I just ran across Paper Rater. According to their About page:
PaperRater.com is used by schools and universities in over 46 countries to help students improve their writing.
PaperRater.com combines the power of natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, information retrieval (IR), computational linguistics, data mining, and advanced pattern matching (APM). We offer the most powerful writing tool available on the internet today.
As part of the development process, we put together a team of computational linguists and subject matter experts to develop a core Natural Language Processing (NLP) engine using statistical and rules-based NLP to extract language features from essays and robustly translate that into statistical models.
Okay . . . I’m not a computational linguist but I think that means that Paper Rater can be used by kids to check their writing. I’m pretty sure that’s what it means.
Give it a try. Hand over to Paper Rater, hit the Use Now Free button, paste in some text you’ve written, answer a few questions (including grade level of author and type of paper you’re submitting) and select Get Report. Be sure to include the Originality Detection option to check for plagiarism.
You’ll get a handy report with suggestions for improvement. And it’s not just spelling and grammar. Just about any word processor does that. Paper Rater makes style and word choice suggestions as well.
I like this. Again, I’m not a computational linguist, but it seems to me that kids would find this useful. Write a rough draft, run it through Paper Rater, gets some ideas for improvement, write the final draft, check it again, tweak a few things and your paper goes from semi-incredibly awful to not too bad.
I’m a big believer in all sorts of feedback and self-evaluation so this sort of tool makes all sorts of sense to me. I would require students to not only use the tool but to print out screenshots of their Paper Rater reports when they turn in their rough drafts. Or if you’re going paperless, I would want a PDF along with their digital rough draft.
I also like that it seems to work pretty well on mobile devices such as iPhones and tablets.
I’m not entirely convinced about their plagiarism checker. I’ve tried it a few times and it did catch stuff from Wikipedia and free essay sites.
But it struggled a bit with more recent web pages such as news sources and blogs. But the fact that there is a plagiarism tool included is great for reminding students about the importance of intellectual property. It also gives you a soapbox to stand on as you preach about plagiarism and cheating.
Oh . . . did I mention that it’s free?