Moving Past the Bubble Sheet

April 19th, 2012

Category: News

As educators, we’ve all been there – anxious to go home after a long days work only to look over at the students’ recently submitted essays ready to be looked over with our critical eye. Suddenly, you find yourself scrambling to calculate how many minutes it will take you to go through each essay – only to realize that you’ll have to TiVo your favorite tv episode because there won’t be enough time to get through them all. However, what if you could not only grade each essay, but have enough time to analyze the results to improve tomorrow’s lesson and catch your favorite episode, too? That reality, believe it or not, may be here sooner than you think.

The Hewlett Foundation recently launched the Automated Student Assessment Prize to evaluate current computer systems capable of scoring student essays and promote further development. As part of this work, they commissioned a study comparing the scoring of essays between humans and computers. The researchers found that there is little to no difference in reliability and accuracy between the two, which will only yield significant dividends for both students and teachers.

For students, the benefits are clear – rather than being exposed to a curriculum that emphasizes multiple-choice questions (and all those dreaded “tricks” to deduce the right answer), students will be expected to demonstrate critical thinking and communication skills. These raised expectations will ensure that our students are equipped with the essential knowledge and skills to compete in the global economy.

For teachers, the benefits are also significant – enabling them to spend more time and energy on the things that interested them in teaching in the first place. First, the time intensive act of grading essays could be reduced significantly, enabling them to focus their energies on analyzing results and planning for more targeted, individualized instruction. Second, these essays will empower teachers to incorporate a more robust curriculum focused on developing students’ higher order thinking skills – alleviating their concern of narrowed curriculum post NCLB.

Looking at the bigger picture, this is just one of many examples of technology’s slow, but steady, inclusion into our everyday educational experiences. Whether its next generation learning or online curriculum platforms, the performance and efficiency benefits for students, teachers, community stakeholders, and taxpayers will no doubt be immense.


What do you think? As an educator, parent, student, or Delaware citizen, how do you feel about the utilization of technology into our students’ everyday educational experience?

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Brett Turner



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