After transferring from a completely online high school to a standard brick and mortar high school, I found myself frustrated by the snail’s pace flow of communication between student and teacher. The constant shuffle of papers was tedious, where students lost their work even before they turned it in, many notes and comments took days to return, and (because I did not have an office) the back and forth toting of boxes of student papers to grade at home was loathsome. I also frequently have my students draw posters to illustrate their thinking and understanding of certain concepts, and commenting on these and returning them proved difficult.
The standard way of doing things was taking too long and was too messy — time to innovate! I started looking for a simple PDF editor that would take no time to learn, with no training necessary. Having had experience with Adobe and the suite of programs they sell, I knew what potential existed for a PDF editor, but I also knew that I needed just some essentials.
After a year-long search, I found Kami. This easy to use program took seconds to learn, and has been the source of many innovations in my classroom. I now look through my students papers quickly, and store them in Google Drive (with Kami’s handy integration to the GAFE suite). No more boxes of papers! My students can now use CamScanner (a free app) to scan their written essays or posters, and share their documents with me as a PDF, thus eliminating paper lost in the black hole of adolescent “organization”. I mark their work for grades, and can do so on my tablet or laptop in the comfort of a sunny spot on the porch. It also provides for very quick turn-around; as soon as I finish marking their work, I share the PDF with the student in their Google Drive. And, because I have the student work AND my comments to them stored electronically, I can also add it to my digital portfolio for evaluation purposes.
But these should not come as a surprise for Kami’s uses — it really is what Kami was created for. What I was astounded by was how Kami has helped my students become better writers.
My students write — a lot — and I am not an English teacher. I am learning about how important the prewriting process is for comprehension and brain development, just by watching my students work through their assignments. Because oral language precedes written language, students are often better able to verbally explain their thinking than to write it out, especially my English Language Learner and Migrant population. Students in my class can start writing a few ideas on paper, maybe even draw a sketch to show a concept quickly. They can use CamScanner to turn their notes into a PDF, and use Kami to record audio annotations easily — right on their document! These oral annotations can be used by teachers to hear student thinking and help guide students in the prewriting process, even used to address misconceptions or praise higher-order thinking! Students can use the oral annotations to help form thoughts which are difficult to put in writing. They can listen to themselves form the thoughts, and write down what they have said and/or edit it for future drafts.
I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of classroom innovation with Kami; there are so many more things I’d like to try! Wouldn’t collaborative notetaking be fun? Or perhaps reading journal articles and highlighting evidence to back up a claim? With the free time I have gained by using Kami, I feel like we could try it all!