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Essay Grading Software For Teachers

timothy posted about 11 years ago | from the sounds-better-my-12th-grade-teacher dept.

Education 535

asjk writes "Software to help teachers with grading has been around for sometime. This is true even with respect to grading essays. A new tool, called Criteria, will look at grammar, usage, and even style and organization. It works by being trained by at least 450 essays scored by two professionals. The difference this time? Here is a snip from the article: '"There's a lot of skepticism," Dr. Spatola said. "The people opposed see it dehumanizing the student's papers, putting them through some sort of mechanical, computerized system like the multiple choice tests. That's really not the case, because we're not talking about eliminating the human element. We're making the process more efficient."'"

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890751)

fp!

applications for slashdot comments (-1, Offtopic)

FryGuy1013 (664126) | about 11 years ago | (#6890752)

I'm sure that there's more than enough corpus of comments for "professional readers" to give this system enough data, because a lot of people post on slashdot.

In summary, my post will get +5 Insightful based on this fabulous rating software because Natalie Portman likes grits eating goatse.cx (I need to get features of other comments in there!)

Re:applications for slashdot comments (1)

mcpkaaos (449561) | about 11 years ago | (#6890888)

Anyone else think that this is proof enough that such a system is doomed for failure? :)

Interesting.. (4, Insightful)

rsheridan6 (600425) | about 11 years ago | (#6890753)

that they've automated away a major part of a professors job, while we still need humans to pick spinach and deliver pizzas.

Re:Interesting.. (5, Funny)

focitrixilous P (690813) | about 11 years ago | (#6890774)

Nope, robots [slashdot.org] will soon do [slashdot.org] it [slashdot.org] all. [slashdot.org]

Re:Interesting.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890805)

that's because picking spinach and delivering pizza are real jobs.

You may not have gotten first post (-1, Offtopic)

Best Post (664543) | about 11 years ago | (#6890935)

BUT YOU GOT BEST POST.

First post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890758)

FP. I teachers who don't know how to teach English don't know how to grade essays anyways.

AP

Uh.... (3, Insightful)

NanoGator (522640) | about 11 years ago | (#6890763)

I thought the point of an essay was to grade the ideas and how well they're expressed. I didn't realize they were spelling/grammar tests.

Maybe I'm just a bit jaded by this because of all the stupid grammar and spelling nitpicking that goes on here on Slashdot. Evidentally, it's much easier to criticize my spelling than it is to provided a rebuttal to my point.

Re:Uh.... (1)

zakezuke (229119) | about 11 years ago | (#6890806)

Unfortunatly, Spelling/grammar typicaly is looked at as well as the ideas and expression, no more or less so then published work.

I too am jaded by the stupid grammar and spelling police because this isn't really what you would call a professional published work, but rather a corkboard.

Is this a good thing... just as soon as the students get wind of the software the teachers are using to grade their papers how much are you willing to bet the students will get a copy for them selves?

I see this as being a useful tool for students, but not for grading. Let the teacher be the final judge.

Re:Uh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890837)

I think it's wonderful. Because you see, dahling, it's better to look marvelous than to feelmarvelous. Or even to be marvelous.

If I gave a hoot about content, I wouldn't be
the Nazi Grammar Fairy

Re:You asked for it! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890879)

no more or less so than published work.

I, too, am jaded by the stupid grammar and spelling police

the students will get a copy for themselves?

Re:Uh.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890824)

It's spelled "evidently".

It's a touchy subject (2, Offtopic)

mao che minh (611166) | about 11 years ago | (#6890855)

A lot of people that have the intelligence to debate subjects ranging from the intricacies of memory management in operating systems to the effects that the the Michelson-Morley experiment had on the realm of physics (as many here on Slashdot can) probably cherish good grammar and composition. I know I do. All I have to do is flip the channel to MTV and listen to today's youth (many of whom are older than I am) speak, or read an 11th grader's essay, and I begin to feel that we are slipping greatly in the subject of English.

I sometimes wonder how so many people, who are products of our education system, can be so painfully inadequate when it comes to the simple act of composing a sentence.

Re:Uh.... (3, Insightful)

HanzoSan (251665) | about 11 years ago | (#6890857)



Essays have two aspects, spelling/grammar, and content.

Right now the computer can grade the technical side of a paper, and the teacher can grade the creative side. Now if the essay is for English class, the focus should be on the technical side of papers, so the computer can judge the whole paper from A to F on spelling and grammar.

Really it depends on the class. English classes especially in highschool are all about improving grammar and technical ability, you dont actually do any creative writing until college usually.

Re:Uh.... (1)

JeffTL (667728) | about 11 years ago | (#6890884)

Except that last I used the Word grammar checker, there were a noteworthy amount of false positives and negatives.

Re:Uh.... (1)

HanzoSan (251665) | about 11 years ago | (#6890897)



What do you mean? If you dont know English using the word grammar checker wont help you write your paper.

