Critics of education have claimed that schools are preparing students for life in the 21st Century by clinging to 19th Century methods. The response by educators has been to take a long, contemplative look at the ways schools prepare students for a post-industrial, knowledge-based economy. Emerging from this re-evaluation of the educational practices is the move towards Differentiated Instruction.

Simply put, Differentiated Instruction is the tailoring of instruction to meet the needs of individual learners. The primary goals of Differentiated Instruction include:

  1. inspiring a love of learning
  2. increasing self-awareness
  3. increasing engagement
  4. improving learning outcomes
  5. having students learn more efficiently and with deeper understanding

In the design of COW (Creative Online Writing), students and teachers immerse themselves in an online learning environment that facilitates the accomplishment of these five goals.

  1. Moving from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.

    COW’s gamification of writing engages students, motivating them to write initially for the game’s extrinsic rewards. Through engagement with the creative process of writing their own stories, students can develop an intrinsic appreciation for the power of the written word.

  2. Self-awareness and self-evaluation of writing.

    The text analysis tools provided by COW enable students to examine their own writing, reflecting upon areas where they, themselves can find improvement.

  3. Engagement through gamification and authentic audiences.

    In addition to engagement through the gamification of writing, COW also inspires young writers though opportunities to share their writing with classmates. Writing for an authentic audience is vital for the development of a writer.

  4. Practice makes perfect.

    By writing more words more often, students will apply and further build the skills and knowledge learned from instruction, thus improving learning outcomes.

  5. Flexibility and efficiency in targeting specific curriculum goals.

    Teachers can target specific elements of writing and provide their own vocabulary words for students to incorporate when writing with COW. Students can write with COW at school, at home, and at any time of any day. COW provides students, teachers and parents with an incredibly flexible tool to enable young writers to develop their potential in this fundamental literacy skill.

With the demands placed upon teachers in the contemporary school setting, the thought of implementing Differentiated Instruction may seem overwhelming. To achieve this new direction in education, teachers must adopt new tools, enabling them to succeed in this daunting task. COW provides such a tool, meeting the needs of students and teachers in the pursuit of excellence in written communication.