Motivating people to read/write and improving schools

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Mathy
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Motivating people to read/write and improving schools

Postby Mathy » Tue Jan 03, 2012 3:46 pm UTC

Short introduction
I'm an entrepreneur that recently got a lot into crowdsourcing. You can see my blog http://thinkstartup.wordpress.com for more details. I've been coming here for a while to seek out answers, because you are the best community there is.

What motivates me is the concept of having people contribute to something bigger, while still receiving value of some sort.

Based on your previous feedback, I made this blogpost: http://thinkstartup.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/day-1-taking-a-look-at-gaming-and-crowdsourcing/.

After doing so, I started brainstorming. How can I make something similar to Duolingo and all the other crowdsourcing projects? First, I took a look at the educational system, and the way we handle homework in schools, more specifically reading/writing homework.

What problem am I trying to solve?
I'm a good reader and writer myself, but I hate reading a book. In my entire life, I've only read 2 books. In school, I used to cheat when it came to reading homework, because I'd much rather do something way more creative. It might have partially been because I didn't feel challenged by reading books. Don't be offended by this, but when I read books, it's almost as if I feel like I am wasting my time. But then again, I also feel like I'm wasting time in front of the TV or my computer. I prefer working all the time.

Games are slowly being favored over books. As time passes by, younger generations tend to spend way more time in front of the computer instead of reading books. This is not good, because reading and writing is essential, and is a skill that must be learned to ensure a rich life (in terms of studying etc). So how can we motivate people to make their reading/writing homework?

Our solution
We're working on a project called Fablelane, heavily inspired by the pages on http://stackexchange.com. You probably know about those forum posts you come across sometimes in off-topic forums, where a user writes 3 words on a story, and another user continues the story in his own way, with 3 of his own words. This is roughly what we're taking to the next level. Just a bit different.

People can create their own story or contribute to existing stories. When creating a story, the user creating it must specify the content types he wants his story to contain. Furthermore, he must give a short description on what the theme of the story is, as shown here: http://i.imgur.com/jTDEf.png. The tags shown on the site can actually also be created by the more advanced users, who have reached enough points to earn the "Create tag" priviledge. Tags that are not used often enough are deleted through time.

Once a story has been created, other people can contribute. Depending on their points, they can write more or less characters as a contribution. An automated spell-checker helps you correct your spelling mistakes. Once you write a contribution (let's say the contribution to this story is "and then the witch died"), others can vote your contribution up or down, or make further contributions for your contribution, allowing them to continue on your outcome.

People can also make different outcomes. Let's say another guy suggests the outcome "the witch lived on". Based on this again, users can have contributions for this outcome too. People can also vote which outcome they think is best. The outcomes with most votes are the ones shown as default, forming the best story, entirely created by the community. In other words, a story becomes a "tree" of several branches with outcomes.

That's the rough idea of Fablelane as a whole. Whenever we have managed to create the first community-driven book, people can download it free of charge, or buy a printed copy. Also, the screenshot shown there is just the rough idea. It's an alpha at this point.

So how do we change education?
The general idea of this is that schools (or teachers) can then have spaces for their classrooms. As an example, myclass.mydomain.com. A teacher can sign in to this room, and pick some stories from the official site to "use" for educational purposes. Once the teacher picks these stories, they are copied over, so that future contributions to those stories won't automatically appear. This also allows the teacher to re-use the story later, even though other students have previously contributed.

For reading homework, the teacher can say for instance: "Okay, I want you to read 300 words until Thursday.". She types this in to the system, and students go to their room (myclass.mydomain.com). Here, they then see the stories that their teacher picked for them. They can now choose which story to read. Let's say that the student picks the story with the witch. As he/she reads on, he/she is given choices from the top branches/outcomes provided by other users. As the student picks the favorite outcomes/branches/continuations to the story made by the other users, he/she forms HER/HIS own pick on the story. Once the final story has been formed and the system has detected she/he has read those 300 words, he/she can print her outcome out, and read it up loud to the class the next day.

The same concept works for writing. In the room, students are then given the task that they must finish one of the existing stories out of the ones the teacher picked. Once they have made their contribution of 300 words, the system once again allows them to print out the continuation, to read up loud to all others in the class next day.