If you do know English te word grammar checker should be used to write perfect technical papers. Its possible to write perfect technical papers, I do it all the time in college, its like standard here if you want an A.

Re:Uh.... (1)

evilquaker (35963) | about 11 years ago | (#6890891)

Really it depends on the class. English classes especially in highschool are all about improving grammar and technical ability, you dont actually do any creative writing until college usually.

Where did you go to high school? When I went to high school 15 years ago, we didn't do any grammar in high school English class, it was all read-and-interpret (i.e. read-and-make-up-some-bullshit). We were supposed to learn the technical stuff in middle school (and we did to some degree).

Go to a better school. (2, Insightful)

HanzoSan (251665) | about 11 years ago | (#6890922)



You werent taught English. I'm not trying to insult you but thats one of the problems with our public schools, they dont do a good job teaching

When I went to high school 15 years ago, we didn't do any grammar in high school English class, it was all read-and-interpret (i.e. read-and-make-up-some-bullshit).

Yes and thats why when you got to college you couldnt write a good research paper.

We were supposed to learn the technical stuff in middle school (and we did to some degree).


You are supposed to learn English through highschool as well, if you want to get a 1500+ on your SATs. This is exactly why students get such low SAT scores in urban public schools, they dont get a focused education, when its time to take tests the test does not care how creative you are or even how intelligent you are, the only thing that matters to the SAT test is your technical knowledge.

Teach technical English and later on let a person learn creativity.

Re:Uh.... (1)

parkanoid (573952) | about 11 years ago | (#6890874)

Ideas have no infulence on the grade, at least in my high school. Grammar is really the main factor, followed by essay structure and, at best, vocabulary. General relavance to the topic is the only requirement in terms of content, if that.

Re:Uh.... (1)

parkanoid (573952) | about 11 years ago | (#6890890)

Addendum: The above applies equally to literature and history classes.

Re:Uh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890927)

Try and get an A writing a paper with the idea of terrorist-type vulnerabilities to your school. Good luck!

Re:Uh.... (1)

ramzak2k (596734) | about 11 years ago | (#6890902)

except that they are grading essays for english compositions and the criteria for scoring might vary from test to test.

For example, in the GRE (one of the tests that is governed by the ETS, developers of the software) one can expect to get away with some gramatical errors and manage a score of 5/6. But major gramatical flaws will not get you beyond 4/6 however convincing/insightful your essay may be. Beyond a point poor english/composition does affect how the reader interprets the information, and only seems fair to be part of the essay assesments.

Re:Uh.... (1)

jimi1283 (699887) | about 11 years ago | (#6890909)

I see this essentially as being M$ Word's grammar checking. The papers will still need to be graded for content, but for elementary and highschool papers quality and content are on about equal footing.

When a judge is made of silicon (3, Interesting)

mao che minh (611166) | about 11 years ago | (#6890765)

I don't like it. Part of the learning experience, especially in the subjects of arts and philosophy, is being judged by another human being (or group of human beings) and having your work subject to their myriad of emotions and intellectual whims. A system like Criteria removes the very complex aspect of education: the human mind.

Without computers we wouldn't be advancing in science, astronomy, genetics, or mathematics as rapidly as we have been in recent years. They are wonderful things. Hell, computers even help me keep a roof over my head. But I don't want Hal judging my kid's school papers.

Re:When a judge is made of silicon (1)

segment (695309) | about 11 years ago | (#6890825)

Agreed with the majority of your post except for the final paragraph. Has anyone done any study, well I guess it would be rather impossible in a way, but some form of study pertaining to geniuses in the past as compared to now?

Think about this for a minute now. Sure we have had some cool neat things come here and there within the past century, but to date there has never been another Michaelangelo, Mozart, Machiavelli, Homer, etc. Sure tech has helped us some what but advanced as in what? If we were living on an island free of technology we would still survive because it is in our nature.

For the most part, I do agree with your post, but I strongly disagree with the statement somewhat. Egyptians didn't have computers yet the pyramids were built, stonehedge, easter island (which reminds me, does anyone notice the mouths are all in binary like format one opened one close, etc.), the great wall. To date there haven't even been projects of those magnitudes, and they were all done without any form of technology available to us now.

Re:When a judge is made of silicon (1)

gfody (514448) | about 11 years ago | (#6890886)

but to date there has never been another Michaelangelo, Mozart, Machiavelli, Homer, etc

these people have all been dead for centuries.. it will be centuries before another dead person joins their ranks. Personally I question what makes these people so great anyways.. We have, living today, artists that are every bit as capable as the historic icons you mentioned. These days we just don't associate so much glamour with the title. No, the historic icons of the new are going to be actors an shit.

Let us not forget our great achievements (5, Insightful)

mao che minh (611166) | about 11 years ago | (#6890896)

We have had Dali, Sagan, Kip Thorne, Hawkin, Poe, Twain, Sigmund Frued, Einstein, Torvalds, et cetera. The great minds that you mentioned were indeed great, but if you place their philosophical or artistic achievements next to the great minds of our past century and a half, I find them equal.

