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IES Contract

Title: Readorium Software for Improved Reading Comprehension of Non-fiction Science Text
Center: NCER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Isecke, Harriet Awardee: Mtelegence Corporation
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years Award Amount: $849,950
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: EDIES11C0042

Product Video Demonstration:

Purpose: Prior research indicates that reading difficulties in childhood become more problematic as students move to middle and high school where increasingly challenging material must be learned. Although some older students still struggle with decoding, many more have difficulty constructing meaning from text. Despite research that has identified strategies for teaching students to comprehend what they read, many teachers do not have the training or resources to utilize such techniques. The purpose of this project is to develop a web-based product to support struggling readers in understanding nonfiction text in the area of science.

Project Activities: In the Phase I portion of the project, the researchers developed and field tested the prototype in seven middle school science classrooms. Data from the field test showed that teachers and students were engaged while using the new technology. In Phase II, the team will fully develop the product through an iterative design, feedback, and refinement process. Features that will be strengthened include an avatar that provides formative feedback and a recall function to store data and replay lessons at any time. In addition, the researchers will expand the content to include 19 topics and refine the teacher management component. To assess implementation feasibility and usability of the technology, and to gather data on the promise of the product to improve reading comprehension, a randomized controlled study will be conducted in 18 middle school classrooms. Half of the classrooms will be randomly assigned to use the intervention as a supplement to the curriculum and half will continue to use business-as-usual practices. A standardized science assessment will be used to compare learning across the two conditions.

Product: Readorium will be a web-based product for middle school students to improve reading comprehension of science content. The product will include an avatar to explain all functions and guide learning. Through the intake assessment, students will be assigned to the appropriate level of challenge. Customized science articles will populate the site and will serve as the basis for instruction. Students will be engaged through game-like features such as earning virtual money for correct answers and purchasing hints. A final test will measure overall progress. Teachers will have access to strategy lessons and to individual and class-level reports to guide further instruction. The product will supplement middle school science curricula.