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TERENCE is a three year long project for the design and development of the first Adaptive Learning System (ALS) for poor comprehenders, hearing and deaf, and for their educators. TERENCE aims at offering innovative usability and evaluation guidelines, pedagogical models, AI technologies, and an ALS for reasoning about stories, in Italian and in English.
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Why TERENCE

Children in the age range 7-11 develop as independent readers: they learn to appreciate written stories to a greater degree, and develop their skills in understanding the main themes and sequence of events within a narrative. Yet, many 7-11 year olds do not develop these abilities and are classed as poor text comprehenders. These difficulties with reading comprehension are also often apparent in children with hearing impairments.

At present, there is a lack of resources for motivating hearing and deaf poor comprehenders to read and for improving their reading comprehension skills. TERENCE is an FP7 European project, which aims to create a web adaptive learning system (ALS) that educators can use in their daily work with poor comprehenders, with adequate learning materia by an international pool of experts of text comprehension and designers.

The TERENCE ALS fosters reasoning about events in a story and their relations through specific smart games. The aim of TERENCE is thus to encourage a deeper understanding of story texts, and to encourage a desire to read to children in this age category. The system implements an authoring tool for generating semi-automatically smart games from any text, stories in particular, by mixing a natural language processing module and an automated reasoning module. The design of the system uses the user centred design and the evidence based design. Crucial to the design of the system are the cyclical evaluations with experts and users.

To this end, schools in UK and Italy are involved in the evaluations since the very beginning of the project. TERENCE offers thus a unique, innovative solution to tackling the text comprehension problems of children. In this manner the project aims at contributing to their development as adolescents.

The usability and effectiveness of TERENCE were evaluated iteratively and incrementally for three years. The large-scale evaluation of the final release of the system shows that TERENCE is effective, as it significantly improved text comprehension of poor comprehenders, according to standardized tests of text comprehension.