By Deborah Williams
Reuters reporter, Stephanie Simon, reports on the Chicago Tribune website in an article about the enhancement of robo-readers. Robo-readers are computers that are “programmed to scan student essays and spit out a grade.” This technology may encourage teachers to assign more essays because it will take much less time to score them than scoring essays themselves. Essay scoring programs are not new, but more of them are being created.
There are detractors and supporters of this technology. Supporters say that this will benefit students because they will have more opportunity to practice their writing.
Feedback (regarding “spelling, grammar, organization, and other traits and prompt students to make revisions”) is more timely, and ultimately, students win. Officials at Pearson Education, the marketers of the Intelligent Essay Assessor, a web-based essay scorer, believe that it “can “understand’ the meaning of text much the same as a human reader.”
Conversely,the detractors believe the feedback about spelling and the other traits mentioned by robo-reader supporters do not get at the heart of writing. Thomas Jenn, director of the Harvard College Writing Program, asserts that “the best way to teach good writing is to help students wrestle with ideas; misspellings and syntax errors in early drafts should be ignored in favor of talking through the thesis.” Jenn also is concerned that students will not include imagery and figurative language to paint a picture for the reader because the reader is a machine.