Use Your Voice to Do Even More with Google Docs

Education & Technology
Voice Comments[Image credits: CC Flickr by]

So often, when correcting papers, you wish that you could call your student to your side and have a little chat with him about comma splices or using examples to support his ideas. You can explain an idea in a few spoken words, but it often takes much more writing to convey the same idea. Furthermore, you can be a lot more critical if the students can hear the warmth in your voice.

Likewise, learners often appreciate a voice. Many learners need to both hear and read a concept in order to make sense of it. Some kids simply cannot learn a new idea if they do not hear it.

With online students, it becomes all the more critical to add your personality. We have to help our students to know that we are real people, who really want them to learn.

I am going to show you two easy ways to make Voice Comments on an essay.

Create Screencasts and upload them to Google Docs

It is surprisingly easy to create screencasts. Check out this example that I made with YouCam 5:

There are a lot of free screencast programs ( and Jing, for example). I had a myriad of problems with these related to my firewalls and my anti-virus software. When I was just about to give up, I decided to look and see what video equipment came pre-installed in my computer. I had YouCam 3, ready to go. In order to create these screencasts, I had to upgrade to YouCam 5. It was $20, but it made this whole process as easy as pie. Here is what you do:

Step 1: Open the Document that you want to make comments on. I have my students submit their work on Google Drive, however, you can use this method to make voice comments on any document in any word processor. In Google Drive, it will look like this:

Step 2: Read through the document and make written comments on it, like this:Step 3: Open YouCam5, and set it up for a desktop capture.

Step 4: A dialog box will appear.

Step 5:  After a 3 second countdown, YouCam will start recording your screen. I click over to the doc that I am correcting, and wait a second or two, and start to talk. When you are through, return to the YouCam tab and press stop.

Step 5: Your video will be saved in your YouCam Screen cast folder. Then, return to Google Drive.


Step 6: Your video will be uploaded, and ready to share.

Pros and Cons of uploading a Screencast to Google Drive:

This process is a tiny bit more cumbersome than simply using the Voice Comments button on Google. However, when the students open the screencast, they get to see exactly where you made comments, and they can both see and hear your comments at the same time. If you are working with younger students or students with any learning issues this is the better of the two methods that I am showing you. If you are working with academically strong high school students or college students, the next method is more efficient.


Enable Voice Comments on Google Drive

Google Drive has an App that allows you to make voice comments, completely within Drive.

To set up Voice Comments on Google Drive, follow these steps:

Step 1: From Google Docs:

Step 2:

Step 3: Connect to the Voice Comments app.

Step 4: Return to your Google Drive Folder:

Step 5: Your Document will open in new window. The tool is called 121 writing. You will be able to highlight and make voice comments. There is a really short, useful video:

Step 6: Make your comments and share it with your students.

Pros and Cons of Voice Comments on Google Drive.

This is an undeniably efficient way to make voice comments. In just minutes, you will be able to share the comments, and they are instantly available to your student. The only con is that it is not easy to leave both written and spoken comments on the same document. If you want to leave written comments, you have to open the window for Google Drive. Also, you cannot write or draw on the page while you are speaking. There are essentially 2 copies of the paper, one with written comments and one with voice comments.

Voice Comments in an online writing course are essential.

They help our students know that we are human beings and the help to make ideas more clear that they can be made with written notes, alone.

Have any suggestions or wish to share your experience with voice comments? Feel free to leave me a message in comments below.



I am a teacher, hiker, mother, dancer and home-maker. I have taught pre-school through SAT prep. I am exploring ways to create on-line learning communities for home-schooled middle school and high school students. In particular, I am starting a low-residency on-line middle school. I would like to help young people explore important ideas while enjoying their lives! You can learn more about my programs at

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