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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CyWrite helps teachers and students in the classroom

For years, teachers at Iowa State University have been implementing automated writing evaluation tools in their classes. CyWrite is a new innovative software program being developed at ISU, and has been enhancing the way students learn to write English for the last two semesters.

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CyWrite co-sponsors international conference on technology in language acquisition


Researchers, developers and practitioners from across the globe gathered at Iowa State University for the 13th annual Technology for Second Language Learning Conference (TSLL) this weekend. The ISU Applied Linguistics and Technology Program and the CyWrite project co-hosted the conference. Each year, the conference has a topical area of focus. This year’s topic was phraseology, a field of study within linguistics that focuses on fixed expressions and formulaic sequences of words.

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CyWrite teams up with ISU Linguistics Club

CyWrite team members met with the ISU Linguistics Club today to discuss overlapping interests. The Linguistics Club unites linguistics majors, minors, and non-majors who share a passion for linguistics. The club holds bi-monthly meetings where members can exchange ideas and grow socially and academically together. Another goal of the club is to improve linguistics students’ knowledge of career and short-term job opportunities.

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CyWrite is up and running

CyWrite, a state-of-the art system for automated writing evaluation (AWE) under development at Iowa State University, is currently being trialed in the university’s undergraduate ESL composition courses, English 101B and English 101C. In English 101B, for example, students are developing the first and second drafts of each major writing assignment in CyWrite before downloading and submitting them as Microsoft Word documents.

Feb 16 cywrite is up and running

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Second CyWrite retreat on April 25 to review first year of project

The CyWrite team is hosting a retreat that will inform participants about the overall planning, development process, and research agenda for the CyWrite project. The retreat will be held on Friday, April 25, from 8am to 11:30am at the Memorial Union in the Gallery Room. Lunch will follow in room 3512 and will provide an excellent opportunity to speak with others about the project. The detailed schedule is below, but please feel free to stop in whenever you have time in your schedule. No need to arrive on time, nor stay for the whole time.

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