Writing Skills


Do L.A. Unified's daily random searches keep students safe, or do they go too far?

Los Angeles Times

L.A. Unified requires daily random searches for weapons using metal-detector wands at all of its middle and high school campuses, including Hamilton High. L.A. Unified requires daily random searches for weapons using metal-detector wands at all of its middle and high school campuses, including Hamilton High. Kevin Castillo was in his freshman year at Hamilton High School when administrators carrying hand-held metal detectors interrupted his English class to conduct a random search. They asked a student to pick a number between 1 and 10. The student chose 7, so every seventh person in the class had to gather up belongings and step out of the classroom.


University of Michigan Uses Machine Learning to Improve Student Writing

#artificialintelligence

Beginning in fall 2017, some students and educators at the University of Michigan may be getting help on writing assignments from computers. Campus Technology reports that a team of educators developed a writing-to-learn tool called M-Write, which uses automated text analysis (ATA) to identify the strengths of a writing submission. Developed by two professors, the tool was initially meant to help students grow their conceptual learning skills in large courses and to help streamline the grading process, reports a UMich article. ATA works by "using a variety of text analysis techniques, such as vocabulary matching or topic matching, which the algorithm detects." Using M-Write also lets educators identify the students who are going to need help.


Recurrence Quantification Analysis: A Technique for the Dynamical Analysis of Student Writing

AAAI Conferences

The current study examined the degree to which the quality and characteristics of students’ essays could be modeled through dynamic natural language processing analyses. Undergraduate students (n = 131) wrote timed, persuasive essays in response to an argumentative writing prompt. Recurrent patterns of the words in the essays were then analyzed using recurrence quantification analysis (RQA). Results of correlation and regression analyses revealed that the RQA indices were significantly related to the quality of students’ essays, at both holistic and sub-scale levels (e.g., organization, cohesion). Additionally, these indices were able to account for between 11% and 43% of the variance in students’ holistic and sub-scale essay scores. Overall, our results suggest that dynamic techniques can be used to improve natural language processing assessments of student essays.


This Former Teacher is Using Artificial Intelligence to Hack Education

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Matthew Ramirez was teaching writing classes to students at the University of California at Berkeley when he started to get frustrated. Mixing his experience as a teacher with some advanced learning technology, he and his business partner started WriteLab – a Berkeley, California-based software company that helps students strengthen their writing skills by providing quick, customized feedback. WriteLab can even adapt its feedback over time to students' individual writing styles. "Focus on problems that eliminate waste – wasted time, wasted energy, or wasted space," Ramirez advises.


This Former Teacher is Using Artificial Intelligence to Hack Education

#artificialintelligence

Matthew Ramirez was teaching writing classes to students at the University of California at Berkeley when he started to get frustrated. He was spending the majority of his time giving repetitive feedback to students, and there wasn't enough time to provide truly constructive, in-depth feedback to each individual before the next essay was due. "Given the time constraints of a semester and the number of students in a class, it wasn't humanly possible to respond to everything I wanted to," Ramirez said in an interview. "Nor was it possible to work through multiple drafts with individual students." Ramirez took it upon himself to build a solution.


Ex-Google Guy Builds English Teaching App That Adapts to Student

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Yi Wang was hearing the same refrain over and over: Why are English classes in China so expensive? The former Google product manager decided to do something about it and started an app called LiuLiShuo, which basically means "speaking fluently" in Mandarin. The app, which claims more than 30 million users, is one of scores of English-learning startups looking to disrupt China's hidebound language schools. To differentiate itself from products started by Internet giants like Baidu and Tencent, LiuLiShuo brings gaming and social media features to the genre. Users win points when they move to the next level and text each other encouragement and tips.



What Happens When AI Can Write Better Than We Can? (EdSurge News)

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Last month, AlphaGo, the artificial intelligence program created by Google, beat the world-champion Lee Sodel in Go, a game that is so complex that there are more choices available in a single game than there are atoms in the entire universe. Likewise, if we automatically fix student writing, students will no longer have to think about their work, limiting the development of their writing skills. According a 2011 Department of Education study, 76 percent of eighth grade students are not proficient writers, and these students struggle to articulate complicated thoughts in writing. I'll post all of the stories to the public blog whatisthinking.com By articulating what thinking is, we enable students to read deeply and think critically about the world around them.


Cohesion-Based Prompt Effects in Argumentative Writing

AAAI Conferences

Linguistic properties of writing prompts have been shown to influence the writing patterns contained in student essays. The majority of previous research on these prompt-based effects has focused on the lexical and syntactic properties of writing prompts and essays. The current study expands this research by investigating the effects of prompt cohesion on the cohesive features of student essays. Results indicate that prompt-based cohesion effects were observed for all the measured cohesion variables. Further, these cohesion prompt-effects were stronger than the effects observed for many lexical features and all syntactic features. Implications of these results in light of writing research are discussed.


Text Box Size, Skill, and Iterative Practice in a Writing Task

AAAI Conferences

Although freewriting strategies are commonly taught in composition courses, there have been few empirical studies on freewriting. We address this gap by examining effects of prior writing skills (as measured by a pre-write essay), freewriting training, text-box size (1, 10, 20 lines), and repetitive writing on freewriting quality. Participants watched an agent-based vicarious learning freewriting instruction video or a control video including brief instructions on freewriting. After training, participants wrote six freewrites, two in each box size. Lesson delivery and text box size did not affect expert human ratings of the freewrites. Furthermore, participants did not benefit from writing successive freewrites regardless of their initial skill level. We describe how these results have been used to inform the design of Writing-Pal, an essay-writing intelligent tutoring system.