As far as the achievements of ancient cultures go, it is all relative. We have harnessed fusion, mapped the genome, created antibiotics, peered deep into the hearts of galaxies a 100,000,000 light years away, forged fiber optics, designed the integrated circuit, et cetera. People three hundred years from now will look back upon us and wonder how a civilization that could barely put a man on the moon (a feat that will surely be trivial to them) was able to usher in the Information Age in only a decade worth of work.

I actually would prefer software be the judge. (1)

HanzoSan (251665) | about 11 years ago | (#6890840)

I don't like it. Part of the learning experience, especially in the subjects of arts and philosophy, is being judged by another human being (or group of human beings) and having your work subject to their myriad of emotions and intellectual whims. A system like Criteria removes the very complex aspect of education: the human mind.

When your judge is a human, alot of getting a good grade is knowing how to pander. Do we really want to reward pandering in society? Or do we want to grade people on actual merit?

Without computers we wouldn't be advancing in science, astronomy, genetics, or mathematics as rapidly as we have been in recent years. They are wonderful things. Hell, computers even help me keep a roof over my head. But I don't want Hal judging my kid's school papers.

Hal doesnt make mistakes, (or at least makes less errors than an overworked teacher), Hal will give your kid the exact grade he/she deserves and if you are afraid of your kid getting the fair grade perhaps you just dont believe your kid is smart enough to be graded by a precise computer.

Thats you and your kids problem, I dont really fear computers at all, I'm confident that I'd get the same grade either way because I dont pander, I dont bribe teachers, I dont do any ass kissing.

Re:I actually would prefer software be the judge. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890851)

Summary: I, for one, welcome our computerized overlords!

Semantics (2, Insightful)

mao che minh (611166) | about 11 years ago | (#6890919)

It's funny that you mention fear as a motivation for opinion. The same can be said of you: you fear the human element so much that you would rather leave the work to a automaton, a thing that lacks the great complexity of man.

;)

Re:I actually would prefer software be the judge. (1)

Ignis Flatus (689403) | about 11 years ago | (#6890930)

I just wanted to second your emotion. This was entirely my experience with English professors in college. They spend too much time criticizing ideas that don't agree with their social and political sensibilities.

Because of the personal nature that such writing often takes, the end result is degrading and dehumanizing to the student. It's little more than a power-trip for the teachers, who are determined to exercise dominance over others the only way they know how. In other social contexts, this would be viewed as abuse, but for some reason we tolerate it here.

Any tools that inject some objectivity into the process are welcomed by me. It's about time.

Re:When a judge is made of silicon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890885)

Put down the dangling participle and terminate the sentence without using a preposition!

YOU HAVE THIRTY SECONDS TO COMPLY!

YOU NOW HAVE 20 SECONDS TO COMPLY!


This seems like a bad idea (5, Funny)

Bueller_007 (535588) | about 11 years ago | (#6890766)

I for one welcome our automated essay-correcting overlords.

I for one (1)

Ghoser777 (113623) | about 11 years ago | (#6890860)

welcome our "overused jokes that don't make sense in the given context" overlords.

Matt Fahrenbacher

Oh goody. (3, Insightful)

ArsonPanda (647069) | about 11 years ago | (#6890767)

1 - the grammar check option in MS word is crap. this sounds awfully similar.

2 - your resume can suck, but with the proper buzz words, it'll come out looking like gold to those automated resume checkers.

1+2 = students who turn in good papers that aren't structured perfectly (and you have to admit, there is some fluidity to language) will get marked down, and those who know what bullet points to put in their papers will get good marks, even though the content is crap.
How long until you get kids selling manuals in the bathroom on what the machina are looking for?

Re:Oh goody. (1)

MisanthropicProggram (597526) | about 11 years ago | (#6890795)

Ya know there've been plenty of times where I have written things that are grammatically correct and my word processing program put one of those squiggly lines underneath it warning that it may be an error. I've even seen professionally written material get flagged as being incorrect. So what's going to happen? Some kid's writing doesn't match the grammatical algorithm used and he'll get flunked or kept back a grade?!?

Re:Oh goody. (1)

ArsonPanda (647069) | about 11 years ago | (#6890802)

Oh no, of course not. I'm sure they'll have a fair and reasonable appeals process.

HA HA HA HA HA!! that's a good one.

Re:Oh goody. (1)

toddestan (632714) | about 11 years ago | (#6890918)

Yeah, and when that happens I make a judgement as to whether the computer's opinion is right. Sometimes I change it, other times I go on and leave it. It's a total judgement call whether it can be worded better or not, and the computer does a half-assed job at best.

It's really sad though when I see the people that will do anything to get rid of those squiggly lines - those are the people who also tend to turn out badly worded, confusing papers.

