EXP: To Enact, To Tell, To Write: A Bridge to Expressive Writing through Digital Enactment

Principal Investigator: Sharon Lynn Chu

Sponsor: National Science Foundation

Start Date: September 1, 2017

End Date: August 31, 2020

Amount: $549,820


This cyberlearning project explores a novel approach, called Digitally-Augmented Enactment (DAE), to support learning expressive writing by children at the critical grade 4-5 developmental period, with a focus on English Language Learners (ELLs). Expressive writing is core to the learning of all school subjects. An alarmingly high percentage of students enter middle school with low proficiency in writing, which hinders further learning in high school and college. Children from these underserved populations are particularly at risk of withdrawing from writing during the grade 4-5 stage in school when it matters most. The key reason for children’s difficulties is that writing requires not only mastery of writing mechanics (e.g., grammar, sentence structure), but also the possession of ideas to convey, and a mastery of the process of translating ideas into expression. Accordingly, the DAE approach bifurcates the writing process by harnessing the power of pretend play to bring forth children’s imagination, enabling them to focus on ideas, without at the same time having to be concerned with the technical details of writing. DAE combines low-cost motion-tracking technologies, such as Kinects, with animation technologies. This technological environment allows children to enact with props and produces animated cartoons as the ‘outline’ for their essays which serves as a scaffold for their writing. The new technological approach to expressive writing is explored in a charter school and a public elementary school, both of which serve a high percentage of ELLs, and the majority of the students are on reduced lunch programs. The project will help children from diverse backgrounds to become literate individuals in a modern society. The project also provides unique cross-disciplinary educational and learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to serve predominantly underserved communities.

More Information: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1736225