January 20, 2013
Grading student papers is now a video game
Essentially the game asks you to identify typos and grammatical errors in student papers under a time constraint by touching the screen. The game designers have incorporated some of the most statistically common writing errors into the game so you'll likely find yourself nodding in recognition as you play.
The Grading Game (iOS) makes you the TA of Dr. Snerpus, the meanest faculty member on campus, who demands that you flunk students for saying mean things about him on social media. You are then presented with a variety of papers with typographical and grammatical errors, and your job is to find them in a given amount of time. If you succeed, you will be able to pay off your (virtual) student loans. Game mechanics couldn’t be simpler: your finger is the red pen, and you tap errors to fix them. Beware, though: if you fat-finger the wrong line, or otherwise tap a correct word, you get a time penalty. And the pressure is on: If you don’t deliver average student grades in the C range or below, you don’t get paid!
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Although they are very short and not very well-written, the essays are arguably the best part of this game, as they draw facts from reddit’s page of especially interesting Wikipedia entries (how can you not love this speech by Soggy Sweat, Jr.?) According the game designers, the typos and grammatical errors are randomly generated from lists of the most statistically common such errors.
The literal-minded might object to several aspects of the game, such as the fact that it imagines a world where TAs are paid by the error, where it’s possible to earn more than $1000 for correcting a three-sentence essay, and where grading is fundamentally a hunt-the-typo enterprise. And there’s no doubt that for people who actually do grading, it’s a bit disorienting to shut down your normal grading instincts and focus only on typos and obvious grammatical errors. (For example, errors of citation–leaving out quotation marks around quotations, for example, are not recognized by the game. Similarly, writing that is awkward or vague or misleading, but not outright ungrammatical, is fine.)
I also would have to agree with Phil Scuderi‘s observation that the game isn’t really about either grading or grammar, but is rather about tricking your brain to see what is actually on the screen, rather than seeing the correct grammar that it expects. And it’s also true that there’s not a ton of variety in the game: it offers you one trick, and you either enjoy it or not.
But I will say that The Grading Game makes proofreading surprisingly engaging. By organizing each challenge into three 30-second increments, the game is a fun way to kill little pockets of time. While it’s no Kingdom Rush, It’s currently priced at $0.99, and there’s also a free version that lets you play a few levels before you plunk down your dollar.
Online Courses Need a Human Element
I have no doubt that online courses will multiply in legal education—if for no other reason than that they make sense economically. However, there are some issues that need consideration.
At CNN.com, Douglas Rushkoff discusses the importance of thoughtful teacher-student interaction. Here is an excerpt:
First off, subjects tend to be conveyed best in what might be considered their native environments. Computers might not be the best place to simulate a live philosophy seminar, but they are terrific places to teach people how to use and program computers.
Second, and just as important, computers should not require the humans using them to become more robotic. I recently read an account from an online lecturer about how -- unlike in a real classroom -- he had to deliver his online video lectures according to a rigid script, where every action was choreographed. To communicate effectively online, he needed to stop thinking and living in the moment. That's not teaching; it's animatronics.
Online learning needs to cater to human users. A real instructor should not simply dump data on a person, as in a scripted video, but engage with students, consider their responses and offer individualized challenges.
The good, living teacher probes the way students think and offers counterexamples that open pathways. With the benefit of a perfect memory of student's past responses, a computer lesson should also be able to identify some of these patterns and offer up novel challenges at the right time. "How might Marx have responded to that suggestion, Joe?"
Announcing the 2013 Empire State Legal Writing Conference
The Fourth Annual Empire State Legal Writing Conference will take place on Saturday, April 20, 2013, at Albany Law School in Albany, New York. We invite proposals for presentations on a broad range of topics relevant to those who teach legal writing and research
Possible topic suggestions in this tumultuous time in legal education include everything from practical suggestions for teaching to point-counter-point dialogue about plain language; effective methods for teaching rapidly-changing legal research at a state, national, or even international level; teaching writing for email or social network sites; creating effective methods of both formative and evaluative assessment; and making do with fewer resources. Individual and panel presentations are both welcome.
Please limit your proposal to one single-spaced page and include the following:
1. Presenter(s), title(s), and school affiliation(s);
2. Title of the proposed presentation;
3. A short description of the proposed presentation and teaching method (lecture, simulation, small group exercises, etc.);
4. A two-sentence summary of the proposed presentation for the program brochure;
5. Whether the presentation would benefit new or experienced instructors (or both);
6. The time needed: no longer than 50 minutes (we try to accommodate requests, but make no guarantee);
7. Technology needs for your presentation (please describe);
8. Contact information for one presenter, including email address, mailing address, and phone number;
9. Whether you have previously presented at any national or regional conferences.
The deadline for submissions is Friday, February 8, 2013. Please email proposals as a Word Document attachment to: Pam Armstrong, Conference Chair, Albany Law School, firstname.lastname@example.org (518) 445-2364, with a copy to email@example.com .