So what do you think?
The idea is hard to explain, and is not finished yet. We constantly reshape it and so on. But we're working on an ecosystem which we think will function just fine. We are right now constructing crawlers that are adding existing open-source books/adventures to the system, so that there will be some stories to work on as default too. What if the little red riding hood had a machinegun? That'd be cool, wouldn't it? No seriously though. I think this serves a good purpose.

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lucrezaborgia
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Re: Motivating people to read/write and improving schools

Postby lucrezaborgia » Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:06 am UTC

Mathy wrote:I'm a good reader and writer myself, but I hate reading a book. In my entire life, I've only read 2 books. In school, I used to cheat when it came to reading homework, because I'd much rather do something way more creative. It might have partially been because I didn't feel challenged by reading books. Don't be offended by this, but when I read books, it's almost as if I feel like I am wasting my time. But then again, I also feel like I'm wasting time in front of the TV or my computer. I prefer working all the time.


Was it just that you never read the right kind of book or had some kind of brain-wiring that made sitting down to read a book more difficult? Also, what do you classify as a book?

Games are slowly being favored over books. As time passes by, younger generations tend to spend way more time in front of the computer instead of reading books. This is not good, because reading and writing is essential, and is a skill that must be learned to ensure a rich life (in terms of studying etc).


People in certain countries are certainly spending more time in front of the computer than past generations. However, I don't think you can assume that means people are only gaming and therefore reading less. Reading is still a very important component, especially on the internet. So is writing or else this forum and others like it, blogs, and whatnot wouldn't exist! E-books and the accompanying readers wouldn't be as popular either.

So how can we motivate people to make their reading/writing homework?


This is a pretty complex issue that, IMO, can't really be answered in a few paragraphs.


That's the rough idea of Fablelane as a whole.


Sounds very interesting...but I don't think this will work in an educational setting.

For reading homework, the teacher can say for instance: "Okay, I want you to read 300 words until Thursday.". She types this in to the system, and students go to their room (myclass.mydomain.com). Here, they then see the stories that their teacher picked for them. They can now choose which story to read. Let's say that the student picks the story with the witch. As he/she reads on, he/she is given choices from the top branches/outcomes provided by other users. As the student picks the favorite outcomes/branches/continuations to the story made by the other users, he/she forms HER/HIS own pick on the story. Once the final story has been formed and the system has detected she/he has read those 300 words, he/she can print her outcome out, and read it up loud to the class the next day.


Printing in schools is seriously limited. They can hardly keep up with handouts in class as it is. Also, if students are reading so many different things, how do you, as the teacher, make sure that they understand the concepts that they read? There is also little time for an average class of 20+ students to recite stories.

The same concept works for writing. In the room, students are then given the task that they must finish one of the existing stories out of the ones the teacher picked. Once they have made their contribution of 300 words, the system once again allows them to print out the continuation, to read up loud to all others in the class next day.


This would be interesting for a creative writing class but I'm not sure how you would translate this to another subject.

curtis95112
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Re: Motivating people to read/write and improving schools

Postby curtis95112 » Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:14 am UTC

lucrezaborgia wrote: Also, what do you classify as a book?


I'd like know this too. Considering the quality of your writing, you must have read a lot of something.
Mighty Jalapeno wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
Роберт wrote:Sure, but at least they hit the intended target that time.

Well, if you shoot enough people, you're bound to get the right one eventually.

Thats the best description of the USA ever.

radams
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Re: Motivating people to read/write and improving schools

Postby radams » Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:39 pm UTC

I'm afraid what you're describing already exists. They're called addventures. The biggest community of addventure writers is probably here: http://www.infinite-story.com/ You've come up with a few innovations - namely tags, the voting system, and the teacher view - but you'll be competing with a lot of free sites out there.

Incidentally, are you aware of gamebooks like Choose Your Own Adventure? The way you write your first post suggests you're not; sorry if that's not true. Your motivation is very like R. A. Montgomery's motivation for creating Choose Your Own Adventure books. He wanted to get children reading more, and thought they would be more likely to if books were more interactive. I can certainly report it worked for me (I'm sorry to say I read almost nothing but gamebooks until I was about 14).


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