Maybe it’s time to break the rules (and other ads)

We find most of our customers through word-of-mouth, so we don’t typically do a lot of advertising. But I stumbled across these ads from a few years ago and thought they were worth sharing.

The first ad emphasizes our commitment to supporting better learning through writing. Too often, we default to multiple choices tests because they are quick and easy. SAGrader supports more writing without the additional workload.

The second ad is geared toward instructors who already offer writing, but struggle to keep up with the grading load. Assessment should be a part of every teacher’s job, but tools like SAGrader can help support this process.

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The Best of Stop Stealing Dreams (Part 2)

I previously posted some of my favorite passages from Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin.

Here are some additional quotes from the latter half of the manifesto that I found particularly interesting. Check them out and let me know what you think!

(I’ve edited many of these excerpts for length. Please refer to the original source for the full quotes. The numbers accompanying each excerpt refer to the section number.)

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Case Study: Andrew Johnson at Park University

Andrew JohnsonFew instructors have done as much to shape SAGrader as Andrew Johnson at Park University. Andrew has been at Park for almost 16 years where he served as Chair of the Psychology Department for seven years.

He also served in other leadership positions including Chair of the Division of Social and Administrative Sciences, Co-chair of the Higher Learning Commission re-accreditation self-study committee, Faculty Senate President, and Freshmen Coordinator.

Andrew has been working with us since 2009 to develop a robust set of introductory psychology writing assignments based on the immensely popular David G. Myers Psychology textbook.

Andrew recently told us about his experience using SAGrader in this informal Q&A:

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The Best of Stop Stealing Dreams (Part 1)

In case you haven’t seen it, Seth Godin recently released a 30,000 word manifesto on school. Educators have been discussing these issues for years, but Seth has an uncanny ability to present ideas in a fresh, compelling way.

The manifesto — available free online in a number of formats — is engaging and thought-provoking. Anyone with a stake in our education system (i.e. everyone) should give it a read.

I’m about a third of the way through it and wanted to highlight a few passages I found particularly challenging. I plan to post additional excepts from the latter half of the manifesto in separate posts.

(I’ve edited many of these excerpts for length. Please refer to the original source for the full quotes. The numbers accompanying each excerpt refer to the section number.)

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It’s Time to Say Goodbye to Multiple Choice Tests

I admit it. I’ve assigned multiple choice questions before.

They are easy to produce and quick to grade. They seem to provide an objective, comparable measurement of student knowledge. And no one will criticize me for using them.

So why do I feel guilty?

Because when I use multiple choice for assessment, I know I am settling. It’s like shopping at Wal-Mart. I know it’s not good for me, store employees, or society as a whole.

But I can’t help myself. The system is in place. Society wants me to shop there.

So I do. It’s just so…convenient.

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Is Automated Grading for Lazy Teachers?

Critics of automated grading claim this technology encourages teachers to abdicate their responsibility to evaluate their students. Teachers are trained to grade student work, the argument goes, so they shouldn’t outsource their writing evaluation.

But instructors who use SAGrader tell a different story.

Pam Thomas, a biology instructor at the University of Central Florida, sees SAGrader as an extension of her own grading capacity since she controls the evaluation rubric.

“It’s not outsourcing assessment, it’s using automated assessment that is totally professor controlled…[T]he machine grades just as I would. It is me using the machine to grade, what would be unimaginable numbers of papers.”

Pam regularly teaches classes with over 400 students. With such a potentially large grading load, the choice is between offering no writing assignments at all, or allowing students to write with SAGrader. Pam says SAGrader offers “the ability to have large classes do the same types of work as small classes.”

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An Instructor’s Take on SAGrader

If you’re like most educators, you pay close attention to your colleagues. How are they reaching their students? What tools are they using?

It’s the same with instructors interested in SAGrader. The first thing they want to know is: Who else is using it? Do they like it?

To give you a taste of our user experience, we’ve been highlighting some user experiences on this blog. Today you get a bonus treat.

Pam Thomas, a Biology instructor at the University of Central Florida, recently contributed an article to the UCF Faculty Focus.  The Faculty Focus aims “to provide an exchange of ideas on teaching and learning for the university’s community of teachers and scholars.”

In the October issue, many of the articles dealt with strategies for teaching writing. Pam writes candidly about her SAGrader experience, providing insight into the nuts-and-bolts of using the tool in class.

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Writing Improves Math and Science Learning

In July, Judy Willis MD shared some very interesting insights about the neurological benefits of writing for math and science learning. It’s easy to compartmentalize learning into distinct subjects and assume arithmetic belongs in math class while writing belongs in composition class.

But Willis reminds us that certain tasks — like writing — strengthen parts of the brain that can pay dividends in any domain.

Through writing, students can increase their comfort with and success in understanding complex material, unfamiliar concepts, and subject-specific vocabulary. When writing is embedded throughout the curriculum, it promotes the brain’s attentive focus to classwork and homework, boosts long-term memory, illuminates patterns, gives the brain time for reflection, and when well-guided, is a source of conceptual development and stimulus of the brain’s highest cognition.

We’ve known this for a while. It’s one of the reasons writing across the curriculum (WAC) programs have gained popularity since the 1980s.

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