Sunday, April 07, 2013

Tech talk: essay commenting software--do you use it?

In reading the comments about the automated grading software EdX is now promoting, I learned about a few new essay commenting software programs--not for automated grading, but programs to help with inserting comments.

I've written before about Markin (which I tried a few years ago but don't use any more) and about using autotext in Word, which I do. Autotext lets me explain things like apostrophes without extra typing so that I can spend more time on the substantive comments. My comments are customized to what I've seen students do and contain explanations that I've written myself. Also: it's free.

I usually use Word for earlier papers (so that I can insert explanations) and iAnnotate on the iPad for the later ones in a course.

Disclaimer: yes, I know about the research that says that commenting on grammatical features doesn't do any good, but if you comment on comma splices, etc., do you use these programs? This isn't a political post; I'm just curious. I don't use any of the following programs but wonder whether others do.

Your thoughts?
  • If you use them, are they worth it?
  •  Do they help student writing? 
  • Do they make grading the essays easier?
  • What program do you use that's not listed here? 


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I don't use it, so maybe I shouldn't even comment. I (a) circle errors and make it clear that students need to proofread/see me if they don't understand, because such things will lower their grade; (b) when a significant number of people show the same error, go over the right way to do things in class; (c) show examples in class of things done well, from actual student papers. I usually limit this to thesis etc. but there's no reason not to do it with apostrophes, or whatever, especially if several people have had trouble. Somehow seeing "live" good examples makes a difference.

Contingent Cassandra said...

I use Word's comment features (track changes and the marginal bubbles), and increasingly, following the lead of some very good teachers in my department, ask students to provide some commentary first: a list of things that are going well and still need work on a page inserted before the beginning of the paper, and/or 3-6 questions inserted via marginal comments.

Anonymous said...

Totally OT: speaking of GW Cable, here is whole new book debunking the existence of placage. Just out. Emily Clark, History, Tulane. The Strange History of the American Quadroon. UNC Press. Shocking!

undine said...

Dame Eleanor, I like those ideas and have used them when it's an in-person class. The live examples do make all the difference.

Contingent Cassandra--those sound like good ideas with the student commentary and questions. The marginal comments back and forth must make the paper feel more like a dialogue.

profacero--will look for this book! Thanks!