Can Robots Do It Better?

Maybe you’ve seen the new generation of automated essay grading software, as discussed in The New York Times.

These computerized essay scoring programs are plagued with problems, but I am intrigued by the idea of using grading software as a peer-editing option. Perhaps the computer’s algorithms could help identify glaring weak spots in an essay, giving the student a chance to revise (or to decide the computer is completely wrong) before final draft submission.

Could a robot provide more valuable feedback to students than I do? No way. Could a robot be a helpful peer editor? Maybe. Since I plan on teaching for another 20 years or so, I guess I’ll be around to see these questions get answered.

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6 years ago

Last semester when I was student-teaching 11th grade, my mentor teacher had students submit their rough drafts of their essays to an essay-editing program, and they had to read through the results and make changes based on what the program found. She was hoping this would cut down on some of the worst grammar and spelling issues.

Perhaps she found it effective, but I didn’t. If we’d been working in a one-to-one school where every kid had a laptop (like the school I’m student-teaching in now) it might have worked better, but I found the submission process and making sure everyone got to run their essay through and print was just more hassle than it was worth. Quite a few of the kids didn’t even read the report or make any changes, to the extent that my mentor created a whole new assignment and had students revise the essay for credit.

They’re interesting tools, but I don’t know how I feel about them, myself. I learned a lot of my grammar skills from peer editing – either through editing a peer’s paper or from challenging a peer’s edits on my paper (it encouraged me to look up what was correct to see if the edit was actually warranted). Now most students don’t do that either, but some might. I’d be interested to hear from a teacher who has found real success using an online essay editor, as I’d like to know how she is incorporating it! If you ever find success with it, please blog about what you did!

Laura Randazzo
6 years ago
Reply to  VictoriaH

Will do, Victoria. For now, I send kids to the Paper Checker website to run their drafts on their own time. Some do, many don’t. Still, it’s been helpful for a few students. It’s a free service here: I know other teachers swear by Grammarly, but I haven’t used that resource yet. Definitely would love to hear from others who’ve had success.

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