One of my kids had something like this: not for English, but for physics.
The teacher couldn't be bothered to assign and grade proper homework.
Instead, he fobbed the kids off onto a web app.
That's why they're called "teachers" and not "graders". If you want people who grade papers all day, then have the job listing say "graders wanted".
All learning is, at some level, an interaction--a conversation--between student and teacher.
Even if it is nothing more than a red check mark or a red X on a homework paper,
you have communicated some thing to some person and gotten some response.
You don't realize how important this is until it is gone.
With nothing but a machine to talk to, it stops being about learning.
I disagree. I'm learning Spanish and I have apps which let me practice my conjugation. It gives me a verb, conjugation, and tense, and then I have to produce the proper conjugation. I can practice them for hours. That is much, *much* more time that I would dare ask a human to sit there and quiz/grade me.
It is just about satisfying the machine by whatever means necessary.
In his rage and frustration my son told me that the easiest way to solve the problems was to copy and paste the problem text in to google.
Correction: For your son, it stopped being about learning and became just about satisfying the machine. Apparently, he doesn't get that learning is a two-part process: 1) learning the "concept" (which requires either a teacher at a blackboard or reading it in a book or whatever), and 2) practicing it over and over in order to etch it into your brain until you really grok it. Now, your son's teacher really might suck ass at part #1 (lots of physics teachers do), but that would be a separate issue from their decision to automate part #2... or your son's (apparent) notion that the homework problems are not a whetstone upon which he is meant to hone his skills, but rather just a barrier between him and getting to go play on the XBox.
Automated essay grading is going to be even worse.
There is no point writing prose unless a human is going to read it.
Possibly. But, if I were a grader for a composition class, I would want to slash my wrists every. goddamn. minute. I think back to the stuff I wrote in my essay classes in college and, internally, I'm horribly embarrassed. What absolute drivel... and I thought I was being all deep and insightful. And I was just one dude in a class of 35... and one class out of 3-4 that prof was teaching. My hunch is that, when the profs grade those, they actually do turn their brains into automaton mode and just flag punctuation and grammatical errors. They've probably gotten really good at just spotting common errors without even giving the text much attention from their higher brain functions. Y'know how you can drive to work not even remember stopping at all of the stop-lights and stop-signs on the way, because driving is so automatic that it's almost a reflex? My hunch is that that's what the profs are like when grading a mountain of poorly-developed blather from students. So, moving the grading to a computer isn't changing what the grading process is actually looking at; it's just moving the process to something which is better at it.