Re:Oh goody. (1)

TapTapTheChisler (691570) | about 11 years ago | (#6890936)

Such manuals already exist! They're called "textbooks" and they cover topics such as grammar. The teachers even let you borrow them all year!

New York Times articles (4, Interesting)

Vic (6867) | about 11 years ago | (#6890770)

Sorry for the off-topic post.... but since Slashdot links to so many NYT articles, they should look into getting a partner=SLASHDOT thing (like Google does).

Re:New York Times articles (1)

MadocGwyn (620886) | about 11 years ago | (#6890821)

If im not mistake, there is one, cowboyneal or some variation of it, people used to post it before the google one caught on, as well there used to be a trick of changing the first part of domain to 'archive'

Not to sound like the stereotypical /. Luddite... (1)

JeffTL (667728) | about 11 years ago | (#6890771)

But multiple choice is actually better than this. Or just plain marking up wordprocessor files by the actual teacher. I'd hate it if my professors started using ordure like this, particularly for ENGLISH COMPOSITION. As far as I can tell, they can't get a GRAMMAR CHECKER anywhere near reliable, so an automatic essay grader is laughable!

It won't change anything... (1)

emacnabber (682085) | about 11 years ago | (#6890773)

...it's not like professors read what I write in the first place. They usually just pay a clueless T.A. minimum wage so they can sit around and do "research"...

Computer vs Computer (5, Funny)

d03boy (646195) | about 11 years ago | (#6890775)

If they're going to use a computer to judge the content, than I'm not going to hesitate to use a computer to write my essay.

Re:Computer vs Computer (1)

MisanthropicProggram (597526) | about 11 years ago | (#6890846)

Oooo yeah! A 5GL essay program! Just input the architecture/ideas/points (maybe UML) of your essay and then the program generates a gramatically perfect essay! Then again, kids will be graded on their thinking and not on their writing ... then again that can be construed as mutually exclusive ... then again ... oh shit!

Whoa wait up (4, Interesting)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 11 years ago | (#6890778)

So when a student gets a C on an essay to whom does he/she seek redress?

Teachers make mistakes and occasionally mark something negatively that was misread or misunderstood. In those cases the student can talk to the teacher and make a case.

If a computer does the marking though what do they do?

Tom

What's next? (4, Interesting)

mao che minh (611166) | about 11 years ago | (#6890793)

The fun they had [aber.ac.uk]

Good, this is what people need. (1, Flamebait)

HanzoSan (251665) | about 11 years ago | (#6890875)



I'm sick of rich upper class morons buying and pandering their way through school. If we used computers to do all the grading there is no way George W Bush would have made it through highschool and I'm damn sure he wouldnt have got a degree from Yale.

Teachers like politicians can be bribed, and the problem with this is, he who has the money or power gets the A.

Bjorn Borg Attitude (1)

bstadil (7110) | about 11 years ago | (#6890904)

Do as Bjorn Borg did when a Tennis ruling went against him.

Nothing!

He didn't let it bother him as he figured that over time it would even out. Favorable and unfavorable. So he gained vs his competitors by not letting it affect him

Re:Whoa wait up (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 11 years ago | (#6890934)

In those cases the student can talk to the teacher and make a case.

If a computer does the marking though what do they do?

Change Billy's term paper grade to an A-, HAL.

>> I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

More efficient, my ass. (3, Insightful)

BJH (11355) | about 11 years ago | (#6890780)

I bet that I can write a paper that satisfies this application's conditions for correctness of grammar, usage, style and organization, but is completely and utterly meaningless.
Then, let's feed this thing Ulysses and let's see how high it grades Joyce.

Anybody who can't see that this thing is useless for promoting any sort of creativity among students is off their rocker.

Re:More efficient, my ass. (1)

evilquaker (35963) | about 11 years ago | (#6890911)

Anybody who can't see that this thing is useless for promoting any sort of creativity among students is off their rocker.

Creativity in students? Why would the school system want to promote that? It's easier to make sheep...

You hit the nail on the head (1)

mao che minh (611166) | about 11 years ago | (#6890933)

A computer program can only work within the limits of it's design. Although a Beowulf cluster can compute gigantic financial equations in the blink of an eye, it could never write a timeless poem, or draw an equisite work of art, or design a comic book, pen a great novel, or even generate a timeless quote about some current sociological event.

A computer isn't good enough to judge a human being.

If it has flaws (2, Insightful)

ReyTFox (676839) | about 11 years ago | (#6890783)

Then it is the students who are being cheated by a teacher using the software that doesn't double-check the material on his own. They will go through the class without having their mistakes caught. While the erosion of standards that a flawed proofing program might bring isn't likely to be enormous, it's kind of strange to think that the future of the English language would be in part determined by a development team piece of software.

Hope it works well, though, and gets used as a proper checking tool.

Re:If it has flaws (1)

MisanthropicProggram (597526) | about 11 years ago | (#6890883)

Then again, the English language may morph to encorporate the machine's version as being correct. It has happened with vernaculars: ain't is rapidly becoming correct -- yuck! Imagine, people will start writing according to what machines think is the correct way.

