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awe, and humor; or use precisely the
right word to express an opinion or feeling. Teachers can help students engage in
self-reflection about their writing using
not only grades, but also the opinions of
other readers to inform their writing process. They can provide guidance in a way
that computers cannot, and this is what
they should be doing. Forego the red pen
and instead sit with your young writers
and engage in conversation to help them
find the words and their voice.
—Steve Taffee has been a high school English
teacher, a professor of education, an educational
software developer, a high-tech executive, and a
grade 6–12 director of technology. He currently
consults in the areas of strategic planning, faculty
development, and technology integration. Read
his blog at taffee.edublogs.org.
than the byline. The writer-reader
connection is a distinctly human
experience: One has something to
say, and one has the desire to listen.
We all want students to write
well. The first lessons of writing are
lessons of audience and purpose. If
we’re teaching our students to write
for a computer audience with a generic purpose, we have missed the mark
as digital age educators. Computer-graded essays might cut costs, but
at what cost?
—Evi Wusk, EdD, is an assistant professor of
education at Peru State College in Nebraska,
USA, where she teaches courses in educational
technology and co-directs the iPad virtual learning community. Follow her on Twitter @eviwusk.
Feedback Should Be Personal
When we ask our students to write an essay, the last
thing we should care about is the marks they get. In
the process of reading my students’ assignments, I
trace their weak areas and provide additional information. No computer can provide such information.
George S. Mouzakitis
Benefits Outweigh the Drawbacks
The benefits of automated scoring far outweigh any
drawbacks. My students receive feedback within
three seconds that is consistent, accurate, and thorough. I know that on that 63rd essay, I am nowhere
near as consistent, accurate, or thorough as I was on
the first 3. This technology also allows my students to
write more. With increased quantity, I consistently see
marked increases in the quality of writing.
Middle School English Language Arts Teacher
Canton, Georgia, USA
Does Not Compute
Computational logic produces computational
communication. It stands to reason, then, that
computational assessment rewards computational
communication, as a rubric can only reward that
which it can recognize.
Educational Technologist/Administrator/Music Educator
Pros and Cons
When an administrator introduced me to a program
that checks for plagiarism and grades the mechanics
of student writing, I was eager to experiment. Keeping
track of student writing in an electronic portfolio that I
could refer to in conferences was an immediate selling point. I find the grammar and style checker somewhat clumsy. While I believe it saves me time marking
things like fragments, subject-verb disagreements,
passive voice, and misplaced commas, I also have to
spend considerable time cleaning up its mess. The
aspect of electronically graded papers I like best is
that I can offer substantive commentary for students.
Sarasota, Florida, USA
The Human Touch
A computer reduces writing to an algorithm. The programmer of these algorithms reduces “quality” writing
to the number of misspellings, length of sentences,
number of times words are used, subject-verb agreement, or other grammatical errors. They can’t “read”
a piece of writing and truly interpret the author’s craft,
voice, or subtle descriptive language that evokes a
reader’s emotions, thus engaging them in the words.
They also can’t see improvement in writing and nurture student growth.
Coordinator of Instruction
Vestal, New York, USA
Three Steps to Make It Work
As long as the teacher never relinquishes authority to
the computer, incorporating technology makes sense
in grading papers. The challenge becomes, how do
we make this work as a coherent system? I propose
a hybrid approach. First, use computerized scoring to
ease the repetitive load: Check for spelling, grammar,
and plagiarism. Second, use teacher grading for at
least one formal essay every grading period; focus on
critical thinking and creativity. Third, utilize peer review
in collaborative groups.
San Francisco, California, USA
An Appeal to the Teacher’s Heart
Teachers: With whatever strength remains in your
body and soul, take those pages that you clutch in
your hand and raise them high. This is the reason
you came to teach. In the heat of battle, when the
burden seems unbearable, do not relinquish your
living, pulsing dignity to that plastic box full of
wires and fans. When the heartbeat on the page is
weak, rush to the rescue! When the stream of life
on the page is choked, clear a passage. And if you
should be so lucky to find yourself overwhelmed
with the vitality on those pages, do not drown.
Swim! Wallpaper the room with them, pass them
out like flyers on the street. Do not feed them to
Seventh Grade Language Arts Teacher
Albemarle, Virginia, USA