Talk to Text: A Hack on Grading

Teacher assesses grading on paper

A wise and dear colleague of mine, now retired, once said to me as we walked to class, “I teach for free; they pay me to grade.” I have found in my 22 years of teaching that I concur with his sage wisdom. I love my job! I love teaching! But…the tedium of grading exhausts me, especially in the typical mid-semester and end-of-semester timelines.

Despite the fatigue it causes me, I understand that students can only learn something if I correct them. Hattie’s (1987) meta-analysis of 87 studies—or any quick google search—demonstrates the robustness of the literature that strongly supports this hypothesis. With that in mind, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to give students the best possible opportunity to learn from their mistakes, an act that requires deep thought but clear and concise wording on my part. However, it is the minimum of five to 10 minutes per paper of typing in comments within the learning management system (LMS) for any/all electronically submitted coursework that finds me lagging behind to complete my grading.

Fortunately, with the advent of ubiquitous technology and its continued improvement, I have found a particular “hack” that allows for robust and effective feedback to my students and minimal effort on my part. In short, while using any mobile device or certain laptop computers, open the LMS and the box where you would normally type your comments toward any student assignment. Then, push the button on your tablet or phone for the talk to text and begin commenting. (I have presented this concept at a variety of technology driven conferences and have been met with astonishment and awe at the simplicity of this grading solution.)

You will need to verbally speak the words “period” or “comma” to have grammatically correct sentences for clarity to your students. This is a little odd to anyone who can overhear you grading in your office, but it saves so much time that it is definitely worth the risk of judgment. You can give the greatly detailed, necessary feedback to your students (Ackerman 2010; Furnborogh 2009, Gibbs & Simpson 2005; Hattie 1987) in a matter of seconds using this manner of grading.

Additionally, albeit similar to traditionally typed comments into an LMS, you will still need to do a quick scan to make sure that there are no typographical errors. Fortunately, many of these edits are easily and quickly fixed by another round of talking to text.

I do let my students know that this is how I complete the comments toward assigning a grade on any assessment, just in case I miss the inadvertent typographical error. With that in mind, some of my students take my admission of my grading process as a suggestion; some students choose to write their papers the same way. To laser-focus their thoughts and ideas as well as avoid writer’s block, I strongly encourage them to do so.

It appears that the combination of focusing on critical thinking in the academic environment (Ennis 2011; Halpern 2013; Paul 1990), as well as building on 21st-century skills (Bell 2010) by using the talk to text functionality available to build and/or grade papers, seems like the best of what can be for both students and professors. (And, yes, I am currently writing this from my iPad in the Google Docs app.) I am invigorated by the act of teaching, enjoy learning new things, and embrace the ever-evolving relationship between pedagogy and technology. Moreover, I have always embraced Marc Antony’s adage of, “If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.”

With all of those elements put together and my iPad in my hand, unlike my friend Dan mentioned at the beginning of this article, I am not sure I will ever need to retire!

Vicki Ingalls is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Tiffin University in Northwest Ohio. She enjoys both tech-ing and trek-ing (i.e. playing with technology and running/hiking/power-walking) with her husband and triplet teenage daughters.


Ackerman, David S., and Barbara L. Gross. “Instructor feedback: How much do students really want?.” Journal of Marketing Education 32, no. 2 (2010): 172-181.

Bell, Stephanie. “Project-based learning for the 21st century: Skills for the future.” The Clearing House 83, no. 2 (2010): 39-43.

Ennis, Robert. Critical Thinking. Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines 26, no. 2, (2011): 5-19.

Furnborough, Concha, and Mike Truman. “Adult beginner distance language learner perceptions and use of assignment feedback.” Distance Education 30, no. 3 (2009): 399-418.

Gibbs, Graham, and Claire Simpson. “Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning.” Learning and teaching in higher education 1 (2005): 3-31.

Halpern, Diane F. Thought and knowledge: An introduction to critical thinking. Psychology Press, 2013.

Fraser, Barry J. “Identifying the Salient Facets of a Model of Student Learning: A Synthesis of Meta Analyses.” International Journal of Educational Research 11, no. 2 (1987): 187-212.

Paul, Richard. Critical thinking. Rohnert Park, CA: Sonoma State University, 1990.