A whole boatload of good links

This isn’t in really of celebration of Cinco de Mayo, but it turns out that 5-5-05 is the day when I’ll post a bunch of links, mostly from the May 3 NCTE’s Inbox:

  • NCTE comes out against the SAT writing test. Shocking, huh? I agree with the basic sentiment of this press release (and I’d probably agree with the accompanying report), but I do have two reservations. First, testing writing was never meant to be teaching writing. In fact, as one of the other links here suggests, there’s an argument that more testing in writing leads to more teaching of writing. Second, this is a statement that is perhaps a day late and a dollar short. I’m not completely in agreement with Jeff’s critique of this, but it seems to me that the writing administrators at various places ought to have been a bit more forceful about all this earlier.
  • On the other hand, maybe the SAT writing test will lead to more writing instruction in high school. That’s the gist of this article. I guess time will tell, right?
  • Say, just what is “good writing instruction,” anyway? Well, according to NCTE, this is it in the nutshell. I hadn’t seen this document before; it seems to me that it might be kind of interesting to read closely in a teaching of writing class– perhaps my computers and writing class. I mostly agree with it, but it is interestingly problematic as well. The first paragraph starts out promising enough:
  • Just as the nature of and expectation for literacy has changed in the past century and a half, so has the nature of writing. Much of that change has been due to technological developments, from pen and paper, to typewriter, to word processor, to networked computer, to design software capable of composing words, images, and sounds. These developments not only expanded the types of texts that writers produce, they also expanded immediate access to a wider variety of readers. With full recognition that writing is an increasingly multifaceted activity, we offer several principles that should guide effective teaching practice.

    Okay, that’s right up my alley. But then, in a list of 11 principles about what this paragraph means, direct attention to writing technologies (“Composing occurs in different modalities and technologies”) finishes in tenth place. I don’t know if the intent is to rank these items, but it is kind of how it reads.

  • Leave it to someone outside of comp/rhet to offer some “common sense” about using machines to grade writing. See this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, “Teachers look to computers to critique student essays.” The article is mostly about U of Missouri Sociologist Ed Brent and some software he uses to critique student writing. A lot of the article rehashes the same old problems of machine grading, but I thought a quote from Brent sort of summed up my (perhaps naive) take on the whole thing: “I don’t think we want to replace humans,” Brent said. “But we want to do the fun stuff, the challenging stuff. And the computer can do the tedious but necessary stuff.”
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