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Write it like a Rankin or Welsh

A computer program that teaches primary children how to "sex up" their stories is set to be tested across the country.

StoryStation scans text to assess how imaginative the child has been and offers suggestions on spicing up the narrative. It has already been trialled in two Scottish primaries and is poised to be used by even more schools.

The programme was developed as part of the Edinburgh-Stanford Link, a five-year research project between Scottish Enterprise and Edinburgh University and Stanford University in California, both world-class research centres in speech and language technology. Research projects must have commercial potential.

Judy Robertson, of Edinburgh University's informatics division, says that StoryStation was well received at a launch last week. "There was a lot of interest and there were parents there who said they would like to have one at home," Dr Robertson says.

More trials are to be carried out before StoryStation goes on sale.

"We have had two schools involved so far - Sinclairtown primary in Kirkcaldy and Blackhall primary in Edinburgh. What I want to do now is extend it out to a larger number of schools in different areas for longer period of times," Dr Robertson says.

StoryStation keeps to the latest curriculum guidelines and does not tell children how to write but rather suggests ways of improving their work.

Virtual characters are used to suggest ways to improve spelling and vocabulary. It can also be used as an assessment tool and to give feedback to teachers on pupil progress.

The software is designed for children aged 10 and above who are competent writers but would benefit from help.

The Edinburgh-Stanford Link is now considering enhancing StoryStation, adding a phonetic dictionary to help spelling and a "plot analysis tool" that will help young authors write better stories.

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