How To Use Google Voice Commands In Google Drive

Editor’s note: This is a revised version of an article we originally ran on March 22nd, 2014, updated to reflect the latest Google innovations.

Since its inception, Google Drive has been a source of excitement for innovation-minded educators. However, as with any new teaching technology, you may find yourself thinking “it sounds intriguing, but will it really make a difference?” In regards to Drive features like audio feedback, the answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. Aside from offering convenience and helping spare teachers from endless amounts of typing, the addition of voice commenting brings with it profound benefits to the learning experience as a whole. Below, you’ll find five compelling reasons to give it a try, as well as a simple guide on how to get started.

Image via Flickr by Ben Marvin

Image via Flickr by Ben Marvin

Conversational Grading:

Red ink is synonymous with financial debt and academic failure. Certainly, the mere sight of it is capable of speeding up heartbeats. Nevertheless, to err is to be human, and constructive criticism is crucial to effective teaching. Yet, that doesn’t mean learning from mistakes has to be unpleasant. In fact, it presents educators with an excellent opportunity to connect with students on an individual level, thereby laying the groundwork for future success.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much that can be said with traditional grading methods. Worse, such highly condensed feedback runs the risk of feeling less like valuable insight and more like superficial pickiness. With voice commenting, in-depth analysis can be given without subjecting eyes to intimidating large blocks of text. More importantly, its conversational style serves to remind students of your personal commitment to their progress.

Language Learning:

Whether English or Mandarin Chinese, learning another language can undoubtedly seem like a daunting task. More often than not, it demands temporarily abandoning everything you know about pronunciation and cadence. Indeed, this requires language students to not only learn what a word means, but also how to use it without inducing laughter or confusion in native speakers. Without a doubt, voice commenting proves to be an invaluable tool for explaining these subtle verbal nuances.

Speaking Tests and Oral Essays


With Drive apps like Kaizena, voice commenting isn’t just a one-way street. As the video above demonstrates, it also allows students to submit audio essays and tests. This, of course, is another huge benefit for anyone teaching a language. However, no matter your subject, it’s an excellent opportunity to spice things up and engage students in a fun new way.

Disability Friendly Learning:

When it comes to accommodating students diagnosed with certain learning disabilities, voice feedback can provide some much-needed support. NLD (Nonverbal Learning Disability), for example, is a syndrome that drastically diminishes the capacity of an individual to process and understand the written word. That said, the majority of people suffering from this condition are extremely gifted and eloquently spoken — typically possessing the uncanny ability to recall even the smallest details of a spoken conversation. Needless to say, providing these students with convenient access to customized auditory learning is tremendously beneficial.

Distance Education:

Increasingly, educators are beginning to supplement their income by teaching students enrolled in distance learning programs. Florida Virtual School, for instance, boasts over 200,000 full-time k-12 students from all across the country. Of course, this is just one school of many, and fast growing services like Udemy are also ripe with teaching opportunities. Regardless of the platform you utilize, voice feedback makes it easy to infuse the human element into your online instructions.

How to Use Google Voice Commenting

By now, you’re probably eager to capitalize on this powerful, free tool. Wise choice: just follow these simple step-by-step instructions and you’ll soon be breathing new life into your grading sessions.

Go to your Google Drive


Once in your Drive, click on “Create”. That will engage a drop-down menu. Select the last option on the bottom “Connect More Apps”

219x355xScreen-Shot-2014-03-01-at-10.28.35-AM.png.pagespeed.ic.YFufFopcIsYou’ll see a dialog box appear, and a search box at the top right. Type in “voice comments” and select the application of your choice. We’ve chosen Kaizena, as you can see below. Click on the blue “connect” button (which has turned green in our screenshot below and says ‘rate it’, since we have installed it).

620x191xScreen-Shot-2014-03-01-at-10.31.55-AM-620x191.png.pagespeed.ic.clvDSrZ4NvYou’re connected! Head back to your Drive and right click on the document you wish to open. Go to “open with” and then select Kaizena (or whatever other voice commenting option you’ve chosen). We’ve selected a guest post that was shared with us awhile back from the lovely Dawn Casey Rowe.

422x353xScreen-Shot-2014-03-01-at-10.35.13-AM.png.pagespeed.ic.idKMkch73HYour selected document will open (in a new window, as is normal with Google Drive). Once you’ve opened a document, use your mouse to highlight something to give feedback on. When you’re done highlighting, a small box will pop up offering you three options, a link to resources you think are relevant, typed feedback, and voice feedback. Select the voice feedback option (that looks like a microphone).


You’ll need to allow the program to access your microphone. A dialog box will pop up – make sure to click ‘allow’ inside that dialog box before clicking on “Done! Let me record”.


Once that’s all set, you’ll see a small box with two options – record and cancel. Click record and start speaking. You’ll see the white bars in the middle of the box turn a greenish blue as you speak, and a small timer on the left bottom corner of the box letting you know how long you’ve been jabbering away. Click “stop” when you’re done (which replaces “cancel” in the bottom right corner).


When you create voice feedback, the dialog box below shows up on the left side of your screen. You can scroll through each comment with the buttons at the top that say previous and next, and you can hear each comment by pressing the play button (forward arrow). You can also return to this box if it disappears by clicking on a highlighted area in the text (which indicates a comment has been made on that portion).


Additionally, each time you make a comment, you can choose who that feedback is shared with (if the document has been shared with multiple users). So if you’re sharing documents with a group that is collaborating on a project, you can share your commentary with the whole group, or you can share commentary individually for each writer if you choose. When you highlight text to comment on, you’ll see the option on the left for who you want the feedback to be shared with.


Go forth and comment! Enjoy!


  1. Desiree

    March 28, 2015 at 10:57 am

    How do the 40% of the kids that don’t have access to WIFI at home see these notes? Does the tool enable those children to respond offline?

  2. Aiden Wolfe

    March 28, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Hey Desiree,

    Always a pleasure to hear from readers. Your comment speaks to one of the core issues in implementing the latest technology in many of today’s classrooms. As a publication, we make it our mission to cover the newest technologies, but we turn to you let us know about the implementation issues you face on the ground. We cover some of those issues here, but please do keep speaking up and using our comments or Twitter feed to discuss solutions. Thanks for adding to the conversation!