Building better writers
Guiding the Student Writing Process at Every Step
It’s one of the biggest complaints I hear from educators today: Students just can’t communicate effectively through the written word. It seems the more access kids have to communication tools, like computers and smartphones, the less they want to master the skill of writing effectively for academic and workplace purposes.
Technology shortcuts aren’t the only issue, of course. For many students writing just doesn’t come easily. Even if they master the mechanics of writing a paper, organizing thoughts and ideas in a way that is persuasive and effective is a whole other issue. Effective written communication, however, is more vital than ever in an ever-shrinking global economy. Ninety-seven percent of company executives say that writing skills are essential for any worker to succeed – yet assessments show that few students know how to communicate effectively through writing.
It’s a problem that educators are attempting to tackle head-on, with more cross-discipline writing prompts and an overall emphasis on the importance of writing in all academic, and workplace, areas.
I recently got the chance to demo a new tool that I believe can really help students learn how to write more effectively, and that will free up some time for the teachers who use it. It provides the one-on-one attention necessary for each student to write persuasively and to learn from feedback throughout the writing process.
Turnitin, the renowned plagiarism detection service that has been around since 2000, has released a new service that essentially removes the need for plagiarism altogether.
Revision Assistant guides students through the entire writing process through prompts and scoring that is easy to follow. The software lets students know when there are areas that need improvement based on everything from word count to sentence lengths to actual context. When paired with other Turnitin products like its Scoring Engine and plagiarism checker, teachers (and students) have all the tech-tools they need to write creative, original, but accurate pieces.
The algorithm was designed from student feedback and with input from educators with years of experience teaching writing. The software is designed for students in grades 6 to 12, but can also be used for some foundational college writing.
Using Student Language
One thing I noticed about the Revision Assistant software was that it is very student-friendly, and not just in its purpose. The aethestics remind me more of a mobile app than something used for school. Students are told throughout the writing process how to improve what they are working on in four main areas: language, focus, organization and evidence. Students receive “signals” based on the strength of each section, similar to what they would see for Wi-Fi strength on electronic devices. Four bars on the signal means a particular area is really strong, while one bar means it needs some work. Highlighted areas then point the writer to what can be improved.
Students don’t need to guess at what could be improved; they are shown immediately. From there, they can write another draft by simply editing the one in front of them. Teachers are then able to see the different drafts and revisions to see how students adjusted their original writings based on the prompts.
Teacher friendly, too
Teachers can assign, grade and store student writing within Revision Assistant – no papers to mark up and no separate assignment sheets to hand out. The software system also gives teachers prompts that are grade appropriate based on state assessments. The area for the prompt allows for special instructions from the instructor, too.
Instructors who use Revision Assistant get some insight into the student writing process and on grading too. A persuasive scoring rubric shows teachers how students reached their grade, and as I mentioned above, teachers can see all of the versions the student made to reach the final product. It saves time for the teachers and also takes out any sort of subjectivity (that teachers may develop without even realizing it) and allows for a very objective approach to the student grading process. Basically teachers are guided through the student writing process too and given the chance to keep prompts, finished assignments and grades all in one place.
It’s nice to see ed-tech used in a way that is actually helpful to both students and teachers. Taking the guesswork out of writing with Revision Assistant takes the intimidation away from writing process and leads to better outcomes – for instructors and students.