Mote – Chrome Extension review

OK, it’s a weird name but it has a pretty cool function.

This is an extension you can add to Chrome and use on a variety of Google products to leave audio comments. If you mark up an essay or digital document, all too often students will just take a look at the score at the top of the first page and maybe leaf through the rest of their work and then stuff it in a folder, trashcan, or some other dark region never to give it another thought.

This is obviously a problem as feedback is a pretty crucial part of the teaching-learning process. mote allows you to record audio feedback and add it to Any type of Google document (Docs, Sheets, Slides) and it also allows you to add comments on Google Classroom as well.

Cost

There is a free version which will give you 30 seconds of recording but there are two other tiers as well. The essential which is $19/year and the Unlimited which is $39/year.

With the free you are limited to 30 second reocrdings. The Essential and Unlimited stretch that to 90 seconds and the Unlimited offers more features such as reusing recordings (or motes as the site refers to them), more reactions to motes and more. You can read more about it here.

Installing is pretty easy. Just head over to the Chrome webstore and search for the extension, or click this link to go right to it. After you install it you will be able to see the mote extension 

Using it

Again, this is pretty simple. This extension does one thing and one thing only. It allows you to add audio recordings to Google Docs and Google Classroom. In a Google Doc you add a comment just like you would normally do then hit the comment.When you hit the Comment icon you will have the option to type your comment as normal, but there is also a new mote icon in the comment box. It is that weird looking purple circle with the “m” inside it. 

Now be prepared. When you click on the mote icon it starts recording immediately. There is no countdown it just goes! You know it is recording because you will see the timer start to countdown towards 0. 

*Note: You get an upgraded account to try out when you first sign up. That is why my time limit is 90 seconds*

When you’re done with your comment and have posted it, mote will take a few seconds to process the file and then it shows up in the document as a playable comment!

The quality is subject to a few factors. One, laptop mics suck so don’t expect professional sounding recordings here. Also, mote is most likely processing these clips so when I played my mote back it sounded a little thin. Take a listen yourself.

Click to hear my voice note… https://mote.fyi/hxnksdp

It works the same way in Google Sheets. I don’t believe there is a way to comment on Google Forms, but if there is I bet mote will be right there waiting for you. I’ll talk about Slides later.

In Google Classroom mote works almost like you would expect. If a student turns in a Google Doc of any kind you can add comments just like above. If you want to add a Private comment though – I’m afraid that can only be typed.

Also if you want to use mote to make an announcement to the class, you’ll be out of luck again. 

If you want to leave a mote for an announcement, now that is something you can do.

Students?

At this point, you are probably wondering if your students can hear your motes? I mean you’ve put in the time to personalize the comments and it is very important. The answer is yes, even if they don’t have mote installed. Instead of getting a nice player right there, they have a link that takes them to the mote website.

But once those students have it installed that nice looking player will appear. 

Google Slides

mote works with Google Slides and it can leave comments just like you would expect but it has another trick up its sleeve. It can also add audio to your slide presentation! Now, if you’re looking to get super professional sound into your presentation, you may want to make those recordings, add them to Google Drive and then insert them into the slideshow.

When you click that Next button you will need to grant mote a bunch of permissions such as utilizing the microphone and giving it more access to Google Slides.

Once that is all done, just click the big mote icon near the top right hand corner of the screen to start your recoding. Unlike leaving a comment, it does not start recording right away. Instead a little window pops up with the mote icon in it. Click that icon to start your recording for that slide.

While recording you get the countdown timer (like before) and you can see some levels bouncing around the mote icon. When you’re done, just click the mote icon to stop.

After the recording you can listen to it (nice), trash it or insert it right into that slide.

Click the Insert button and voila! Your slide is now enriched your lovely voice! At least that is what is supposed to happen. On my testing I received this error each time.

I think I know the reason behind this. I am signed into multiple Chrome accounts on one computer and I think mote is getting a little confused. No worries though it is still very easy to add that audio to your slides. You see, mote stores these audio files right in your Google Drive, so all you have to do is go to Insert on your Google Slide Presentation and select Audio.

Drive will open up and there are your motes!

Select the one you want and it will be added to your presentation. Pretty simple.

