Saw this article in Slate about WriteLab, a, for lack of a better term, new generation robo-grader. As the article details, the founders were looking for an automated writing tool that focuses on the process rather than the grade. Looking quickly over the home page, I can attest that it seems like a tool with a lot of potential.

I experimented for a while with EssayGrader, an iPad app that had a bank of pre-written comments that could be inserted into essays. What I liked about EssayGrader was that the comments were as close as I’d seen to comments I’d actually make myself. The problem was, however, that EssayGrader’s interface was too clunky, and I didn’t have an efficient way to move between the iPad and my LMS. WriteLab might be the best of both worlds.

From a student standpoint, WriteLab analyzes and suggests, and students can either accept or reject those suggestions. Comments appear at left and are color-coded to their category / focus. From a teacher standpoint, WriteLab’s feedback is instantaneous and encourages drafting and editing, rather than moving quickly to the final product. And, as the article points out, students are perhaps (probably) more likely to consider carefully the suggestion of an inert machine that is not grading their essay rather than robotically adhering to the suggestions of the person grading their work.

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The pricing seems a touch opaque, i.e. teachers are free but students pay $15 / month. From a school’s standpoint, I’m not quite sure what that would look like, though I assume the school would pay the student fee and the students would create their own accounts? I will have to look into that further, but this seems like an exciting tool, and one that I’d like to learn more about (and have someone pay for my students to use).

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