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User Interfaces for a computer-based grammar correction tool for deaf and hard-of-hearing writers

A prototype of a computer-based English writing assistant (Composition Corrector, or CC) was developed with NIH SBIR/STTR funding in 2005; this system automatically detects grammatical errors in English written by deaf and hard-of-hearing writers. A user interface (UI) for CC is being designed as a supplemental project associated with the VL2 Science of Learning Center at Gallaudet.

An initial version of the UI was evaluated with Gallaudet Priority Research funding during Summer 2006 by teachers at MSSD; the teachers found the initial version to be inappropriate for classroom use at this time. The research team has proposed for Supplemental funding from NIH/NSF to reformulate the user interface for CC based on the feedback obtained from the teachers and to further evaluate the revised UI with students and teachers. Because the user interface is the set of screens that a writer sees to interact the CC application, the visual layout and options for customizing the screen are important in order for the tool to be usable to students and teachers.

There are two primary issues to be addressed in the next stage of this project:

1) How should the application prompt a writer to enter a composition?
• Should a writer receive feedback after each sentence, or only when the writer requests feedback?
• In what ways should the writer have control over the size of the font used for writing, and the colors of the UI screen?
• What other aspects of control over the UI screen should be considered?

2) What form of feedback should be provided about grammatical errors?
• Should video clips of human signers be used to explain the grammatical errors in written English?
• Should textual information with examples be provided?
• Would animated signers (avatars) be acceptable for explaining grammatical corrections?

The UI must be visually appealing – uncluttered, clear, attractive, and simple. The UI must also be age, grade-level, and culturally appropriate. It must also be carefully tailored to the writing skill level of the user. We plan to work with teachers connected with the CAEBER project of the VL2 Science of Learning Center at Gallaudet on these issues. We will present versions of interface screens to the teachers and students, and ask them to interact with the system and record their evaluations. After students and their teachers become familiar with the UI, we will interview the teachers in order to gather information about the aspects of the UI that need redesign.