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CyWrite alumna details potential of the project for ESL/EFL teaching

CyWrite alumna Dr. Aysel Saricaoglu’s personal experiences with CyWrite lead her to believe it has the power to change the future of ESL teaching. As an assistant professor in English Language Education at TED University (Ankara, Turkey,) she is interested in how the use of new eye-tracking technology can further the education of ESL students worldwide as well as in her own classroom. Saricaoglu comments on her experiences while working with the CyWrite team.

Aysel Saricaoglu“I went behind the scenes of the classroom where I used to be a teacher implementing existing tools, and I became a developer and learned how these tools are actually created,” said Saricaoglu. “I saw the connection between the development phases of an AWE (automated writing evaluation) tool and its implementation in class. It was great to experience how pedagogical decisions are made when creating such a tool.”

By working with the CyWrite team, Saricaoglu not only learned how to develop software, but also investigated how discourse features in student writing can be automatically detected for the purposes of formative assessment, which remains a weakness of other existing AWE tools. In addition, she learned how these AWE tools need to be assessed to be improved.

While there are already other existing AWE tools, CyWrite is set apart through its new technology and pedagogical approach.

“As a teacher-user of CyWrite, I was familiar with instant corrective feedback from other applications that I had used, but the eye-tracking module was completely new to me,” said Saricaoglu. “CyWrite is not a typical AWE tool. It is more complete and more pedagogical because it offers more things that a teacher, and of course a researcher, needs.”

Despite the new and complex eye-tracking sensors, CyWrite proves to be a simple and effective program for students to use.

“As a teacher, I can say that CyWrite is quite easy to work with – user friendly interface, easy- to-understand feedback language, and helpful teacher manual,” said Saricaoglu. “Learner training, for example, is one of the most crucial and difficult parts of using an AWE tool, and CyWrite’s learner training is just easy and can be done in a short period of time, compared to my experiences with some other AWE tools.”

Saricaoglu elaborates on the effectiveness of CyWrite in a classroom setting.

“Based on my experiences and observations of using CyWrite in classes for two semesters at ISU, CyWrite is effective for ESL teaching. I used CyWrite with MA and PhD students, too, and saw that they were using it in class even when they were not asked to do so. Obviously, they were benefitting from it,” said Saricaoglu. “Students do not always have somebody to check their writing, and CyWrite is a whenever and wherever tool.”

Saricaoglu concludes that being able to do so much with limited time and funds at hand makes the CyWrite team very powerful.

“Evgeny (Chukharev-Hudilainen), especially, taught me how to go beyond limits. He is a living example of ‘Nothing is impossible’ when it comes to computational linguistics,” said Saricaoglu. “Most importantly, I learned that no matter how small a project group is, with the right people, huge achievements can be made.”

Matt DeFelice contributed to this article.

CyWrite implements low-cost eye tracking to provide feedback on student writing

After receiving a two-year $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the largest external research grant received by the Department of English at ISU to date, the CyWrite project is able to expand upon innovative technologies for improving writer’s learning experiences. The CyWrite team will investigate how eye tracking and keystroke logging can be used to administer automated feedback to students on their writing.

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