Friday, March 1, 2013

Markup for iPad: Paperless Feedback on Writing

One role of the ELA teacher that will probably not change any time soon is the "marker-up" of writing.  I learned long ago that there is little profit gained from close editing of student work, pre or post grading; students may or may not make the indicated changes, but they will definitely make the same errors over and over again if the teacher indicates the fix every time (as shown in the sample below).

On the other hand, students do learn from close editing the work of another, be this a fellow student's or a "bad model" text.  And teacher or peer comments on the ideas, text structures, arguments, evidence and discussions in student work - both good and needing improvement - definitely do result in improved writing.  A quick, fluent feedback stream is essential.

In the early days of a laptop program I used NoteShare extensively to these ends. This versatile Mac app (we used NoteShare Server) was the mainstay of my literacy program.  In today's iPad classrooms, teachers have to work a little harder to achieve a paperless feedback stream.  There are, however, some useful tools to consider.

First, consider adding $1.00 or more to the KickStart of Markup for iPad.  Created by the smart folk that brought us ShowMe, this is an app with a single purpose.  19 days to go, and counting, as of March 1, 2013.  It would be a shame if this development were stalled.  1000 teacher pledges would go a long way.

How will the app work?  Student essays or other text is uploaded to a cloud space (DropBox would be perfect for this but email is also a possibility to be considered), annotated or marked up using a stylus right on the teacher iPad, then returned to the student the way it came.  Short and sweet.  It does not require that student and teacher be on the same wifi.  And it can also be used for student-to-student and distance collaborations on any text.  
This is probably as simple as it is going to get for a while.  Here are a few more complex solutions:
  • Pages itself does a good job of allowing for in-text markup, including a track changes function.  Not my favorite method, but it would work.  Use Share and Print, then Open in Another App to save as a .pdf file.  Your school may also have a Mac OS X Server with a WebDAV server, make transfer of files through the network easy.  
  • GoodReader does a great job with .pdf files, allowing multiple types of markup both with and without a stylus.  Hints:
    • Have students write in Pages, Word, or other editor then convert (export or share) to .pdf before uploading to DropBox, etc.  Student retains the original to compare with the annotated version.
    • Do NOT save annotations on a page until you are done!
    • Using GoodReader in connection with a class Google Docs / Drive (with or without Blog Docs app) account will allow students to quickly view the marked up copy sent from Google Docs
  • Google Docs or Google Drive can be used to annotate as well, but not with a stylus. I don't know about you, but I find quick editing much easier with a stylus than with the iPad keyboard.  Good tutorials for this can be found all over the web, but start with this guide to Google Drive for the iPad.
  • Penultimate is a neat tool for student hand-written work, perhaps practice for SA questions on a local or state test.  "Notes" can be titles then mailed to a DropBox, GoDocs, Evernote or Google Docs folder.
Final word:  Support Markup for iPad so that the best tool will be available before the end of this school year (and you might get a free t-shirt too).

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