Cambridge English Write and Improve is a free tool that gives learners of English feedback on their writing. Unlike tools like Grammarly, Write and Improve is specifically designed for people learning English as a foreign or additional language. Also unlike grammarly, it does not use rule-based error correction; instead it is based on a machine learning algorithm. Rather than native speaker text being used as a ‘model’, the algorithm is ‘trained’ using authentic learner text at different levels, so that the AI can recognise features of text produced by learners at different levels of proficiency and therefore give (it is hoped) useful feedback to learners on their writing.
As we have discussed, algorithms that make judgements are often inscrutable and carry the risk of being potentially misleading, as there are invariably assumptions and opinions underpinning the decisions made in the design of the algorithms. The best way for producers of algorithm-based tools to counteract such a risk is by being as transparent as possible about how the algorithm works and the sorts of inferences that could or should be made on the basis of it.
You are now going to try Write and Improve, and reflect on the tool and the information that is provided about how the algorithm works.
Remember that the AI is trained on learner English, so if you input fluent native English text, don’t be surprised if the feedback is a little unexpected! If you can input actual learner English, that’s ideal.
Go to Write & Improve. Try it out and get an idea of the feedback it gives.
What sorts of impact could this have on teaching & learning?
Read this interview with Dianne Nichols from the Write & Improve team, the Write and Improve help site, and any other information you can find about how Write & Improve works. Is this enough transparency? If not, what other information could they publish?
Think of other data-driven learning tools you know. In terms of providing transparent information about their algorithms to inform decision making, what could they learn from Write & Improve, or vice versa?