What about Kaizena?

If you’re not familiar with Kaizena, it also allows you to add voice comments to Google Docs, but only for Google Docs. It doesn’t work with Classroom, Sheets, Slides or any other Google product. I wrote a glowing review of it back in 2018 and you can read that here and an update here.

Where mote is pretty straightforward, Kaizena is very robust. Allowing you to add rubrics and other features and even video! It is not an extension like mote but an Add-On for Google Docs and students have to have Kaizena installed in order to hear or interact with those comments. 

It’s great but it does not have the universal integration that mote uses. If you are looking for a simple way to add audio then mote is the way going forward. If all you use are Google Docs in your class then Kaizena is probably best suited for you.

Conclusion

OK – no surprise here, but mote is great. Even the free version is probably more than enough for what you need. The fact that it works with so many core Google products makes it a great an easy way for you to give audio feedback to your students. Writing meaningful comments on student work is certainly a time consuming endeavor but one that pays off in the long run. I think students hearing your thoughts on their work as opposed to reading small comments can make that feedback much more effective. Check it out for yourself. 

Episode 151 – iPads are a bore

 

Tony and Patrick are back after spring break! What better way to return than with a great podcast. Check out the talking points below and be sure to subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

  1. Apple’s education event
    1. New iPad
    2. New software
    3. Does this make the iPad relevant in education again?
    4. https://apple.slashdot.org/story/18/04/02/1825236/no-more-intel-inside-apple-plans-to-use-its-own-custom-built-chips-in-mac
  2. Kaizena Chrome extension
    1. https://kaizena.com/
    2. https://itbabble.com/2018/03/28/kaizena-update-resolve-comments/
    3. Feedback
  3. Tech Support Problems, Apathy, & Solutions by Tony DePrato
    1. https://itbabble.com/2018/04/02/tech-support-problems-apathy-solutions/
    2. What is your system?
    3. Google Script
  4. Solutions vs. Support
    1. Purchasing technology that you can service vs having to pay for service
    2. Example: Sound solutions in a classroom

As always you can download the episode here!

Kaizena update – Resolve comments

I posted my review less than a week ago and already there is an update! One item I did take notice of but forgot to mention in my post was the fact that Kaizena cannot Resolve comments like the standard commenting system in Google Docs offers. If you are unfamiliar with this feature it allows a person to add a comment and once the comment has been acted upon the comment can be Resolved and the comment then disappears. Check out the GIF below.

Now Kaizena can do this. When you see a comment that another person has left you, if you move your mouse to the upper right hand corner of the comment you will see three dots.

When you click those dots a new window will replace the comment with two options as you can see below.

When you click the Resolve button the comment will disappear. I am sure some of you out there are concerned that this good feedback should not be discarded. Kaizena agress with you. At the top of the Kaizena side window is a drop down menu that is kind of hard to see.

By default it shows all Open or unresolved comments. If you click it you can chose between View all, Open and Resolved. You got it. It will show you just those comments.

Another neat feature is the ability to turn a comment into a Lesson. I probably would have liked to save it as a Skill as well but this is pretty nice. The catch here is that you can only save those comments that you have added as a lesson. You cannot save another person’s comments.

It works the same way as resolving. Move your mouse to the upper right hand corner of the comment and click on the three dots. You will then see a menu with four options.

That’s the update I hope you try Kaizena out if you and your school use G Suite.

Kaizena

Kaizena – A review

Kaizena is an Add-on for Google Docs. What it does is allow a teacher or another person to give audio feedback for a Google Doc that has been shared to them. The owner of the doc can then listen to that feedback and improve their document further. Sounds pretty sweet right? Well, let’s check it out and see if it is as good as it sounds.

Getting the Add-on

In order to use Kaizena you must be using Google Docs. It will not matter if your school is using G-Suite or not, but you and the other person must be using a Google Doc in order to install and use the Add-on. To actually install it open up the Google Doc you want to use it with and click on Add-ons from the menu at the top of the document.

A drop down menu will appear. Click on Get add-ons. From here a window will pop up that lets you browse or search a large variety of add-ons that you can install to enhance your Google Doc experience.

