Education Letter to the Editor

When Writing Apps Rule: A Not-Too-Distant Future

March 04, 2014 1 min read

To the Editor:

While recovering from surgery, I read through a pile of articles and blog posts, including “Study Examines Cost Savings Through ‘Machine Scoring’ of Tests” (Marketplace K-12 blog, Feb. 14, 2014). Immediately afterward, I read “An App That Can Make You Write Like Ernest Hemingway,” on esquire.com, and I saw the (not-so-distant?) future.

Microsoft Word already will automatically check our spelling, grammar, and style as we type, for a Strunk and White do-over. Hemingway was perhaps our foremost Strunk and White writer, and now Hemingwayapp.com will make students’ prose read more or less like Papa’s.

So imagine: Students run their writing through the Hemingway app, then teachers run the Hemingway app rewrite through Turnitin.com, and then schools run the Turnitin-Hemingwayapp rewrite through the Educational Testing Service’s e-rater or Vantage Learning’s IntelliMetric.

Soon, competing technology will be available: PARCCapp. SATapp. UCLAadmissionsapp. The apps will hack into one another. They will control the prewriting and the revising. Main ideas and details will flow among locked intelligent systems. No typewriters or monkeys will be required. No children required either.

And students will rediscover the joys of child-centered literacy.

Richard Tracey

Scottsdale, Ariz.

A version of this article appeared in the March 05, 2014 edition of Education Week as When Writing Apps Rule: A Not-Too-Distant Future