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Each screen of the software is grounded in research related to constructionism, personal reflection, and active listening. Below we describe these features.

Organizing Thoughts Around Personal Narratives


The emotional importance of expressive writing has been shown by James Pennebaker and colleagues (1986) who suggested that written emotional disclosure has profound effects on both physical and psychological health. Pennebaker asserts that writing about significant life events provides an opportunity for reappraisal of thoughts related to an event. Therefore, a person may gain an increased understanding of her emotional reactions, which might result in reduced distress (Pennebaker & Beall 1986; Pennebaker 1995). The G.I.R.L.S system offers girls the Memory Closet, a safe space where they can write about events in their lives. This writing may be a first step toward organizing thoughts related to an event. Additionally, the system is set up so that all drafts of a users story are saved, much like a journal that can be reviewed later.


A Story to Think With  - Character Selection and Pictorial Narrative Windows


The next features encountered in the systemthe character selection window and narrative construction interfacemay help girls to organize their thoughts further by focusing on the most important people, places, and things in their story and constructing a pictorial narrative around them. The pictorial narrative may serve as what constructionists call an object to think with (Papert 1980) . By externalizing situations in their lives through expressive narratives and further by creating a pictorial narrative, girls might better internalize and organize meaning. The character selection window places girls in the directors seat and asks them to select the characters who will star in their story. The system is designed with preset images of characters in order to emphasize the process of constructing the story rather than developing images of characters.


Once students have chosen the stars of their stories, they are given the chance to storyboard their narrative in the narrative construction interface. They can choose from a small selection of backgrounds, but they also have the option to use a small paint program to create their own scenes. The names of the characters chosen in the character selection window appear in a list box. By selecting a name from the list and then selecting an emotion face, girls can choose the expressions for main characters in the story (excluding the character representing themselves). The goal of this feature is to encourage students to think about the emotions of the other characters in their stories and use that reflection to select an expression.


A Story to Think With  - Character Selection and Pictorial Narrative Windows


The next features encountered in the system, the character selection window and narrative construction interface may help girls to organize their thoughts further by focusing on the most important people, places, and things in their story and constructing a pictorial narrative around them. The pictorial narrative may serve as what constructionists call an object to think with (Papert 1980) . By externalizing situations in their lives through expressive narratives and further by creating a pictorial narrative, girls might better internalize and organize meaning. The character selection window places girls in the directors seat and asks them to select the characters who will star in their story. The system is designed with preset images of characters in order to emphasize the process of constructing the story rather than developing images of characters.


Once students have chosen the stars of their stories, they are given the chance to storyboard their narrative in the narrative construction interface. They can choose from a small selection of backgrounds, but they also have the option to use a small paint program to create their own scenes. The names of the characters chosen in the character selection window appear in a list box. By selecting a name from the list and then selecting an emotion face, girls can choose the expressions for main characters in the story (excluding the character representing themselves). The goal of this feature is to encourage students to think about the emotions of the other characters in their stories and use that reflection to select an expression.


ConceptNet: Setting the Stage for Personal Reflection


Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (1980) , authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, point out that children often know how to work through problems but do not since they are so accustomed to adults doing it for them. The authors suggest an effective technique of active listening to avoid this tendency: to understand what the child is feeling, suggest a possibility for how the event may have made her feel, and let her talk about the situation (Faber & Mazlish 1980). This technique can be repeated until the child is able to work through her feelings. The G.I.R.L.S. Talk system attempts to use this so-called active listening technique through an adapted version of a new technology, ConceptNet, developed at the MIT Media Laboratory (Liu & Singh 2004) . ConceptNet is a common sense knowledgebase consisting of spatial, physical, temporal, and social aspects of everyday life.  It consists of a natural-language-processing toolkit supporting affective textual reasoning tasks over documents (Liu & Singh 2004) . When you give it examples of text, it attempts to label them from a selection of eight different emotions that are appropriate to the text. An important note is that the ability for the system to obtain a more correct response depends on the language and grammar used.


For each scene, a girl can set up everything except for the character representing her in the story. To manipulate this character, she must submit the caption to ConceptNet for analysis. Once she does this, the system will try to empathetically suggest emotions that relate to this event.


At this juncture, the student can select from four buttons, which read, Yeah thats how I felt, No, I didn’t feel that way, Maybe a little of both, or I don’t know.


Continuing personal reflection


To further support this first reflection on her emotions, the student is then taken to an emotional weighting screen. On this screen, the student can choose from the nine core emotions as well as have the option to choose her own emotion. The weighting can range from not at all to a lot, and is ideally based on how much the student felt she experienced the emotion. This reflection is important because this weighting determines how the main character (representing the student) will appear in the main narrative construction screen once the user presses, Done. For example, if the girl weights happy as a lot, the character will appear with a big smile.  Each emotion and weighting is associated with a particular expressive appearance.


Sharing Reflection

Here, girls can connect to yahoo messenger and receive feedback on the prominent emotions represented in her texts as they are sent as well as feedback on the same in texts that he or she receives. Adding this dimension helps girls to share how they are feeling, not only to a computer, but to another girl working on a project.