Improving Adolescent Writing Quality and Motivation with Sparkfolio, a Social Media Based Writing Tool (Doctoral Dissertation)

Sparkfolio

In November 2014, I defended my doctoral dissertation, titled Improving Adolescent Writing Quality and Motivation with Sparkfolio, a Social Media Based Writing Tool. Its abstract and suggested citation are below, and you can read the full manuscript here.

Abstract

Writing instruction poses both cognitive and affective challenges, particularly for adolescents. American teens not only fall short of national writing standards, but also tend to lack motivation for school writing, claiming it is too challenging and that they have nothing interesting to write about. Yet, teens enthusiastically immerse themselves in informal writing via text messaging, email, and social media, regularly sharing their thoughts and experiences with a real audience. While these activities are, in fact, writing, research indicates that teens instead view them as simply “communication” or “being social.” Accordingly, the aim of this work was to infuse formal classroom writing with naturally engaging elements of informal social media writing to positively impact writing quality and the motivation to write, resulting in the development and implementation of Sparkfolio, an online prewriting tool that: a) addresses affective challenges by allowing students to choose personally relevant topics using their own social media data; and b) provides cognitive support with a planner that helps develop and organize ideas in preparation for writing a first draft. This tool was evaluated in a study involving 46 eleventh-grade English students writing three personal narratives each, and including three experimental conditions: a) using self-authored social media post data while planning with Sparkfolio; b) using only data from posts authored by one’s friends while planning with Sparkfolio; and c) a control group that did not use Sparkfolio. The dependent variables were the change in writing motivation and the change in writing quality that occurred before and after the intervention. A scaled pre/posttest measured writing motivation, and the first and third narratives were used as writing quality pre/posttests. A usability scale, logged Sparkfolio data, and qualitative measures were also analyzed. Results indicated that participants who used Sparkfolio had statistically significantly higher gains in writing quality than the control group, validating Sparkfolio as effective. Additionally, while nonsignificant, results suggested that planning with self-authored data provided more writing quality and motivational benefits than data authored by others. This work provides initial empirical evidence that leveraging students’ own social media data (securely) holds potential in fostering meaningful personalized learning..

Suggested Citation

Sadauskas, J. (2014). Improving Adolescent Writing Quality and Motivation with Sparkfolio, a Social Media Based Writing Tool (Doctoral dissertation). Arizona State University. Retrieved from https://repository.asu.edu/items/26893