The Edmonton Sun: Game helps students improve their writing fluency

A game that helps students become better writers has landed two Edmonton entrepreneurs national recognition. 

Neesha Desai and Kit Chen are PhD students in computer science at the University of Alberta and developed an online web app called COW to improve writing fluency. 

“A lot of students feel ashamed of their handwriting and won’t write at all if they have a piece of paper in their hand, but they will write on a computer,” Chen said. The students created Alieo Games in February and made the game with retired teacher Chris McMahen and artist Joel Keep.

COW will be recognized with the Mitacs Entrepreneur Award in Calgary on Tuesday. 

The app is designed to promote creativity. Students get “Alieo credits” when they use a bonus word, incorporate a word with more than six letters, or use a descriptive word from one of the five senses. 

Teachers can analyze the writing, broken down by the number of words, number of adjectives, adverbs, nouns, prepositions and verbs; the tenses of the verbs; and a classroom word count goal.

“Not only are students writing something they want to share, but all of a sudden they have an audience of people who are willing and wanting to read what they wrote, which makes it all that much more exciting,” Desai said. 

Since the product launch in March, more than 1,000 students in more than 30 schools, 12 in Edmonton, have used the program.

The pair are looking to expand into the United States and upgrade with new features.

By: Catherine Griwkowsky