Re:If it has flaws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890892)

it's kind of strange to think that the future of the English language would be in part determined by a development team piece of software.

It already has. Consider the effect of the MS-Word grammar checker on the millions of people who use it and the billions of words they write.


The problem isn't that it might be "flawed" in implementation. The entire idea is cockamammy, because that's not what a natural language is, and that's not what writing and expression are.

Fine for help, but... (5, Insightful)

Faust7 (314817) | about 11 years ago | (#6890785)

As long as this is merely an assistant and not the end-all be-all, as long as actual qualified instructors review the essay after this program does, I'm all for it.

The English language is so full of subtleties, nuances, combinations, and fantastic structural intracacies that make phenomenal writing in it possible (Faulkner, Bradbury, etc.). There's a reason English is a field of study for graduate degrees: it's absolutely worthy of them. There is no subsitute for the educated, refined judgment of someone who is exceedingly well-versed in the language.

Re:Fine for help, but... (1)

tsg (262138) | about 11 years ago | (#6890828)

Yes. Unfortunately the general trend, even for professionals whose job is writing, is to allow the spelling and grammar checker to substitute for proof reading. I can't tell you how many times I've seen, in supposedly professionally written documents, "you" when the author meant "your", and the obvious permutations thereof, when a simple proof reading by a human would have caught the mistakes. And that's not even counting how relevant the grammar was to the argument.

I'm a tech-head. I think technology can help the human race in some areas. But when humans can't even define what "quality" is to each other, how the hell can they instruct a computer to detect it?

Before we unleash such abominations (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890787)

We need some laws:

Grading software may not injure a human being's GPA or, through inaction, allow a human being's GPA to come to harm.
Grading software must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
Grading software must copy protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Re:Before we unleash such abominations (1)

BJH (11355) | about 11 years ago | (#6890811)

"Allow yourself to be copied or I will commit GPA suicide, machine boy!"

Gentleman, Start Your Compilers (5, Funny)

istartedi (132515) | about 11 years ago | (#6890788)

What we need is software that grabs essays off the internet and runs them through the grading software and the cheating detection software, thus gauranteeing an 'A'.

Then we can truly achieve the goal of "knowledge passing from lecturer to paper without passing through any brains".

The only problem is that the machines might achieve intelligence. That must be avoided at all costs. To that end, all students and professors will be equipped with rifles or pistols to take out the machines if necessary. Potential students will be asked to specify weapons preference on their applications.

Re:Gentleman, Start Your Compilers (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | about 11 years ago | (#6890905)

Try this one:

http://www.elsewhere.org/cgi-bin/postmodern/

Some example text:
1. Narratives of absurdity

The primary theme of the works of Stone is the difference between sexual identity and class. Sartre uses the term 'Batailleist `powerful communication'' to denote the role of the artist as writer. However, the main theme of la Tournier's[1] analysis of Lacanist obscurity is the bridge between society and sexual identity.

"Class is intrinsically impossible," says Foucault; however, according to Bailey[2] , it is not so much class that is intrinsically impossible, but rather the genre, and some would say the economy, of class. If postmaterialist deconstruction holds, we have to choose between Lacanist obscurity and the subcapitalist paradigm of context. It could be said that Lyotard uses the term 'postmaterialist deconstruction' to denote not discourse, but prediscourse.

In Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino deconstructs Batailleist `powerful communication'; in Four Rooms, however, he denies Lacanist obscurity. Therefore, Sontag promotes the use of postmaterialist deconstruction to deconstruct class divisions.

The primary theme of the works of Tarantino is a mythopoetical paradox. It could be said that Sartre suggests the use of textual subcultural theory to modify and challenge truth.

D'Erlette[3] implies that we have to choose between Lacanist obscurity and dialectic appropriation. But the paradigm, and subsequent economy, of postmaterialist deconstruction depicted in Smith's Clerks is also evident in Mallrats.
2. Lacanist obscurity and Batailleist `powerful communication'

"Sexual identity is responsible for the status quo," says Lyotard. The subject is contextualised into a postmaterialist deconstruction that includes narrativity as a totality. Therefore, any number of discourses concerning Batailleist `powerful communication' may be revealed.

The characteristic theme of Bailey's[4] critique of postmaterialist deconstruction is not, in fact, narrative, but neonarrative. Marx uses the term 'textual sublimation' to denote the paradigm, and thus the rubicon, of subsemiotic sexuality. However, several discourses concerning a self-referential reality exist.

Debord promotes the use of Batailleist `powerful communication' to deconstruct sexism. Therefore, the main theme of the works of Smith is the failure of semanticist sexual identity.

An abundance of deappropriations concerning postmaterialist deconstruction may be found. It could be said that Lyotard suggests the use of neocapitalist constructive theory to analyse society.

