For years, I have had a continuous struggle with giving students feedback. Like most teachers, I am aware of its importance, which is why I continue to provide feedback as often as I can. So, what exactly is the struggle?
The struggle lies primarily in two areas:
- The time it takes to provide quality feedback on a mass scale
- The lack of engagement with the feedback by my students
With the help from a fellow ChemEd X contributor, Ariel Serkin, I was introduced to a tool called Mote that I believe has helped me reduce the time issue and improve the opportunity for engagement with feedback. Of all the feedback interventions I have placed upon myself throughout the past nine years, integrating this tool has shown the greatest potential for a return on my investment of time without sacrificing quality. If you are looking to make changes to your feedback routine and try something a bit different, I believe this is something worth looking into.
The purpose of this post is not to convince you of the importance of feedback. Since you are reading this, it is likely that you have already been exposed to some of the vast research on the topic, in addition to your own experience, that supports the idea of how important it is with respect to student learning. So, let us not get bogged down with all that. Instead, I would like to simply describe what Mote is, how it works, and what it looks like in action.
What is Mote?
As described on Mote’s website, “Mote is a Chrome extension that makes it easy for teachers and teams to add voice notes and feedback to documents and assignments.”
How does it work?
As described above, Mote is a Chrome extension. If you are unfamiliar with Google Chrome extensions, they are programs that can be installed into your Google Chrome browser in order to change the browser’s functionality. This means all you need to do is install the Chrome extension, which can be easily done in the Chrome Web Store. I take you through the installation process in the video below.
Like most things in our profession, there are a couple things you should be aware of before diving headfirst into integrating this tool.
- Mote will only allow you to provide audio feedback to Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets. For those of you who use Google Classroom, this is perfect. If your school uses a different LMS, no worries, there are still easy ways to integrate Mote even if a submitted assignment is not a Google product, which I describe below.
- Though teachers can use Mote for free, like most things in life, the free version does come with limitations. The primary characteristic of the free version that you should know is that your audio feedback is limited to 30 seconds. Personally, this 30 second limit has not significantly impacted my ability to give feedback in any way. Most of what I need to say takes less than 30 seconds anyway. Additionally, you get unlimited audio comments so if there was a scenario where you wanted to say more, you could just start another comment.
Mote does offer a couple subscription-based options that expand its capabilities. The different levels can be viewed here.
Once the Mote Chrome extension is installed, the process for giving audio feedback is pretty simple since it mimics the default method of providing written feedback. If you want to leave a voice comment, all you do is highlight the part of the assignment your comment is intended for, click the Mote icon, and record your comment—done! Once you are finished, you can easily click the play button to hear your comment and either choose to move on or make modifications to your original comment.
What I found interesting about Mote is that each voice comment you leave is turned into its own separate URL. While the ideal scenario would involve students being able to listen to my feedback directly within their assignment, it requires students to have the Mote extension installed on their Chrome browser as well. Like most, my students do not have 1-to-1 computers. Instead, we have 1-to-1 iPads, which means this option is not possible. However, do not let this bum you out.
I am now aware of who has engaged with my feedback and to what extent.
Students can still easily listen to your feedback from within the assignment; but they will need to click on a link to hear each one. After doing this a few times with my students, I have found that this is not really a big deal; it is one little click, and they can easily go back to their original assignment after they have listened to it.
Another feature that came as a surprise to me was that Mote sends me an email notification each time one of my audio comments has been listened to. This feature means that, for the first time, I am now aware of who has engaged with my feedback and to what extent.
I mentioned earlier that the two primary issues I have struggled with when it came to providing feedback centered around time and engagement. It should come as no surprise that being able to verbally provide feedback has dramatically decreased the time it takes me to say what I want to say. Writing the same thing over and over or not being able to adequately write what I am trying to say can be something of the past when choosing to provide audio feedback. On top of that, I actually found myself providing more feedback than I would otherwise, due to decrease in time it takes me to provide a single comment. To combat the engagement issue, the fact that I am notified who has listened to my feedback, what they have listened to, and when they listened to it has created a scenario where I am no longer “in the dark” wondering whether my students have even read the feedback I took the time to provide them with.
Since I have only been utilizing Mote for a month a so, I have not yet developed an effective routine for what I want students to do with the feedback once listened to, but it is definitely something in the works.
Video 1: Using Mote to provide audio feedback, ChemEd X on Vimeo (accessed 1/21/21)**
Of the numerous challenges this school year has presented us with, the ability to provide meaningful feedback, that is acknowledged and acted upon, has been one of the most difficult aspects of hybrid and distance learning. Whether I am evaluating tests, lab reports, or just a regular assignment, using Mote has allowed me to provide more personalized feedback in a way that was not possible before and it has helped me turn the feedback process into one that now involves my students in a much more effective way. It is no silver bullet, but it is progress—and I like progress.
If you would like to see what using Mote looks like in action, I have made a quick overview of the entire process (video 1 above). Check it out and let me know if you have any recommendations for improvements or tips you think may help make the entire feedback cycle more effective for students.
**At the time I made the video below, the free version of Mote allowed for 90 second voice comments. They must have changed this within the past couple weeks because it now only allows for 30 second comments with the free version.