Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
8/5/2013
09:59 AM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate

Some educators say the benefits of EdX's writing-grading software have been over-hyped. But I see a role for automation in the classroom.

I appreciate that English teachers fret about societal pressure on schools to quit creating well-informed citizens and instead create tech- and math-savvy workers. It's a clear blow to the value of the humanities. I understand that Elijah Mayfield secretly wishes the New York Times had written an article about his automated writing assessment startup, Lightside Lab.

But automating essay grading helps English teachers. And in his post, Mayfield comments that "this technology isn't replacing teachers; it's enabling them to get students help, practice and experience with writing that the education field has never seen before, and without machine learning technology, will never see."

Funny, that's sounds just like EdX's goal, too.

Whether it's EdX, Lightside or somebody else, we need to applaud them and push them forward. I occasionally teach journalism and would love to throw a tool at students that could help them with grammar and basic textual analysis of their style. The tools aren't ready, or at least, the EdX tool is not.

We need them. Our time as teachers is best spent on other things.

Michael B. Horn, executive director of the Clayton Christensen Institute's education program, told me via email that "automatic scoring can do several things very well and the technology is improving. Where the alternative is nothing, it is ideal, because it will be infinitely better and not compete directly against human graders."

We fear being automated out of the workforce, but we also fantasize about how technology will spare us from the drudgery and toil of subsistence living, be it wishing elves would hand-stitch shoes for us, magic beans would help us escape from a life breaking our backs digging furrows with hoes or, yes, that we could automate Strunk and White.

When we've got that last bit down, it will be high time to kick our feet up and take a well-deserved nap.

Previous
2 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
David F. Carr
50%
50%
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/5/2013 | 4:34:19 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
If you have tested or used software like this, we would love to get your comments here. - David F. Carr, InformationWeek Education
Martinberk
50%
50%
Martinberk,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2013 | 12:40:57 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
One thing I just want to say is that your blog is so perfect.Commercial approaches to essay grading.coursework writing service uk "order coursework now "need coursework
Helendina
50%
50%
Helendina,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/16/2013 | 9:16:52 AM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
Essay grading is informative article and good post.Essay Boutique
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
12/24/2013 | 9:44:32 AM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
Automated scoring for writing has been around for a few years now. I wrote about the debate on the issue in 2012 in Automated Systems 'Grade' Written Work
Michael Fitzgerald
50%
50%
Michael Fitzgerald,
User Rank: Moderator
8/5/2013 | 6:51:26 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
i'd also like to hear from teachers about how hard it will be to add such tools to class, when the tools are ready.
JulieP840
50%
50%
JulieP840,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/5/2013 | 8:38:21 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
Education is like other sectors in that technology can -- and should -- be used to leverage what people do best. When technology like this is done well, it can be a boon to teachers and students, not a job-killer (or nap-inducer). Technology like this also has the potential to help teachers target the students who need help, the areas of content/skill that most need addressing across the group/class, etc.
JulieP840
50%
50%
JulieP840,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/8/2013 | 4:14:55 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
See also this same debate playing out in the medical field: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/20...
Cara Latham
50%
50%
Cara Latham,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/5/2013 | 8:47:14 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
I think there is definitely a benefit to helping students learn the basics of grammar. A teacher can then focus on more important ideas -- themes, writing style, whether or not the paper flows, and other creative commentary. I don't, however, think one can grade creativity without a human element involved.
FrankCatalano
50%
50%
FrankCatalano,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/5/2013 | 11:08:52 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
"They cannot get such feedback now." Not entirely true, as the earlier aside "which has been around for a while" implies. While this may be new to a MOOC or higher ed audience, automated essay graders have been both around and actively in use in K-12 for years. The usual use is not high-stakes scoring, but providing opportunities for students to practice writing and summarizing skills with teacher-directed settings for what kind of feedback to provide, and at what threshold.

For example, I worked on Pearson Knowledge Technologies' launch of WriteToLearn in 2006, based on an underlying engine from what had been called Knowledge Analysis Technologies before it was acquired by Pearson. Active competitors at the time were ETS and Vantage Learning, among others, with their own engines. Many, if not all, of these products are still on the market and in use. (I haven't had a direct affiliation with any of these products for years, in the interest of full disclosure.)

This isn't to say the underlying tech can't be improved, as it has been regularly since then, and perhaps by its efforts EdX can spur continued improvement.
David F. Carr
50%
50%
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/5/2013 | 11:51:27 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
Thanks for sharing the history, Frank
Michael Fitzgerald
50%
50%
Michael Fitzgerald,
User Rank: Moderator
8/6/2013 | 6:34:14 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
Thanks, Frank. how widely used are/were these tools? I would love to see them adopted broadly.
FrankCatalano
50%
50%
FrankCatalano,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/6/2013 | 7:00:38 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
I know Pearson's WriteToLearn is still actively being sold and is in use in schools. ETS, as I recall, licensed its Criterion service, based on its E-Rater engine, to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for use in its digital products in K-12 and still offers it directly for other education segments. Vantage Learning's My Access product, based on its IntelliMetric engine, appears to still be available for school and home. (I found active pages for each via Google.)

Side note: Oddly, the harder task is not so much providing good feedback on essays, it's being able to do the same with short answers. That's sort of the Holy Grail of automated text scoring, and I don't know of any organization that has been able to comprehensively nail that.
Michael Fitzgerald
50%
50%
Michael Fitzgerald,
User Rank: Moderator
8/9/2013 | 1:54:48 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
here's a link to an interesting blog post by Vik Paruchuri, quoted in the story above, about the commercial and non-commercial approaches to essay grading. http://vikparuchuri.com/blog/o...
Thx, juliep840
jamesbond7s
50%
50%
jamesbond7s,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/22/2014 | 1:53:02 AM
Thanks
Ya i have check your provided link Education is like other sectors in that technology can -- and should -- be used to leverage what people do best. When technology like this is done well, it can be a boon to teachers and students,

 
Stewartagron
50%
50%
Stewartagron,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/3/2014 | 1:36:03 AM
Re: Thanks
My friend wrote a story about his cat that was grammatically correct,and used big words, but made little to no sense. The auto-grader program told him he was approaching PHD level English. So he took his paper into school and showed it to the English teachers who reviled at it. He was like,"Show's what you know, the computer told me I'm university level."How To Get Dissertation Writing Service
<a href="http://www.dissertationarena.co.uk/">Writing Dissertation</a> 
stephjosh
50%
50%
stephjosh,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/12/2014 | 10:57:41 AM
Very Nice
Your post was good and the information that you giving your post that was really cool. I like it very much. Thanks for posting this. Please
share more information and I will bookmark to my blog sewa mobil jakarta
rdokoye
50%
50%
rdokoye,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/9/2014 | 9:45:31 AM
Interesting, my opinion is
I personally like the idea of an automated grading tool, because I think the benefits are two fold, in that they remove prejudice from grading, which is still a major issue and they always make things more clear and cut, there's no grey area, people will know exactly what they've gotten wrong and why. All these applications are the future anyway, as time progresses, we may even transistion to internet schooling.
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Must Reads Oct. 21, 2014
InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of digital strategy. Learn why you should learn to embrace DevOps, how to avoid roadblocks for digital projects, what the five steps to API management are, and more.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and trends on InformationWeek.com
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.