MARTHA STEIN AND JENNIFER GOMEZ co-teach a two-hour World History/English class at Claremont High School in San Gabriel Valley, in one large room with 70 students. With so many essays to grade, the duo felt overwhelmed at the amount of time it took to provide specific, helpful feedback to students.
Being tired and cranky from overwork inspired them to create their own app — Keyset for Education — which provides instant, detailed feedback to students at the touch of a button. They have made the app available to teachers everywhere.
“It allows me to provide constructive, specific feedback to students and have more ‘me time.’ What used to take hours now takes 25 minutes.”-Jennifer Gomez
Keyset allows teachers to create a variety of comments, observations and questions — as well as links to articles and videos explaining concepts or showing examples — and insert them into essays or student work with just one keystroke. So instead of writing, “That’s a really good start, and you’re on the right track, but I’d like you to consider exploring the question I’ve posed with more depth. Here’s a link to an example,” teachers just hit a computer key and voila — they can insert that feedback instantly.
Educators can create their own comment banks — and also borrow and modify pre-designed comments by Stein and Gomez, both Claremont Faculty Association (CFA) members. Feedback can also be inserted while students are working on assignments, providing direction as they move forward.
Similar programs allow teachers to insert comments, but only within that particular program. Keyset, however, is a Google Chrome extension, so it can be used in many online programs including Google Classroom, Flipgrid, Canvas, School Loop, Turnitin.com, Remind, Outlook, Schoolology and more.
“It allows me to provide constructive, specific feedback to students and have more ‘me time,’’’ says Gomez, who teaches world history. “What used to take hours now takes 25 minutes.”
Teachers aren’t the only ones reaping the rewards; students also benefit.
“My students know exactly what is expected of them, whether they are making progress and what to do next,” says Gomez.
“The feedback I got on my assignments showed me that my teachers valued what I had to say,” says student Navie Davila. “The feedback was so specific that it made me like writing even more because I could tell that I was improving.”
“At first, it’s an adjustment,” says Stein, who teaches English, “because students aren’t used to receiving specific, early feedback, some panicked initially. But now they’re accustomed to it. Since giving and receiving quality feedback becomes part of the classroom culture, they begin to understand how to construct their own feedback that is focused and clear. It makes the class culture very open, kind and growth-oriented.”
It is also a great tool for teacher collaboration, she notes. PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) at her schoolwork together to create comments and criteria for specific grade levels and subject matter using Keyset.
The cost is $39.99 per year per teacher, with bulk subscribers such as Upland Unified School District, which purchased licenses for teachers in grades 3-12. So far, a total of nearly 400 licenses have been issued. The program offers video tutorials, email support, a Facebook community and a free course on Principles of Effective Feedback, which includes:
• Directing feedback toward the task, not the student;
• Tailoring feedback to match students’ level of understanding;
• Connecting feedback to learning goals;
• Providing resources to students;
• Giving students time to act on feedback.
Stein and Gomez began working on the app in 2018, and officially launched in 2020,just as the pandemic began. They continue to fine-tune and update Keyset for ease and efficiency, and showcased the app at the Computer Using Educators (CUE) Conference last year in Palm Springs.
“In trying to develop my students’ analytical writing skills, I have found myself providing the same constructive feedback on student papers for years,” says CFA member Rob Thomas, a social studies teacher at Claremont High. “Keyset has allowed me to provide consistent and effective feedback in less than half the time.”
“I love that my feedback quality does not change when I am nearing the end of a grading session,” says CFA member Maria Zavala, who teaches English at Claremont High. “With Keyset, all of my students receive the same high-quality feedback.”
For more information, visit getKeyset.com.
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