Students as mechanical turks

Amazon is releasing a new service called Mechanical Turk, dubbed "Artificial Artificial Intelligence." The gist is that there are some things that people do far better than computers, such as identifying objects in pictures. So rather than using a network of computers do these kinds of tasks, Amazon's new service will use a network of people to do the processing. You can sign up and earn a whopping $0.03 per click to identify pictures.

All this talk about mechanical turks reminded me of one of our core design principles: let kids do the hard stuff.

It's always tempting to build a software system that will evaluate student work, point out errors or mistakes in thinking, etc. But almost always, that task is better left to students. Want to weigh the suitability of multiple multi-factor solution against each other? Make students do it! Want to evaluate a student-written paragraph? Make another student do it!

Sure, we should use the system to help students along: remind students what to look for, make problems stand out, provide a template for articulating issues so that they can be compared to each other, etc. But in the end, the students should do the work.

Who knows, the students might even learn something as they do it...

posted November 14, 2005 by ben

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