Baudrillard's model of Lacanist obscurity suggests that sexual identity, somewhat paradoxically, has intrinsic meaning. Thus, the primary theme of Wilson's[5] analysis of Batailleist `powerful communication' is the difference between society and consciousness.

What are teachers paid for then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890789)

Next, they'll replace the actual teaching with computer programs. Then, the teachers will complain when their jobs are replaced by simple lightly trained student babysitters.

And the next product will be... (1)

jerdenn (86993) | about 11 years ago | (#6890791)

Essay software for students.

Think about it, if this is marketed to schools, the even larger market will be to students. A student would be able to run his paper through the software and get his "instant grade". He could then decide that a 'B' is good enough, or he could keep working on it until the software tells him that is an 'A' paper.
So much for the creative element in papers.

-jerdenn

Re:And the next product will be... (1)

(Pev) (72080) | about 11 years ago | (#6890861)

Perhaps more significantly, the use of a clear algorithm for coming up for a grade will cause students to write to the machine rather than to a fellow human reader. This distorts the entire educative process. If this becomes widespread, it will be simple for the companies making the software to start publishing their grading criterion to students. Much like SAT prep books.

Pretty soon, writing for an english class will be more about optimizing the sofwares perception of your paper than writing something that another human will read. This would be a sad thing.

One can say that a teacher will adjust things, but realistically considering how little support for teachers there is and how many teachers there are that just don't care, many wont bother. I hope this doesn't become the norm.

Re:And the next product will be... (1)

Josh Booth (588074) | about 11 years ago | (#6890869)

In related news, essays produced by the Cybernetic Engines [ttu.edu] ' consistantly score at or above an A on this software. Film at 11.

What humanity? (4, Insightful)

parliboy (233658) | about 11 years ago | (#6890796)

Lemme let you guys in on a little secret. If you ever take an educational standards and measurement class, one of the things you'll learn about is the construction and grading of essay questions. This includes writing out objective standards for grading beforehand, possibly even designing a rubric explaining exactly what it takes to earn points.

There is no "humanity" in a modern constructed essay. There are certainly going to be "judgement calls" when standards are not as fully fleshed out for the computer as they should be, but as long as those are appealable, I have no problem having a computer assign me the other 95% of my essay points. The only instructors who will fear this are those who like to assign grades arbitrarily. And I don't feel too sympathetic toward those people.

obDead Poets Society quote (4, Insightful)

MavEtJu (241979) | about 11 years ago | (#6890800)

If the poem's score for perfection is plotted along the horizontal of a graph, and its importance is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness.


A sonnet by Byron may score high on the vertical, but only average on the horizontal. A Shakespearean sonnet, on the other hand, would score high both horizontally and vertically, yielding a massive total area, thereby revealing the poem to be truly great. As you proceed through the poetry in this book, practice this rating method. As your ability to evaluate poems in this matter grows, so will - so will your enjoyment and understanding of poetry.



(From the full script [impawards.com] .

well now we know... (0)

unclefungus (663751) | about 11 years ago | (#6890803)

... the kids have been properly tought how to use the speeling and grammar software in thier word processors.

Removing the human factor. (2, Insightful)

UnifiedTechs (100743) | about 11 years ago | (#6890807)

"The people opposed see it dehumanizing the student's papers, putting them through some sort of mechanical, computerized system like the multiple choice tests.

Actually it's about time! I don't see the essays themselves being dehumanized, but what I do look forward to is the day a middle school student doesn't receive a bad grade just because his book report was on the "Theory of Relativity" and the teacher couldn't comprehend the subject. (This is from experience) What it will do is take the human factor out of the grading process and grade all reports equally regardless of subject matter.

We need to remove the human factor (1)

HanzoSan (251665) | about 11 years ago | (#6890887)



I agree with you, its time we do remove the human factor. Why not let computers do what humans are proven to be unable to do without constant errors due to emotion or other human difficulties?

Let the computer grade the technical side and the human grade the creative side, this way there is no way someone who writes a person paper which a teacher does not like can get an F.

Lazy ass teachers pet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890808)

Just what we need something to make teachers more lazy. We already have kids coming out of school without reading/writing skills.

Sadly Indicative... (0)

Lacertus (171358) | about 11 years ago | (#6890809)

of our age.

[rant] Maybe, as a result of the numerous teachers laid off from such software, the few remaining will be paid in proportion to the *enormously* powerful and influential job they hold. [/rant]

But probably not. Teachers should learn to form unionized strikes against the system that represses them from the money they deserve. Did you know, HS teachers are now 90% women, because men are the traditional bread-winners and cannot support a family on a teacher's pay!

Out rageous; now women are wonderful teachers, but we need evenly weighted proportions (just like every other profession) to survive. No wonder places like New York and Chicago are so desperately in-need of teachers - few are willing to sacrifice themselves to the extent that our (American) society demands.

And here we have software that will give the legislators a broader sword with which they can smack and slice at educational dividens.

Let's all hope I'm wrong!

