Correction or encouragement? Which would you rather have scrawled over your work?!
One of the issues teachers often raise on the technology courses I teach is how we should correct work learners have done on things like blogs (including comments they write there) and wikis.
These are things I do and this is the advice I would offer…
- DO provide as much help as possible first, before the learners go online; that's sometimes easiest to do face-to-face in class, and what we particularly want to do is provide vocabulary, rather than "grammar". If you provide the language the task requires, you'll have far less to correct. "Correct" as much as possible before it ever gets posted, in other words.
- DO have your learners work in pairs or small groups: that way it's collaborative and communicative and, if you have them post one thing per pair, rather than all posting individually, you reduce the amount you have to correct by 50% of more.
- DON'T try to correct everything; it's impossible and maybe counter-productive (don't keep saying "Wrong!", "Wrong!", "Wrong!" when your learners are actually communicating something!).
- DO draw attention to errors relating to things you are currently or have recently been doing in class.
- DON'T correct things the learners could be correcting. Indicate the error but don't correct (for example) irregular verb forms.
- NEVER correct blog comments, provided they're comprehensible (and if they're not, say "Do you mean…?", rather than "correcting" them). Correct posts, but not comments!
- DON'T worry so much about "correcting" things — but let their errors influence what you re-teach, revise or otherwise draw attention to.
- DO have the right attitude: your job as a teacher isn't primarily to correct what is wrong but to help your learners get things right, and to inspire them to do so. Provide help, encouragement and ideas, as well as language, and provide all of that before starting to tell them that they've got things wrong.
Drafts and finished products
I make an exception to the above for things we might consider a "finished product" or the "final version", where it is nice to see something that contains few if any errors.
Shared Google Docs are great for collaborating on draft versions and have great commenting tools (as well as real-time chat within the document that learners can use).
Alternatively, remember that you can draft and publish posts later on a blog, and that you can go back, edit ("correct") and repost what you've written.
Other things we should assess
There are other things we could also be assessing, rather than just marking right and wrong, such things as whether group members all did their fair share of the work, and whether or not they communicated with each other in English.
And, finally, do get your learners to help you "correct" (i.e. improve) your tasks: ask them what they think, ask them how the task could be improved (including how it could be made more enjoyable) and how you could do your job better.
For collecting feedback, Google Docs forms are a superb tool.
Ask your learners what they think