Media Contact: Read-On! automatically assesses and diagnoses each student’s reading skill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STOTTLER HENKE INTRODUCES FIRST COMPUTER-BASED
INTELLIGENT TUTORING SYSTEM FOR ADULT LITERACY EDUCATION
deficiencies and tailors reading comprehension instruction to the individual
SAN MATEO, CA., Sept. 3, 2003 -- The first commercial “intelligent tutoring system” (ITS)
designed specifically for adult literacy education was introduced today by Stottler Henke
Associates, Inc., a software development firm based here. Read-On!(TM) is a computer-based
tutor for teaching reading comprehension skills to adults, to bring them up to the twelfth grade
Unlike typical computer-based training (CBT) software, Read-On! automatically assesses and
diagnoses each student’s specific reading skill deficiencies and tailors its instruction
accordingly. Because of its advanced capabilities, Read-On! can be used by students outside of
a classroom environment and without a teacher present.
Read-On! was designed to address America’s serious adult literacy problem. The National
Adult Literacy Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found more than 20
percent of American adults at the lowest of five literacy levels. People at this literacy level
usually cannot carry out basic tasks such as locating an intersection on a street map, locating
two pieces of information in a sports article, or identifying and entering background information
on a social security application. Low literacy levels are closely linked with poverty. According to
the survey, nearly half (43 percent) of all adults at the lowest literacy level live in poverty,
compared to just four to eight percent of those at the two highest level literacy levels.
“Read-On! has received considerable interest from community colleges and adult education
centers," Richard Stottler, president of Stottler Henke Associates, said. “But it has a wide range
of potential applications. It can be used by commercial organizations to improve workplace
literacy, and it can be used to teach other subjects besides reading. Because it assesses and
assists each student’s reading comprehension at a deep level, it can be used to help people
learn written instructions, rules and regulations, and technical manuals.”
Read-On! was developed with funding from a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
contract from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR). The Navy has a compelling
interest in adult literacy education because a significant percentage of its enlisted population
scores below the tenth-grade level in reading, writing and arithmetic. Furthermore, Navy
personnel with reading difficulties need to be able to remediate themselves through independent
study because there are no reading instructors aboard ships where enlisted personnel spend
much of their time.
Initial response to Read-On! by Navy personnel that tested the system was positive. One Navy
student who tested Read-On! at the Naval College in San Diego, California, said: “It taught me
more in three weeks than [I learned in] all of high school.” Another remarked: “It took
complicated situations and broke them down to something you could comprehend.”
A “grown up” solution for adult literacy enhancement
Existing literacy software products are extremely limited. They either target truly illiterate adults
– those who can’t read at all – or they attempt to enhance reading skills, but using content
geared toward children, which adults find uninteresting or insulting.
To address both the instruction and content dimensions, Read-On! provides an intelligent
tutoring system (ITS) and an authoring tool. The ITS assesses student reading skills by using
initial placement tests and by diagnosing weak skills through probes. The ITS enhances
reading skills through reading practice, or “integrated lessons,” in the form of text followed by
questions, tailored to provide an appropriate level of challenge to the student. Using Socratic
questioning, the tutor leads the student towards the correct answer when they make mistakes. If
the reading practice lessons do not improve certain weak skills, the ITS uses remedial exercises
that provide practice and instruction for those specific skills.
The ITS uses a client-server architecture. Students run the ITS software locally on their PCs,
and the ITS stores and retrieves student performance data on the server. An instructor can view
any student’s progress and manage the student’s log in information from any machine that has
the student management tool installed. Read-On! software and content can also be installed on
a single machine and used as a standalone system. For example, an organization can create a
course and distribute it to their students on CD-ROMs for use in their homes. Or, organizations
can set up a course of instruction in-house over their local area networks (LANs).
The ITS engine is the main component in the Read-On! application. This component directs the
sequence of interactions that occur during each tutoring session, and it interacts with the
Graphical User Interface (GUI) to present content to the student and accept student responses.
In addition, an Audio Playback component plays sound files that are associated with the course
content. Speech generation occurs at the time of course development, and the resulting audio
files are associated with the content so that they can be accessed and played by the ITS.
Read-On! Authoring Tool
Studies suggest that adult reading instruction is significantly more effective when the reading
material is related to each student’s personal interests and career goals. Thus, Read-On!
includes an authoring tool that enables course designers to create relevant reading material and
intelligent tutoring exercises, without programming.
The Read-On authoring tool makes it easy for course developers or instructors to create content
for the ITS, without programming. Specifically, the authoring tool lets developers:
Enter or import the text that will serve as material for reading practice, the questions
associated with the passages, and the remedial lessons including skills explanations, skills
examples, and practice exercises;
Categorize the text according to its topics;
Determine the reading level of the text, using the Flesch test and the SMOG test;
Index the questions according to the skills they test; and
Generate questions to test students’ comprehension of the text, including vocabulary
The authoring tool contains an audio generator component which lets various editors generate
audio files that are associated with course content. The system makes use of the Fonix(TM) text-
to-speech system (www.fonix.com) to generate speech, but will operate without speech
generation capabilities if Fonix is not present. Other text-to-speech generation systems can also
be swapped in with minimal changes to the code. The result of each speech generation is
stored as a .wav file and is associated with the learning object for which it was created.
Read-On! was developed using the Java programming language. The authoring tool and the
ITS run on 300 MHz Pentium II machines or better, running the Windows(TM) operating system
Price and availability
Read-On! is available immediately from Stottler Henke Associates by calling (650) 931-2700, or
by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pricing for Read-On! starts at $200 per pack of 5 PC licenses for the ITS. The authoring tool is
available at no cost to organizations that provide Stottler Henke with distribution rights to the
content created. For other organizations, authoring tool licenses are priced at $995.
Founded in 1988, Stottler Henke Associates, Inc.
applies artificial intelligence and other advanced software technologies
to solve problems that defy solution using traditional approaches.
The company delivers intelligent software solutions for education and training,
planning and scheduling, knowledge management and discovery, decision support,
and software development. Stottler Henke's clients include manufacturers,
retailers, educational media companies and government agencies.