Have students RECORD key assignments as MP3s so you can listen, not read.
As an English teacher, I always felt like I was drowning in a sea of papers. I needed to get the students to do high quality thinking, and the only way I knew how to evaluate that thinking was through their writing. Last semester, I got smart and had them turn in their final art reflections as MP3 files that I could just load up in my ipod and listen to while I was walking my dog or commuting back and forth to work.
You have to structure the assignment so students are required to write out their answers first– not just improvise an answer. I did this by A) using this technique on a high-stakes assignment, and B) giving students a list of specific questions I expected them to answer.
Audacity is a free, open source audio recording and editing program that students can download and use from home or at school. There is very little learning curve, and kids can easily record, edit, and export an MP3 (provided they have the LameLib, a file required for MP3 output), then send it to you via email. They can also easily post MP3s to a blog using Posterous.com.
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