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Posts Tagged ‘criterion

“News” broke recently of software that helped to “grade” student essays in some schools in Singapore. Here is one source that you don’t have to pay for to read about the use of WriteToLearn and Criterion.

I call it “news” because the software has been at least 10 years in the making and because the headline (Hey, the computer gave me an A for my essay) is sensationalist.

It might be news to some, but technology that is ten-years-old cannot be described, as it was in the article, in its infancy.

The headline is designed to give the impression that computers are taking over. Why not, right? After all, Watson, IBM’s latest AI has beaten human champions over the last three days in the gameshow, Jeopardy.

While some might be wondering when we are going to bow to our technology overlords, at the moment technology like WriteToLearn and Criterion are still just tools. We use them, not the other way around.

Those writing tools are great at doing what people cannot do: Using tireless brute force to analyze an essay with rules and provide recommendations more quickly than a teacher can for the learner. They are not designed to replace the teacher. Not yet anyway.

Two unoriginal thoughts came to my mind:

  • Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer deserves to be. Depending on your search, that quote might be attributed to David Thornburg or Arthur C Clarke.
  • The essence of being human involves asking questions, not answering them. I think that quote came from John Seely Brown (at the end of this NYT article).

We may have a finite capacity to hold knowledge. But we have an infinite capacity to wonder and create.


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