Sunday, April 16, 2017

Using Canvas to coordinate written feedback

Yesterday, @druinok asked for suggestions on providing more written feedback to many students quickly.

It turns out that we both use Canvas, an LMS, at our schools. There are a lot of features about Canvas that are not the most user-friendly, but in terms of giving feedback to students quickly and easily, it's been really helpful. Here's how I use it:

  1. All work that I collect from students passes through Canvas, including work that is not graded, but is just for feedback. I create an assignment with either a link to a pdf for problem sets or to a Google doc for projects/written reflections

  2. Students complete the work either in their Math notebook or in a Google doc (for projects/written reflections). But all work is submitted digitally. The student's view has an electronic submission button. Most of my students have the Canvas app on their phones and can submit by snapping a photo of their written work. Those that don't have the app take a picture with their computer camera and submit it via the web version of Canvas. I remind students to submit their homework to Canvas after we go over homework questions in class.

  3. In grading mode, I see the photo each student took, mark the assignment Complete or Incomplete, and type written feedback. If the assignment is graded, I indicate their level of proficiency and sometimes comment on the specific objectives graded (we use Standards Based Grading so students don't see points, only learning objectives and levels of proficiency).
  4. The system is quick - I can go through all the work submitted by students, type or copy and paste comments, and click on levels of proficiency if I'm grading the assignment. Students see the feedback on individual assignments and can also look at feedback from past work, chronologically or organized by learning objective.

  5. I love the fact that students have access to all of their Math work in their notebook at all times - there's no longer the loss of time in turning it in, waiting for me to write feedback, and then getting it back, accompanied by the inevitable loss of someone's work and of me lugging piles of papers back and forth from school. There's no longer a question of whether something was turned in or what the feedback on that work was. We can both always easily see a chronological record of the feedback given over the course of the year and track progress. If I ever create a portfolio system for summative assessment, all of the student's submitted work is already digital and organized.

  6. The one drawback that I wish Canvas provided is the ability to annotate directly on student work. If I want to draw a student's attention to a particular problem, I have to write a note that says, "In question #2, look at..." instead of just circling question #2 on their paper. When students upload their files in pdf format, Canvas has an internal marking system that activates and allows you to annotate, highlight, and type directly on the page. But for most students, this would add an extra step of converting their picture to a pdf and uploading it in that format, and I would rather make homework submission as simple as possible. So for now, this is my system.

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