Headlines this week a bout the software programs being just as accurate as human readers.http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/04/13/large-study-shows-little-difference-between-human-and-robot-essay-graders#ixzz1rwEWd9Y9 I’ve got two reactions to this.
First, I heard a fantastic TED talk yesterday from one of our computer science students (Christian Gecko) who presented us with a real life ethical problem: suppose you had been hired to check data as a job, but you knew how to code, so you wrote a computer program to do your same job, only it did with 10 times the accuracy in a fraction of the time? Well in this version, the guy finally feels guilty and tells his boss, who fires him. So he tells the bosses boss, who rehires him, fires the boss and put him in charge.
He also gave the example of tollboths at DFw airport where people are paid to sit in a booth and transcribe license plates from one computer screen to another. If you could write code to automate this, you could save the airport $258,000 a year.
These are menial jobs, but the point was that we can count on computers doing more in the future, and looking for a way to reduce the time you need to spend on basic tasks is just smart.
So i don’t think a robo reader is as good as a human reader in all things, but I do think it highlights the need for understanding the distinction. Which think can the robo reader do to free humans to do more critical tasks?
So to start, HAVE STUDENTS WRITE MORE!!! A limiting factor in almost all college courses is the amount of grading faculty have to do. Grading essays is time consuming, so we assign less writing to keep our sanity. Now, we don’t have to limit the writing based upon our grading time!!!
that does NOt mean that we should abandon human grading. But students who practice writing more, will become better writers. The NEW QUESTION is how should we structure courses so the human grading is most useful?
As it happens, grades are NOT the most useful part of learning to write. Assigning grades takes time though, and leaving that to a computer, could free up more time for the really useful feedback on multiple drafts that will really improve writing.