The Phase II StarWalk SBIR Evaluation project is the second of two phases of work in partnership with StarWalk Kids Media, funded by a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation. We will conduct a pilot study in 12 third- and seventh-grade classrooms in order to investigate the impact of StarWalk Writer, a collaborative writing tool, on students' nonfiction science-writing skills. Researchers will work with StarWalk and its partners to implement a 10-session writing activity: Six classes will use the the StarWalk Writer and Reader tools, and six classes will use only the StarWalk Reader tool. Reseachers will collect observation, interview, and survey data from teachers and students in participating classrooms, and will analyze student writing products. Findings will provide formative information for designers and developers to refine the StarWalk Writer tool. Additionally, the study will provide information about any impact the use of StarWalk Writer has on students' collaborative writing products, their experiences with nonfiction writing, and their perception of how the StarWalk Writer tool functions in the context of a writing assignment.
This project builds on the Phase I StarWalk SBIR Evaluation conducted during 2014 by EDC|CCT. The evaluation provided formative feedback to the StarWalk development team about how teachers and students used the StarWalk Reader tool, where they encountered challenges, where scaffolding for teachers and students might have been beneficial to the overall experience, and how supports might be introduced to help teachers introduce collaborative writing to students who have different skill levels as writers and readers of nonfiction text.
The current study will address whether StarWalk Writer meets the needs of teachers and students who are engaging in collaborative writing tasks as a component of standards-based instruction to support nonfiction writing. Researchers will identify those features embedded in the StarWalk Writer tool that map onto particular skills, such as including citations or embedding images to support an argument, and will examine how these features support student engagement with the collaborative writing task. This alignment between the tool and program goals will serve to inform the modification of a writing assessment rubric that will be used to measure students' collaborative writing products.
*Note: Following the acquisition by Isabella Prodcuts in December, 2015, the StarWalk digital tools were renamed Fable Reader and Fable Writer.