• Building Essential Writing Skills With A Virtual Writing Tutor | Jamey Heit Cofounder of Ecree | Episode 96

  • build good writing skills with a virtual writing tutorWriting skills are essential for success. Our kids need to write papers, apply for post-secondary schools and scholarships, and eventually hold a job. Ask a manager what their biggest employee problem is and they are likely to say their employees can’t communicate. Today we’re looking at what’s happening with written communication. Our kids are lacking writing skills and we’re wondering why that is and what we can do about it. Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler chats with the cofounder of the Ecree virtual writing tutor to understand what’s holding our kids back and what we can do about it. They’ll discuss working with a teacher, tutor, or virtual writing tutor and the best choice for various situations.



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    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    “Hamilton is the story of someone who, through the power of words, was able to change things for the better. We can equip our kids to change their lives and lives of others for the better.”

    High Points of Our Conversation About Building Essential Writing Skills:

    good writing skills are essential life skillsWriting skills are incredibly important life skills. It will be with you no matter what you do. It’s also a skill that cuts across all grade levels.

    Hamilton is the story of someone who, through the power of words, was able to change things for the better. If we can equip our kids to change their lives and lives of others for the better, what is better than that?

    Jamie recently spoke to a successful executive in a major insurance company and asked what her greatest challenge was at work. She said her biggest challenge was so many of her employees cannot communicate effectively.

    If you can communicate ideas there are no limits to what you can accomplish. It doesn’t have to be something big like writing Hamilton. You can create new opportunities and new worlds in a weekly report for your boss, the term paper for your professor, or in the cover letter for that job or summer internship you really want.

    The #1 skill in demand in the workforce is good communication skills, including good writing skills. This is also the skill most hiring mangers find lacking in applicants. The issue cuts across all industries.

    Our kids have trouble writing well. A few issues which challenge them are:

    • Confidence: Some kids have the writing skills but they get lost in high-stakes environments.
    • Practice: Learning to write well requires practice. They need guidance along the way but it isn’t always available.
    • Digital Impact: Our digital world creates a writing-heavy environment and our kids get overwhelmed by the volume.

    Even when schools emphasize writing skills, teachers don’t have enough time to help the way they want and the way our kids need. Your typical high school English teacher is working with 100-150 students at a time. If papers are due on Friday and each paper is 2-4 pages long, that teacher is grading one to two books over the weekend. 

    Teachers want to help everyone but there are only so many hours in the day. Every student is going to get some help but writing, like learning a musical instrument, takes more than just topical engagement. 

    Many people hire a tutor and it works. Working with a tutor is highly effective. This can also be expensive. It also requires the coordination of schedules and for our child to be willing and able to work during the time they are with the tutor. This is very different from being able to access that same guidance from the power of our computer, tablet or phone whenever it fits into our busy lives.

    What ecree wants to do is provide that high-quality guidance in a way that’s affordable and accessible so kids can have better writing skills.

    This isn’t about robots replacing teachers. It’s about technology giving teachers a resource they can pass on to kids. The kids use the resource and come back to the teachers after having lower level practice so the teacher can engage the child on a higher level.

    There are three steps to writing:

    1. Build a sentence—grammar
    2. Structure an argument—state a position and support it with an organized and well-developed argument
    3. Conceptual knowledge—once a student has written a good argument they can think about the implications of what they’ve said

    The third level is where humans shine and teachers love to work with students. Technology can help kids with the lower levels. The combination of teacher plus a virtual writing tutor helps students cover the entire stretch of what kids need to learn. 

    How does the ecree virtual writing tutor work? Create an account. Log in. Click ‘Start My Essay’. Enter the question you’re writing the essay on. Your child can type into ecree or drop in an essay they wrote in Word and get feedback:

    • Do I have a good thesis statement?
    • Is my background information on topic?
    • Is my essay organized?
    • Have I connected my ideas?
    • Did I summarize my argument ?

    All this feedback is given in realtime. As the student is working they will get color coded responses saying “Hey, you did well on this” or “This needs more work”. 

    It’s the equivalent of putting my expert teacher brain right next to your student while they are working on the computer or on a tablet.  What they’ve seen over thousands of students is that feedback helps the students produce a better final paper. 

    How do you know Ecree actually works? This sounds a bit fanciful but they’ve studied this from a variety of perspectives with outside data experts to make sure the claims are backed by evidence. They’ve looked at essays when kids started working on Ecree and when they left Ecree and calculated the difference. They also had human experts look at the papers upon entering and leaving. The human responses were compared to Ecree’s responses and Ecree is almost always in agreement with a human. Any gap is generally very small. When there is a large discrepancy, it is almost always an issue with the human; they’re tired, their child is sick, they are distracted, etc.

    Kids who are struggling to keep up benefit even more with ecree virtual writing tutor. If you’re behind, what you need is more practice and teachers don’t have the time to sit with them as they practice. With ecree they can practice as much as they want and get feedback along the way.

    If we give kids resources that provide feedback, that help them learn in a comfortable way and let them interact on their schedule, they work hard and achieve success.

    Resources Mentioned in Show:


    Our Guest Jamey Heit, co-founder of Ecree:

    Jamey Heit cofounder of EcreeDr. Jamey Heit is a lifelong learner and lover of technology. He believes technology plays an essential role in solving big problems and insists that it is part of a broader solution, rather than a quick fix to a temporary challenge.

    He holds a Ph.D. in Literature, Theology and the Arts from Glasgow University and has taught in a variety of Higher Education disciplines. By credit hours, Dr. Heit has over 25 years experience and has graded more than 30,000 papers (yes, he counted!).

    During his time in the classroom, Dr. Heit saw limits in his ability to help students consistently improve their writing. So, in 2014 he left academia and founded Ecree, a technology company that specializes in a proprietary, interactive writing tool for students and teachers.

    Dr. Heit is on a mission to nurture a generation of better writers and thinkers with widespread access to easy and adaptive writing software. With the Ecree technology, he’s found a way to provide consistent, timely, and quality feedback to students to ensure they develop lifelong skills for success.

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit https://ecree.com

    Our Sponsor — Ecree

    Ecree is the only AI virtual writing tool that provides unlimited, immediate, and consistent teacher-quality feedback on essay organization, argumentation, evidence, and analysis. To learn more or connect with our sponsor visit Ecree.com.