StoryStation is a research project that is aimed at improving children's writing by giving them feedback on various aspects of their compositions. StoryStation was developed with Judy Robertson (and a team of student designers) at the University of Edinburgh. It gives feedback on many technical details of the students' writing, including spelling, descriptive words, character descriptions, and plot. It also provides a dictionary and a thesaurus. Initial evaluations have shown that students value highly the feedback that they get from StoryStation. In many ways, students think that they get better help from StoryStation than from their teachers. We are currently searching for funding to continue to develop and test StoryStation.
The project is inspired by the work of Linda Flower, in particular, her book, "The Construction of Negotiated Meaning: A Social Cognitive Theory of writing." (SIU Press). In this book, Flower describes the process of composition as one in which the writer must somehow determine how to create a meaningful text by satisfying the demands of a variety of "voices" that constrain what is written. These voices address a variety of constraints, from the basic mechanics of creating "proper" language, to the demands of a particular assignment, to the social relationship between the student and the teacher. The ultimate goal of StoryStation is to help students write better by associating those voices with computer agents, each of which will comment on a particular aspect of the student's text.
Here is a screenshot of the StoryStation interface, showing the different buttons that can be used by the student to invoke the different resources and feedback mechanisms.
The StoryStation software is functioning, and was tested in May 2002 in a school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Analyses of the results are continuing, but the inital results are very promising.
StoryStation has been supported by grants from the McDonnell Foundation and from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in the UK. The StoryStation interface was largely designed by a team of students from Sinclairtown Primary School and St Columba's Primary School, Fife, Scotland. Senga Munro, Beth Cross, Hamish MacLeod, and Morag Donaldson have also contributed significantly to the project.