Enabling Technology


Problem Description:

Of the 55 million children that attend K-12 public schools, nearly three million students have some form of learning disability. Of these students, a subset experience difficulty applying letter-sound knowledge to read and spell words with more than one or two syllables. Thus, students with reading disabilities struggle to demonstrate literacy skills exceeding a second grade level.

Project Outline:

My “Big Words” project’s purpose is to provide software that will assist students in development of their literacy skills. Computer Assisted Instruction as an Enabling Technology can allow a wider population of students to receive individual instruction, guided practice, and helpful feedback. I would like to use a computer to simulate the instructive feedback that a human teacher provides in response to a student’s answers. Instead of a binary “correct” or “incorrect” indicator, instructive feedback should build and reinforce appropriate problem-solving strategies to indicate to the student why his/her answer is correct/incorrect. Instructive feedback captures a teachable moment.

My goal with this project is to develop a basic instructive feedback engine that can generate some helpful feedback according to the responses of a student to a morpheme exercise (morpheme’s being the word chunks that make up larger words). My hope is that this instructive feedback will assist students who suffer from reading disabilities to gain necessary instruction and practice to fine-tune literacy skills.

Project Audience:

“Big Words” is intended to provide instruction and practice with literacy skills for students who have difficulty breaking words into their morpheme components. This group of students can successfully identify phonemes, but struggle with word chunking.

Domain Expert and Evaluation:

The Carolina Center for Literacy, and more specifically, Dr. Karen Erickson, will be my domain expert. Dr. Erickson has provided a good deal of preliminary information regarding morpheme components and instructive responses. The software should ultimately be evaluated by Dr. Erickson and potentially some of the students that she works with.


I will solely need a computer to run the software.

Unresolved Issues:

I will need to learn Python better in order to code this project. Furthermore, I will need to gain some knowledge about language processing in order to synthesize appropriate feedback responses.

Demonstrating Success:

I will consider this semester project a success if I am able to get a working prototype of this software completed. It will have to be limited in scope with regard to activity, word base, and possible feedback generated: however, it will be a good start for a larger scale project in the future. A successful project will be able to take advantage of some teachable moments and provide some instructive responses to student selections.