Since we know what we are looking for I will just search for Kaizena in the search window near the top right hand corner.

You will see your result and all you have to do now is click the Free button to start the installation.

NOTE: I HAD POP UP BLOCKS AND HAD TO CLICK THE FREE BUTTON A SECOND TIME TO ACTUALLY START THIS PROCESS. I WAS AND AM USING CHROME

Once it starts Google will ask you which account you would like to use. Pick your account or sign into Google to start this process. It will ask you to Allow certain permissions that Kaizena wants to do. Go ahead and click Allow.

It will go ahead and install it. Something to know is that Kaizena will be available for all of your Google Docs not just this particular document. When it loads you will be taken back to your document and you should see this little notification letting you know that it has been installed.

Using Kaizena

Now that it is installed let’s launch it. Go to Add-ons in the menu bar and then select Kaizena (Voice Comments) and finally select Open Kaizena.

When you open Kaizena a window will slide out of the far right side of the document. Your first time it will want you to Complete your profile which means selecting your name from a school list. If your school isn’t there you will need to add your school. Basically there is no way that I can see getting past this part which stinks a little but you have to keep in mind that this is a free service.

Once you add your school and the subject and grade level that you teach it will bring up a quick tutorial.

As you can see you have four options. You can:
– leave a voice message
– track a skill
– attach a lesson
– text message

Let’s take a look at the most powerful of its features – the Voice Message. When you click the Voice Message option a little box will appear with a Record button. I like that. It gives you a little more notice and time to compose your thoughts.

When you finally hit the Record button you will be prompted to allow Kaizena to use your mic. I don’t seem to find a way to use a USB mic or a headset. The voice message itself sounds OK though and I was surprised and how quickly it actually posted. I could listen to it almost immediately after I recorded it.

Since I have a free account I can only record 30 second messages but I think I can do unlimited voice messages so that is OK.

A really nice feature is the highlighting. At first I was a little unsure how this worked but after playing around with it for a few minutes I now get it. You highlight some text you would like to comment on. Then you chose whether you want to use a voice comment, skill, lesson or text message. Select one of those and then add your comment. It will then leave it highlighted in the document (even if Kaizena is not opened) making it easy to give the comment more context. Very nice.

So let’s take a look at the other options. Text is just what you would expect. This is actually built into Google Docs anyway, so it is a bit redundant but I get it. You want all your comments in one place. The other two are interesting.

The Skill feature lets you rate a particular skill. For example lets you rate a very particular skill. Kaizena has some preloaded basic skills but you can also make your own by heading to app.kaizena.com.

For this example I am going to rate my title. So, I highlight it, select the Skill button and then chose the Title skill. Now Kaizena asks me to rate it out of four. I’ll give it three for whatever reason. You can add more levels and add descriptions about what each level means. It’s nice – it is like a rubric that for you. I can see a number of teachers using and liking this feature. It is pretty simple and very visual. I can see some people wanting to type in a comment along with the rating, but Kaizena does not allow this and I think it is a good thing. You could go and leave a voice message in addition to it, but this feature is just to give the author and the teacher some quick visual feedback.

The Lesson feature is also created at app.kaizena.com. This … needs a little work. A lesson is just that. You can type instructions in or you can embed a YouTube video into the lesson. For example if you want your students to practice using a semicolon. A lesson may help remind them. I see the idea here and written instructions are definitely the way to go. YouTube videos are soooo small and tiny it seems kind of silly if you ask me. I think this is an OK idea but I just don’t love the way it is implemented.

Student view

This is something I really like about Kaizena. The student view is basically the same as the teacher view. Students can view all the comments left by the teacher and reply to each and every one of them if he/she chooses.

I think students could really leverage Kaizena by highlighting passages and start asking questions before the teacher gets their eyeballs on it. This is good.

Conclusion

Should you use Kaizena? Yes – definitely. It is an effective and efficient way to give meaningful feedback to your students. If you’re a teacher then you know how valuable and important feedback is to the learning process period. If your school has G Suite and you use Google Apps in your class you then Kaizena is a great improvement over the standard commenting built into Google Docs.

Kaizena is also free too – definitely check it out.

Kaizena