Using Voice Comments with Google Docs for End of the Year Projects

I had a “just in time” professional development moment thanks to Jennifer Roberts andScreen Shot 2013-04-25 at 3.41.09 PM her video titled “Docs Voice Comments.” I wanted to share it with other educators as I know many of us are planning end of the year projects, assignments, and written pieces. These culminating assignments are incredibly time consuming to grade. I also wonder how many of my students carefully read the comments I make on these pieces since they get them back just as the school year ends and summer break begins.

Lastly, these end of the year projects are finished products, so covering them with comments or editing directly on them may not be the most effective way to provide feedback.

My students are currently working on a Digital Portfolio Project to share the work they have created in our class. Students are creating a website where they will post revised pieces of writing, digital projects and artwork to reflect their growth as students this year. In the past these portfolios took the form of binders, but this year I want them to have a digital finished product they can share with a larger audience.

I’ve decided to use the voice comments app instead of typing out all of my comments. Not only will I be able to give more detailed feedback, but I have a sneaky suspicion that they will be very curious to “hear” what I have to say as I explore their websites.  

Because their projects will take the form of a website, I’ve decided to have students “make a copy” of the assignment description, which I created as a “view only” Google document and “share” it directly with me. Then I will leave my voice comments on that document for students to access. 

Follow the steps below to enable the Voice Comments app.

VC -Step 1

Search for “Voice Comments” and connect app to your Drive account.

VC - step 2

Instead of opening the essay as you normally would…

VC - Step 3


The first time you use Voice Comments you need to give the app permission to access the following:

VC - Step 4

Record comments for your students as you assess their work. Don’t forget to click “Share with Collaborators” to give them access to your feedback.

Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 12.23.45 PM

It is helpful to mention which parts of the essay or assignment you are commenting on as you record your comments. Let students know if you are scrolling down a page or navigating between pages, since they will not be able to visually see your progress through their document.

Finally, show students how to access your voice comments as they won’t appear unless they click “Comments.”

VC - step 6

Click here to view the awesome YouTube video Jennifer Roberts made walking through this process. 

I hope this helps other educators to provide meaningful feedback to students while saving time…great combination!

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37 Responses to Using Voice Comments with Google Docs for End of the Year Projects

  1. Megan Ellis says:

    I thought it only fitting that since my students recorded their most recent essays, I should record my feedback using Voice Comments. Looking forward to seeing if it speeds up my process this weekend 🙂

  2. Thanks
    These steps are helpful. I’m going to try it soon.

  3. Ken Fermoyle says:

    I will try this on our next joint project, Catlin…possibly as we begin work on your 2nd book. 🙂 I love it when you do these how-to step-by-step mini tutorials. What a contrast w/instructions & “user manuals” when I first began working w/computers (circa 1979-80). They were usually written by programmers, who seemed to think everyone knew machine code & other arcane programming languages, so their instructions were almost unintelligible!

  4. Caitlyn, what a great way to provide descriptive feedback to students. I would like to see if is possible for students to use this app to provide voice-over for the story re-tells they create using google presentations.

    • That sounds like a wonderful way to use a tool like this, Ferdinand!

      I’d love to explore the creative ways students can use an app like this to do digital storytelling.

      Thank you for your comment!


  5. Hey there ! I use A google form to have my students submit assignments to me so that I have a list of links to their Google Docs instead of their docs in my shared folder…keeps my folders clean and their assignments organized. Have you figured out how to open using Google Voice with a link instead of via the Google Shared Folder?

    • Hi Kirsten,

      Thank you for the suggestion! I like the idea of having their papers all in a spreadsheet. Do you have them make it viewable to anyone with a link then have them share that in the form?

      Right now, I create folders in my email for each class and “nestle” each assignment in a folder beneath each folder. It has not actually felt too unorganized, but it is a lot of pieces. I wonder if their are any down sides to them not sharing it directly with me…?


  6. Amy M. Johnson says:

    This is a wonderful tool; I just shared it with my fellow staff members. I do have one question: I know with a click you can reply or resolves a comment, but how do you delete a comment from an assignment in Google Drive, voice comment or typed? Thanks!

  7. Mary D says:

    Love all of this. I’ve been using Doctopus to track student docs in spreadsheet (as Kirsten suggests). I experienced some troubles with Google voice today, so I just gave the students voice feedback using Voice Memo on my iPad and emailing the file to them. They loved it!
    My students use iPads so Google docs can be tricky, but we’re working on it!

    • Garrett says:

      Hi Mary I would love to hear more about your successes and struggles with the iPad and google docs. We are currently going 1:1 in our district and I see google docs as the best way to create and publish along with our LMS Haiku. Please contact me so we can discuss further Thanks!

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  10. WOW … students also could give each other a feedback! I love that feature! Thanks for sharing!

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  12. Tom Hopper says:

    Glad I found this on your blog thanks to your recent twitter post. I was talking with a fellow teacher today about how to record voice comments and this now provides a perfect visual example!

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  14. Karissa says:

    I love this idea! I’ve also had success doing something similar by using Jing or a screen casting program to record my voice and where I am in their document. Works well with a single paper in gdocs, and I’d assume it would also work for portfolios. I am limited to 5 minutes of video in the free subscription of Jing, but that is probably about as much as the students can take in anyway. After I record, the program gives me a link that I just paste into their document at the top. Time consuming, yes, but I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback!

    • I agree, Karissa.

      Voice comments can be time consuming, particularly if you are using them to provide summative assessments, but the response I received was also extremely positive. I plan to experiment with more formative assessments using voice comments this year. My aim is to keep comments short and sweet to guide them through their writing and projects.

      Thank you for the comment!


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  18. Mel Buendia says:

    Thank you so much!!! My prayers have been heard!! Sometimes I have so many essays to check….!! I will try this today!!.
    Thanks again!


  19. Cameron says:

    I could see this being useful for a “language lab”. Students could record themselves “speaking” and the teacher could then collect and assess.

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  21. Mark says:

    Do you know if there is a way to add Voice Comment through the Admin Console for Google Apps for Edu? The process for each user to add comments is simple but if I can add/enable for all my users upfront it would definitely save time. I have not been successful in finding it.

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  26. Lori says:

    This is no longer available… Sadly. I was looking forward to trying it out.

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