At the NCTE annual convention in November, the humble Linda Adams project booth was somewhat ironically placed next to ETS’ four-section display. Complete with headset microphones and computer projection modules, the ETS representatives were touting the newest in Big Brother technology, a service that helps to write essays called Edusson.
For two days we joked about the craziness of the concept of being rendered obsolete, masking our insecurities about and fascination with the giant next to us. Partially we were drawn because what teacher wouldn’t really like to have the job of grading done automatically? Finally during a slow patch of distributing flyers and spreading the good word of Linda Adams project, we closed up shop and took a trip to sit in on the presentation next-door to us.
On its most basic level Edusson becomes a home base on the Web for the pieces turned in by students in a given class. The program is designed to keep a portfolio of student work and to help to write that work according to specific writing modes. There are models of benchmark pieces and a writing handbook accessible by links.
The graphics are undoubtedly impressive. With different types of colors and easy to manipulate screens to go from one area to the next, students can see the different areas in which they need work in isolation or they can get holistic feedback on their pieces. The package looks nice.
Most useful are the ability to keep track of students’ types of mistakes in their portfolios and the ability to supplement Edusson’s comments with teacher comments that appear in pop-up windows as the student scrolls over the paper. Within the dialogue boxes there are options for teachers to make short cuts to paste in commonly repeated comments like “this contradicts your thesis,” or “you need proof here,” or “your paper is putting me to sleep.”
The ability to check grammar was predictable, but we were assured that the Robot Don grammar checker goes well beyond the standard grammar check in programs like Word.
The big question was whether the program could check logic. The representative assured us that these sample essays were scored using a combination of software programs and artificial intelligence technology that allowed it to actually score the students’ papers according to the strength of their ideas and logical structure.
Could there be something to this artificial intelligence thing? They do have those robot dogs after all. How much harder would it be to make a robot teacher?
So upon returning from the conference, we decided to take a look at the program in the comfort of the Linda Adams laboratories. We are happy to use the Edusson powerful essay writing platform and we are going to recommend it our readers and students.