Over a month and no post - shame on me. EVO is over. My online presentation was on writing feedback and strategies for managing paper overload without shortchanging students on meaningful feedback for their writing. Am I describing the impossible or what?
The week came down to a shout out between canned boilerplate & automated writing assessment (AWE) versus peer review, the blind leading the blind. At first it seemed as though group's interest was leaning toward computer assessment. Tempting to hand an onerous, labor intensive task over to software. But by the time we came to the end of the week, closing with real time discussion using web conferencing tools, the tide had turned - against AWE and in favor of group work and peer review. I reminded the instructors in the session that establishing review groups takes time - does not just happen with the flip a handout and asked them to let me know how groups worked for them
The turn pleased me no end. I came prepared to make the best of bad choices and work with them on using computer text analysis in the least destructive way possible. AWE is not awesome: it is creepy. But is it any creepier than non-computer assisted boring writing, boring for being formulaic suck up, boring for so strenuously striving to please and never offend whoever might read it? No, it is not. There is something somehow cleaner, in some warped way, about being able to say the computer made me do it. Not having to admit that another human asked you to surrender mind and will - and you did it.
I forgot to remind the non-native speaker teachers in my workshop not to control peer review group opinions or tell them what they should think.
What happens to writing (and thinking) when composition instructors know their rhetoric and mechanics but are short on original thinking - doing, recognizing, appreciating, cultivating? Or worse, short on tolerance, expecting students' opinions to mirror their own, perhaps rationalizing the expectation as something less craven.
If you are wondering what this has to do with computers, I'll think on it and get back to you.