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2017 Conf. - Enhancing Literacy with Game-based Intelligent Tutoring and Natural Language Processing
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Training for Active Reading and Thinking (iSTART) and Writing Pal (W-Pal). iSTART is an intelligent tutoring system that provides adaptive and personalized instruction on self-explanation and comprehension strategies combined with opportunities for students to practice those strategies using educational mini-games. W-Pal provides instruction and extended game-based practice on effective writing strategies. Student motivation and engagement are essential to persistence in extended strategy practice. Thus, both technologies employ educational games to increase student motivation and persistence. Both technologies use natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to assess the quality of student responses and drive personalized feedback to the students. This paper describes design elements of these two game-based learning technologies, and summarizes empirical research indicating the systems’ impacts on literacy outcomes.

iSTART and W-Pal offer instructional videos, delivered by animated pedagogical agents, which provide lessons on effective strategies to improve reading comprehension and writing. In iSTART, after viewing all instructional videos, learners have access to several games in which they practice generating and identifying the strategies in use. In generative practice, students’ self-explanations are evaluated using an NLP algorithm assessing whether the response goes beyond the current sentence. In W-Pal, educational games are specifically designed to afford practice writing strategies. Students also apply the strategies in an essay writing module, which uses NLP to assess the quality of the essay. Empirical results demonstrate the effectiveness of both systems.

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