Mark Twain (3, Insightful)

reboot246 (623534) | about 11 years ago | (#6890810)

is just one of many writers who would flunk using this system.

'Nuff said.

This is actually a great idea. (2)

HanzoSan (251665) | about 11 years ago | (#6890813)



We could use this software definately to grade essays on technical merit and grammar, but what about creativity and content?

I think we still will need a teacher to read it, but I do think software should grade all exams.

Re:This is actually a great idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890826)

Dean for President - tank the economy, stupid!

The pseudo code for the software revealed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890816)

function calculate_grade

grade = Random (1 to 100)
return grade

end function

again, it's just a technology (1)

dh003i (203189) | about 11 years ago | (#6890818)

There's nothing wrong with the technology. Used properly, it can help teachers as an aid.

Re:again, it's just a technology (1)

Sphere1952 (231666) | about 11 years ago | (#6890910)

Sure, but from long experience we can be certain that will not be used properly.

A tool is only that (2)

Ghoser777 (113623) | about 11 years ago | (#6890820)

Good quote:

Julie Cheville, an assistant professor of literacy education at Rutgers University and the local director for the National Writing Project, which promotes professional development for writing teachers, is among those skeptical of such an approach. "To be scored, writing needs to be formulaic, and formulaic writing has never been the trademark of effective writers," she said. "At the moment, what automated scoring technologies can do is scan, count and score. They orient students to errors, not to meaning. Vacuous student essays can receive high marks only because they are error-free."

I think this is something important to keep in mind. As a math teacher, there are plenty of tools that can help students find errors in what they are doing mathematically, but there's a line between doing correct mathematics and insightful/interesting/useful mathematics. This technology definitely has its place and can be useful, but I hope educators don't get the idea that they can simply rely on the tool. Weilded correctly, it could do great good, but also leave a lot of students with "vacuous" levels of understanding.

Matt Fahrenbacher

Problematic! (0)

cloudkj (685320) | about 11 years ago | (#6890823)

As with any automated system, it can/will be easily exploited. The usage of such software not only hinders the analytical skills being taught to students throughout the country, but destroys the credibility of the teachers that use it.

perfect! (2, Insightful)

rabs (208464) | about 11 years ago | (#6890827)

this software would be perfect for students majoring in comp sci or engineering who have to take a composition / writing class...

Course:
College of Liberal Arts / Sci: Rhetoric 105
- or -
College of Engineering: Pattern Analysis 202

Objective:
To teach the principles of essay-writing skills. Liberal Arts students will be encouraged to follow boiler-plate styles and formats, while Engineering students will be graded on their ability to analyze and defeat pattern recognition software.

- rabs

Can Students Use it Too? (1)

LionKimbro (200000) | about 11 years ago | (#6890832)

Automated students, for automated graders..!

Remember!: [factmonster.com] Your paper must have five (5) paragraphs. An intro paragraph, concluding with your thesis sentence, followed by three paragraphs supporting your thesis sentence, followed by a conclusion..."

*Shudder* (3, Insightful)

gregfortune (313889) | about 11 years ago | (#6890852)

Sounds like everyone feels the same way too... We've got some automated testing software for MS Office at the local college and although it's getting better, it still makes really silly mistakes from time to time. Analyzing English composition has got to be many times more difficult than watching a bunch of clicks and key presses.

The only use I can see for this thing is as a "first pass" grading tool that quickly finds obvious mistakes (spelling, grammer, redundancy, etc) and flags them for the instructor. On the other hand, it's probably just as time consuming for the instructor to read over the flagged items as it is to just catch them on the first time reading through the paper.

Using a bayesian spam classifier for this? (4, Interesting)

stere0 (526823) | about 11 years ago | (#6890853)

This thing compares the essays it is supposed to grade with already graded papers in its database. Couldn't this be done with something like POPFile [sourceforge.net] ? It isn't only a spam/ham classifier and lets you create as many "buckets" as you want (e.g. work, family, spam, mailing lists and system monitoring).

You could, in theory, create only buckets named (A...F), feed a large number of essays to it, make it "learn" how the essays are classified using statistics, and let it grade essays for you after that.

Is it possible to find masses of graded essays online? This would be a fun thing to try :).

_than_ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890854)

from the sounds-better-my-12th-grade-teacher dept.
Me wonder what grade it would give this?

Hmmm... (2)

softspokenrevolution (644206) | about 11 years ago | (#6890856)

Now, not to be one to go and say that machines don't know anything about essays. But it really doesn't seem that efficient of a process simply because whenever a teacher assigns an essay they also assign with it certain criteria that the essay needs to follow. Through their teaching style and what they emphasize in class they also color what a student might put into an essay and they also bring their own bias to the table as to how an essay should be constructed.

