Blog Archives

Buying some new gadgets for college? Engadget has you covered.

So, it’s the time of year when A-level results come out (in the UK, anyway) and students’ thoughts fondly turn to the start of the college/University year in October when they can finally experience some spatial (if perhaps not financial) independence from their parents. And these days, if you aren’t already fully equipped with all the tools necessary to make a success of your time at University then it’s time to start smiling sweetly at Mum and Dad to make sure they’ll give you what you need in time for the start of term. And by ‘tools’ I mean technology, not a six-foot bong and a jumbo-pack of prophylactics.*

Fortunately, Engadget has you covered for all your gadget-related decisions with their excellent annual back-to-school guides. These are short reviews of the top picks by the editors at Engadget in a variety of categories of gadgets/technology such as laptops, digital cameras and electronic readers. Useful stuff if you’re pondering a new purchase to get you through the school year, and there’ll be more to come in the next few weeks so keep checking Engadget.


*Though, those wouldn’t hurt as well.


Automatic Essay Marking

The absolute worst experience for any educational professional is to sit down on an evening or a weekend (it always seems to be an evening or weekend, when you should be doing something more enjoyable) with 100 essays or exam scripts, all on the same topic, and slowly, resentfully, plod your way through and grade them. It’s hell. At times like that I would have been willing to cut off a finger if somebody could have showed me a way that they could all be marked automatically.

Well, recently it seems the prayers of educators may have been answered. Several companies are working on software that automatically gives marks/grades to written assignments. This article covers the basics, but briefly, students can upload their work to a web-portal, and get instant feedback on their written work. One particular company has produced a piece of software called ‘SAGRader‘ which they claim uses artificial intelligence and NLP (Natural Language Processing) algorithms to effectively ‘read’ the essay, and thereby provide much more detailed and specific feedback on the content. Such a system should in theory be able to not only grade on simple things like spelling and grammar (Word processors have been detecting and correcting these things for years) but on the actual semantic content of a piece of work. If it works, this would be a massive help, and the numbers and testimonials on the SAGrader website do seem to suggest that it works. What you have to remember is that human graders are massively fallible so, to be useful, a piece of software doesn’t have to be perfect – it just has to be better than human graders. Read the rest of this entry