Instead, for most teachers, a paper like this is just one of 100 or more she must contend with -- on top of planning her lessons, making copies of materials, worrying about students who didn't submit their papers, and considering which grammar lessons might best help the class. The teacher wants to be like a skilled surgeon faced with a complication, focused only on the true heart and lungs of the paper in front of her. But she is also expected to be the surgical nurse, anesthesiologist, and administrator.
In a world of Judith Hochman and smart teachers like those at New Dorp High School, we need to make it possible, even likely, that a teacher will be able to focus on doing what she is best trained to do: help students develop and express their ideas in writing. It is becoming evident that technology can be designed with this goal in mind, leveraging the power of this smart teacher's attention.
The next generation of technology won't attempt to replace teacher-student interactions. Instead, it will make them more productive than ever.
Very few would dispute that some form of feedback between teacher and student is crucial to a writer's development. We know that technology can get in the way of this crucial relationship. Existing programs, for instance, have tried to automate grammar instruction, and they haven't worked. That's because they ignore the power of a teacher's personal attention. Writing ideas for a machine to parse is far less motivating for a student than expressing them to a fascinated reader (the teacher).
The next generation of technology won't attempt to replace this human connection. Instead, it will actually help build and protect these interactions, making them more productive than ever.
Consider, for example, the teacher who had to respond to this Scarlet Letter paper. (Yes, it lives in paper-and-ink reality, not just in your nightmares.) On every page, she bracketed multiple awkward sentences, circled misspellings or colloquialisms, and corrected misplaced quotation marks. She tried to help the writer pinpoint those places where he is really developing an idea drawn from the text: How does this relate to D's misery? Need to make this cleaner. You need to use words in the quote to analyze his character & show how they show misery.
Meanwhile, staring down her stack of 100+ papers, the teacher is facing tough choices. Should she focus on what is in front of her, trying to decipher the students' analysis and offer custom guidance to each one? Or should she be looking for broader problems across the whole class so she can plan new lessons and determine longer term interventions? Most teachers feel overwhelmed by this choice. They try several different courses of action and ultimately lose the battle against time.
Furthermore, most teachers report that when they do return papers with carefully considered written comments, students ignore the feedback. Some feel miserably overwhelmed by the volume of comments and struggle to determine what to pay attention to the next time around. Others have already forgotten what it was they were originally trying to say. The most thoughtful ones are working with a new idea about a new text.Instead of a productive and satisfying interaction, the teacher is faced with frustration and wasted potential.