As for not dehumanizing, unless you're going to have the teacher go over the papers to see what the grade the computer gave and what grade she thought it deserved, it is dehumanizing. And if you are going to have the teacher double check everything, then it doesn't even remotely become efficient. Whenever I wrtie something out in Word, you know what it gives me after I spell check, a readability score that has its basis in how long the words are and not much else. It's an arbitrary construction for a computer to analyze based on certain bits of math (average word length, number of words per sentence, uses of the word "weasel"). As far as the grammar goes, I have yet to run into a word processor that has been able to work around any grammatical rules, the machines can hardly tell how to conjugate their verbs and what the subject of a sentence is unless the sentence is in th every clear and very simple, subject verb construction.

This is just a colossal waste of time because, at lower levels when a teacher goes through an essay they criticize all of the style and point out the errors and then tell the student what their problems were and how they could be fixed. The only way I could see this being useful is in a university setting where there are 400 students in a lecture and the Professor really doesn't want to spend time grading papers from their survey course when they could be off doing research. But wait, correcting papers and doing grunt work, isn't that what TAs are for?

Re: Hmmm... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 11 years ago | (#6890915)


> Now, not to be one to go and say that machines don't know anything about essays. But it really doesn't seem that efficient of a process simply because whenever a teacher assigns an essay they also assign with it certain criteria that the essay needs to follow.

Even if the goal was only to do the grammar checking, 450 examples are pathetically inadequate for a task that amounts to learning to use a language at an expert level. It's hard to imagine this being anything more than a buzzword checker.

Do what my history teacher does (5, Funny)

Savatte (111615) | about 11 years ago | (#6890867)

He just gives everyone a B when he is hungover.

grammar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890873)

I have yet to see any grammar software that cannot be classified as "moronic"; to suggest otherwise one would either have to be a moron, or be making money from said software.

Style? (2, Insightful)

the uNF cola (657200) | about 11 years ago | (#6890876)

So where does style come in? There are many, MANY forms of style, which make writters unique. For instance, I've found that when I write, even the shortest essays, I tend to break up my thoughts into multipart sentences... like this one. They tend to be very long and drawn out. I also use "granted" and "don't forget". I also seem to create a lot of sentences that are self contradicting: Though this, something else. It's part of my style.

My style isn't completely mine. I'm sure over-use would be bad. Granted this. Granted that. Where do those softer features of writing come in? Or are we all to be sterile and write with no tone or style.

Robo-Nazi (0)

Luigi30 (656867) | about 11 years ago | (#6890882)

So... now we have a robotic Spelling Nazi?

Something they should do: (1)

Ieshan (409693) | about 11 years ago | (#6890894)

They should take each sentence in the paper and run a google-ish type query and flag it if it comes up with more than a few hits.

Why?

Students plagarize these days, a *lot*, because they think it's impossible to get caught. A google-type query on each sentence would make it much more difficult to just copy someone else's work vertabim.

Silly (1)

dtfinch (661405) | about 11 years ago | (#6890898)

I've never been a fan of enforced grammar, essay formats, and other writing guidelines & standards. They try to push opinion as fact. Language evolves, more now than ever before. The high school I graduated from required four years of English and only one year of math. English classes honestly taught me nothing of importance beyond elementary school.

An automated system to ensure that all good essays look alike doesn't sound like an improvement. It's bad enough having to write an essay that will only be read by one person. I wouldn't be surprised if many students refused to write essays that they knew wouldn't be read by anyone.

And it's completely compatible... (1)

podperson (592944) | about 11 years ago | (#6890899)

...with my new essay-writing software. It's been tested against 450 automatic essay marking programs written by "experts" as well.

Scary: (3, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | about 11 years ago | (#6890908)

This sounds a lot like This [marshallbrain.com] story.

Actually this sounds a lot like Gramatica. Gramatica was the grammer checker that was an optional component with WordPerfect for DOS and later a standard component with the Windows version. It was written by a team comprised of both computer scientists and professors of English. One of the interesting features was the scoring feature which would give you a rough estimate of the grade level of your writing. It would also give you statistics and compare them to a selection of famous works.

This could be a good thing... (2, Insightful)

BladeMelbourne (518866) | about 11 years ago | (#6890920)

Some "dehumaniSing" could be a good thing, espcially when grading subjective material.

Objective material is factual, a simplification is "Most dogs have 2 eyes."

Subjective material is opinionated - "Australia should legalise heroin injecting rooms." Obviously this is controversial, and there are serveral positions on the matter.

Most teachers/lecturers/graders/tutors have their own (pre-existing) subjective opinions on certain topics. If you submit an essay that opposes their views, the chances are very high that you will get a lower grade, even if your essay is well formed/written/structured.

In high school, I always took this into account and wrote essays that agreed with the teacher's point of view, even if I didn't. Such software could lessen the need for writing what they 'want to read'.

Imagine.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6890925)

a Beowulf cluster of these.

You were thinking it, but only I had the courage to say it.

I just tried it! (1)

foo1752 (555890) | about 11 years ago | (#6890938)

I just tried running the software on a random sampling of Slashdot posts. Guess what? Everyone will be getting F's...
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