Technology in partnership with tutors

The EDTech for Export one day conference at Te Papa, Wellington, was the first gathering I have been to where every speaker said something that was relevant to what we are doing at The Story Mint. The content was engaging and inspiring. There are some remarkable people exploring ways to make education relevant to students and using these solutions around the world. It is truly exciting.

In this new world, students are encouraged to be their own researchers rather than a vessel into which we pour predetermined knowledge, assuming as we do that that knowledge will stand them in good stead in this rapidly evolving world. We all know that a new approach is required, one that inspires students to become self-reliant.

This gives us no alternative but to teach students how to identify what information they need and give them the skills to locate it.

Frances Valentine, head of the Mind Lab, set the tone for the day by reminding us that innovation comes from collaboration. Technology is transforming the delivery of education as we move from models that were set up to meet the needs of the industrial age. Today, students need to be able to think for themselves and solve problems unaided. They need to find solutions where others have looked and not seen any.

The exciting thing about all of this is the globalisation of education and the way that even classrooms in remote areas can access it.

I recently witnessed the power of giving a student autonomy to resolve his own writing issues using the Style Guide™. Within six weeks, he was analysing his writing and solving problems. I was amazed!

The organisers of the Edtech conference asked me to give a five minute talk about The Story Mint and I chose to present a talk about Hurae Pera (with his permission, of course) as a case study.

This is the presentation.

Introduction

The Story Mint offers a suite of tools to anyone who wants to improve their writing skills, including early stage learners (such as ESL students) to competent writers. One of these tools is the Style Guide™. 

The Style Guide™

The Style Guide™ is an automated writing assessment tool which gives feedback on style and voice. This enables the writer to produce content that matches its purpose. For example: description for a travel brochure, instructions for a manual and so on.

 

As writers master their use of the Style Guide™, they also find that problems with grammar and clarity emerge, which they are guided to resolve.

The key is for users (student or adult) to analyse their writing and to find solutions for themselves.

For the last 18 months, we have been working with NZIE (NZ Institute of Education) testing the Style Guide™ with students learning English as a second Language.  Although Hurae is a native English speaker, he was a candidate for us to document his progress.

Below is his first piece of writing.

Week 1

A government’s main priority is to provide education for its people. It’s a lie. In my opinion, their main priority is spying on others, spying on us and spying on themselves. I believe there can’t trust anyone. However, education funding for schools is appalling teacher, tutors don’t get pay enough like any government’s department. I think school fundraising for their school is the only way to get things they need.

This is his result.

The written feedback told him to try adding description (adjectives, adverbs). Hurae kept working on his piece over the next two weeks by following the instructions. The goal was to get it on to the grid. The piece below did.

Week 3

Our government's main role is to provide excellent education for every single child. But it does not do that. I think their main priority is spying on people, on us and themselves. However, education funding for schools is very low. There is never enough to fund equipment and resources for schools. Tutors need more money and schools should never have to run regular galas to get the money they need.

Later, he realised that the sentence about spying could go and that brought his position on the grid closer to the centre.

Hurae is now writing essays and getting them on the right part of the grid, which is the challenge once a writer has worked out how to move writing around the grid.

Writers also get colour-coded analysis of their writing and we find students start talking about having too much blue in their writing. This is something that purists might not agree with but it is the first phase of learning how words work together.

Below is text analysis of a piece of writing that landed in the middle of the grid. It is personalised feedback to a young member of The Story Mint.

Hurae began looking at his writing in terms of it having too much blue which means it had landed to the left of the grid, or too many nouns and once again not enough description. His introduction to his essay on Patuone had this as he named many tribal chiefs and family members. So, as an experiment he worked on rewriting his introduction, which was a broader overview of what his essay was to be about.

TE Eruera Mahi Patuone was a great chief of his time. He courageously led Maori and some European people through great change. His plan was to have all rights to import and export with New South Wales settlers. He believed that the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1835 and the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 would lead to better trading between European and Maori. Peace was what he wanted for the people. 

The Style Guide™ is at http://www.thestorymint.com/ and only available to members. Take out a two-week free trial and run some writing through it. It commits you to nothing.

 

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