Introducing the StarWalk Writer™
We are very pleased to introduce a new product specifically designed to work with our eBooks. Called the StarWalk Writer™, this cloud-based platform creates a single, collaborative environment for reading, writing and research for students in grades 3 to 8. The software package, which will be available beginning in January 2015 for schools to purchase for the 2015/2016 school year, will also support educators by providing curriculum support materials, individual and group assessment rubrics, and compatibility with leading LMS.
Producing well-crafted explanatory and argumentative writing using evidence is a challenging task for many students, and teachers often lack the resources, tools, and opportunities to integrate this kind of writing into instruction. Since our eBook collection includes many exemplary mentor texts, we decided to build a full Collaborative Learning Environment, integrating three specific types of interactivity proven to help children develop literacy skills: Writing to Read, Writing for an Audience, and Writing Together.
Designed to make learning and teaching reading in complex nonfiction subject areas like science and social studies more effective and exciting for upper elementary and middle school students, the StarWalk Writer™ also shows great promise as a test preparation practice environment. “We know that many schools will be introducing online standardized tests this spring, and children need to practice reading and writing online,” says Fable Learning Editorial Director and educator Miranda Barry. She added, “ It was a natural next step to enhance our eBook offering by creating a real time, online, environment where students can practice online reading, research and writing in a setting that is designed for children and doesn’t require opening and closing programs, juggling multiple windows, or searching the Internet in order to do research.”
A research study conducted this Fall by the Education Development Center’s Center for Children and Technology (EDC) found that students in classrooms using the Fable Learning eBooks along with the StarWalk Writer™ software wrote essays that scored somewhat higher on average than did their peers in classrooms that not use the StarWalk Writer™ software. Importantly, the largest difference in students’ final essay scores was in the most high needs school where only 19% of students are "proficient" in reading.
* Students and teachers found using the Fable Reader with the StarWalk Writer to be highly engaging, and teachers reported students were fully invested in the study task throughout the 5-day study period.
* Users reported that using the Fable Learning eBooks and the StarWalk Writer™ tools together made it easier and quicker for students to gather evidence in the form of both text and pictures.
* Students liked the collaborative process and felt they benefitted from monitoring and learning from each other’s writing. According to one fourth grade participant, “What I learned about myself as a reader and writer during this project was working as a team you can accomplish much more. I know this because as a team we worked harder and quicker.”
* The Read-Aloud feature was highly valued by both teachers and students. Teachers commented on the value of having narration for students with lower reading levels, engaging all participants and facilitating collaboration because all students are able to contribute to the writing. Students commented that they liked the Read-Aloud function because they could listen and take notes, speeding up the research process.
The small classroom implementation study of the StarWalk Writer™ prototype was conducted in October–November 2014 by Fable Learning and researchers from the Education Development Center’s Center for Children and Technology (EDC) in three public schools in the New York City metropolitan area. The study included approximately 130 boys and girls in grades 4–8. The purpose of this research was to investigate the feasibility of using a collaborative writing tool with elementary- and middle school-aged youth to help them produce persuasive essays using information from nonfiction texts as evidence. Each school participated for 5 days, with two study conditions in each school: one class that used Fable Learning eBooks along with the StarWalk Writer and one class that used Fable Reader eBooks only. All students were tasked with writing a persuasive essay, using text and images from a preselected set of texts in the Fable Learning eBook library as evidence.
The development of the Fable Learning Collaborative Learning Environment is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1415774. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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