teaching with the tools of a digital world

The Search for Student Feedback in a Paperless Classroom


My second post about using technology to increase and enhance student engagement is about providing prompt and regular feedback. I have struggled for a few months on how to provide meaningful feedback to students. Since going paperless I have lost the “normal” mode of feedback; writing a few notes on a paper or test and handing it back with my fingers crossed that it meets their eyes before the bottom of the recycling bin.

Without this standard medium I have tried and failed at a few of my first ideas. I tried sending emails to each student, but this quickly became laborious and tiresome. I tried using my Dragon Dictation iPhone app to transcribe and the email feedback, but that was barely more effective than email.I tried using my voice recorder and emailing it to students, but that wasn’t a good fit either. I considered a Google Doc for each student, but decided most students wouldn’t remember or take the time to visit the doc. After sitting on the idea, I decided that I have worked hard to get students to regularly check and read their emails and I didn’t want to add a different mode of delivery that would detract from this. I finally settled on Google Wave.

At first, I was reluctant to pick up and use a tool that already has its end in sight and only the promise that it “will continue into 2011.” Yet, I decided to jump in and give it a shot. I set up a Wave between each student and myself and have used this each time I grade an assignment or need to provide a student with feedback. I spent part of a day to introduce my students to Wave and ensure that they had email reports enabled.

Now, for the reasons I am sticking with Wave for student feedback for the time being.

  1. It provides a very streamlined interface – I can quickly search and find the wave for the student I am looking for and send their feedback with a minimum amount of clicks and typing.
  2. Wave provides a simple record of feedback – Students or myself can quickly and easily review prior feedback and comments between myself and other students.
  3. Its connection with email – As mentioned before my students have their new Wave reports forwarded to their emails, but Wave also keeps my inbox less cluttered. I can choose to have a report of all Wave updates hourly or daily which keeps unnecessary traffic at a minimum, especially when students are usually just recognizing that they have received feedback.
  4. Allows for quick review of student comments and questions – All new updates by students are easily reviewed as new comments and questions are posted with the option to transition between new Wave updates.

I will continue to evaluate Wave as a method for providing effective student feedback. If you have questions or suggestions please leave them here.


Author: londondj0430

First year High School Science Teacher (Physics, Chemistry, Earth Science), Knowles Science Teaching Fellow, Digital Educator

5 thoughts on “The Search for Student Feedback in a Paperless Classroom

  1. I loved reading your post. I think your new decision to go paperless is a great change to make! I’m glad that you are finding ways to make it work well. Technology in classrooms is so important. There is so much technology to be used and it is changing everyday. What are some ways that you keep up with the changing technology and integrate it into your classroom? Since you posted this are you stil finding that the Google Wave is working well?

    • Thanks for reading and for the comments! How do I keep up with changing technologies? Well I’ve only been doing it for 8 months, but I think it comes from being willing to try anything. There have been many times that I stumble on a new technology that interests me on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc and decide then and there to find a way to test it out in my classroom. I think that has kept me trying new things and continually innovating. The technologies that work well stick around, those that don’t fall to the wayside.

      Wave has actually been working great! I’m still using it regularly and I have expanded it to almost all of my students (I have my one small Chemistry class that I have implemented it in yet). It has definitely streamlined my out-of-class feedback (my best feedback is still face-to-face and in class or wherever possible). I am working on implementing a “non-assignment specific” feedback plan where I communicate with five students (or some other number) a week and I will be using Wave.

      Thanks for the questions!

  2. Glad to hear that Wave is working so well! I do not have a classroom of my own yet, but that is something that I will look into for the future! How long have you been blogging for? This is my first time. Have you used it at all in your classroom?

    • I’ve been blogging about my classroom since November of last year. I haven’t yet used it on a full scale in my classroom yet, but I have plans to implement it in the future. I have had a few students begin using it on a small scale.

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