A ‘computer tutor’ to assist children develop their narrative writing skills : conferencing with HARRY

2006-08-31T09:45:54Z (GMT) by C.E. Holdich Paul Wai Hing Chung
The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that a computer tool can change the way children approach the task of writing and improve their writing performance. HARRY, a web-based computer tutor, provides a Vygotskian-like scaffolding of the knowledge transforming mature writing process and presents it to children individually in a conference situation. The effects of the computer tutor are analysed by comparing stories produced by three children of varied writing ability, who wrote a control and a HARRY assisted story, and by observing the children as they wrote. A control group also wrote two stories without receiving assistance for either story. The study's hypothesis was confirmed. With HARRY's assistance, the children wrote better stories and employed the revision process characteristic of mature writers. Vygotsky's work suggests that children will learn to adopt the mature approach from repeated use of the system and that the scaffolding should be reduced gradually. However, as the system relied upon the children's willingness to first request, then act upon the available guidance, the system would benefit from further development to ensure children interact sufficiently with HARRY.