

The update is full of good change:

  • A dashboard to track feedback.
  • Ability to notify different collaborators.
  • Ability to highlight text, record, tag, or leave a comment.

Screenshot 9:13:13 10:48 AM

The Kaizena Dashboard

Pedagogical Uses

The place in a GAFE, or any classroom for Kaizena should be front in center. I see immediate uses for Kaizena.com: teacher feedback, peer conferencing, retrospective think alouds.

Teacher Feedback

I am a big proponent of limiting the number of goals a writer works on at one time. Through conferencing the teacher and student should develop targeted areas of growth. Kaizena.com fits this method perfectly. As a teacher I can go through and discuss the piece with the student. I can evaluate how well they met their goals, discuss revisions, and plan for future drafts.

If I was doing a collaborative writing assignment, which every good writing instructor knows they should do often, I can now give feedback to individual authors and the team as a whole. Good change.

Peer Conferencing

Kaizena will also be one of the most powerful tools for peer conferencing. Students could be given a rubric, or be aware of the author’s targeted areas of growth. They then use Kaizena to provide feedback. As a writing teacher this will help end the empty feedback loop often common during peer conferencing. Now as students have to highlight segments to record their feedback must be directly connected to evidence. This is a skills my students often struggle with.

I will also have a digital archive of the feedback writers give each other. Modeling and teaching peer conference is critical and almost impossible in a room full of students. With all the work archived I can go back and assess not just the product of writing but the process. Good change.

Retrospective Write Aloud

I stress to my preservice teachers all the time that they need to make their thinking as a writer evident to students. I also teach my preservice teachers taht their students should also conduct write alouds.

Write alouds do not have to be completed as we draft pieces. In fact that can often take us away from the deep thinking required to stitch ideas together in a set of coherent clauses. Instead I often encourage students to do retrospective write alouds once they have completed a piece.

Students are gvien a goal or choose one element of writing they want to highlight. They  have to use their piece and explain their design choices and their thinking as a writer. Now with Kaizena I can have students record their thinking. Once again their comments will have to be directly connected to evidence from their writing because of the highlighting tool. Good change.

I will be piloting these three methods with students in my writing intensive class this semester. I hope students will volunteer to share their work and I will share our progress here.

Once again a huge shout out to the Kaizena team.

 

 

Greg McVerry

Greg McVerry is a teacher, researcher and scholar at Southern Connecticut State University.

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