FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STOTTLER HENKE INTRODUCES FIRST COMPUTER-BASED
INTELLIGENT TUTORING SYSTEM FOR ADULT LITERACY EDUCATION
Read-On! automatically assesses and diagnoses each student’s reading skill
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 level.
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 questions.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 (Windows 95/98/2000/XP). Price and availability. Read-On! is available immediately from Stottler Henke Associates by calling (650) 931-2700, or by sending e-mail to . 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. Web: https://www.stottlerhenke.com.