Creative Online Writing (COW)
COW is an online web app designed for students of all abilities in grades 3-8. The goal of COW is to improve writing fluency– the ease with which ideas are generated and put into words. This is accomplished by giving students a gamified writing experience to encourage repeated practice and develop creative thinking.
COW also provides teachers and parents with a valuable tool to examine student writing through the use of advanced text analysis algorithms.
How COW Inspires Student Writers
- Blasting Off with Prompts
There’s nothing like a good prompt to ignite the spark of creativity. When a student begins a new writing session, they are given the opportunity to draw from a bank of highly motivating prompts to get their creativity flowing. They also have the opportunity to forego the use of a prompt and just get writing.
- Stretching Creativity with Bonus WordsEvery 40-60 words the student writes, a bonus word will appear on the side of the writing page that the student can choose to incorporate into their writing. By using a bonus word within their writing, students will earn Alieo Dollars. Attempting to incorporate these bonus words into their narrative greatly enhances a writer’s creative agility.
- The Incentive of Earning Alieo DollarsAs students write, they will be earning Alieo Dollars. These are awarded for:
- a. every Bonus Word used.
- b. every word over six letters used in their writing.
- c. using a descriptive word from each of the five senses of taste, touch, smell, hearing, and seeing.
We are currently working on an avatar system in which the student can use their Alieo Dollars to purchase items to customize their avatars.
- Writing up through the Levels: From Micro-Fiction to Epic SagaThe number of words the student writes for each story will be added to their accumulated word total. COW has a level system such that as students write more words, they’ll progress from the Microfiction level (1,000 words), to Short Story (7,000 words), to Novelette (20k words), and so on until they’ve written enough words to reach the highest level of Epic/Saga (200k words).
- Sharing With an AudienceStudents’ stories are saved on their own personal Bookshelf. Young authors using COW will also have an opportunity to share their stories with an audience of peers on the Class Bookshelf.
COW: The Teacher Perspective
When educators log on, they see a dashboard where they can set up accounts for their students all at once. Each time a student finishes a writing session, the teacher can view the text the student has generated, as well as text analysis which includes:
- the number of words the student wrote
- the number of words over 6 letters long
- the number of sensory words used (e.g. sound, sight, smell, touch, taste)
- the number of adjectives, adverbs, nouns, prepositions, and verbs used
- what tense the student wrote in, that is, how many verbs were past, present, or future tense
- average length of sentence
Such text analysis can prove to be extremely valuable in directing instruction for individuals and classes.
Educators can also set a classroom word count goal. As each student writes, they contribute towards this collective writing goal.
A Class Bookshelf (with all stories approved by the teacher) is a place where students, colleagues and parents can view the students’ writing.
How to get involved in the initial prototype test of COW
If you are interested in running a user test in your classroom, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading ‘[COW tester]’ and we’ll send you a username and password so that you can see for yourself what COW is all about.
We are in a very early stage of development where only the bare bone features described above are available. Our goal is to tack down what your biggest challenges are for improving language literacy and writing fluency in your students. Even if you do not have the bandwidth to test out COW in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to email us and talk to us about your experiences with evaluating student writing and what you do to get kids to write more.
Technical requirements to test
Each student needs a computer with the following requirements:
- An internet connection
- Chrome, IE 9+, or Firefox
Alieo Games (alieogames.com) is an educational games company. It was founded by:
Chris McMahen, a teacher and children’s book author from British Columbia
Kit Chen, Neesha Desai and Nathaniel Rossol, three Ph.D. candidates from the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta