The Red Pen vs Digital Feedback

When I started teaching I was given some advice from a veteran teacher to keep away from using red when correcting assignments.  They said it was because students had viewed the red pen as being negative and instead we should be focusing on helping our students improve, not just telling them what they got wrong.  I may even go a step further and tell new teachers to move away from the pen entirely.

Providing feedback to students is vital to helping them grow as learners.  We want them to be continually growing and learning which means that we have to help guide the way for them to grow.  We help them understand what they are not doing well and how they can improve and also what they are already doing well and how they can still improve that.  Technology can help us do this in a way that is much more effective, efficient and longer lasting.

Kaizena – Voice Feedback for Google Docs

One of the easiest ways to give feedback in a Google Doc is to use the comments tool in the doc itself.  You can go a step further by using Kaizena to record audio while you are highlighting text or by inserting comments and resources to help the student improve.  Sometimes we can provide better feedback by speaking to the student than just by writing it out.  Kaizena integrates with your Drive so you can easily access student work and the feedback is saved so you can always come back to it later, something that may not happen if you just write the comments on their assignment and hand it back, never to be seen again. (Link to info about the new features to Kaizena)

Video Screencasts

A screencast can allow you to bring in many outside resources to help provide feedback to your student.  There are many options, such as Screencast-O-matic and Jing, that allow you to easily record what is on your screen along with your audio and possibly video.  You can show the student their work, edit it and then show resources while all of what is on your screen is being recorded.  Give them access to the video and they can use it to help themselves make improvements on that assignment or any future learning activity.


Goobric is a tool (Chrome extension) that works with Doctopus to allow you to use a rubric to provide feedback to a student.  You install Goobric and then you can use it on any document you send out using Doctopus to insert a rubric into the Google Doc.  Your scores are saved in the Doctopus spreadsheet and you can even email extra feedback to the students using Doctopus.  The rubrics are inserted into the document and you can even edit them at a later time.  See Jay Atwood’s video explaining how to use Doctopus at


Those are just some of the ways that we can go beyond the basic feedback provided by a pen, red or not, and how we can give more resources to our students to help them along with their learning.  There are other ways to provide effective feedback, like using digital formative assessment tools (Socrative, Infuselearning, Kahoot, Geddit and Google Forms) that provide quick feedback on their learning, and there are new ones being developed each day.  Focus on what feedback is needed to help your students, all of your students, and start implementing it a little at a time until it feels seamless.  The key is to find the ways that work best for you and your students, those methods and tools that work the best for the type of learning taking place in your classroom and the type of learners you are helping.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s