David S. Gadziola
Forrest T. Houlette
Bruce W. Mozesi
Linda Hanson Meeker
The Department of English at Ball State University has received a Special Investment Grant from Digital Equipment Corporation to design and develop a package of programs addressing problems of instruction in English, specifically in the areas of (l) grammar, mechanics, and spelling; (2) the writing process; and (3) the appreciation of literature. The package will be incorporated into the regular instructional setting at BSU, where it will be used by approximately 7500 freshmen and sophomores each year in required writing and literature courses in the University's General Studies Program. Students will practice skills, explore concepts, and experience literary works of art in ways that would be unduly time-consuming or structurally difficult in the normal classroom setting. The effectiveness of the programs will be enhanced by the use of DECTALK speech synthesis and by highly interactive lesson design using the Renaissance authoring language. The grammar programs will comprise a comprehensive set of modules in English grammar, mechanics, spelling, and some elements of usage and style. The modules will be designed so that they can be called from any other module as needed; in such integration lies their greatest usefulness and strength. In the invention stages, for example, particularly appropriate rhetorical patterns can be explored; in the editing stages, any of the necessary modules can be called forth; in the author simulation program, a student could call modules that would expand his understanding of the author's available choices; and in the grammar program itself, modules can be called from any other module as needed for review or instruction.
Unique to our grammar program will be the integration of DECTALK into the instructional process. The DECTALK speech synthesizer now available from Digital Equipment Corporation translates ASCII code into readily intelligible speech, intelligible at a high level even to non-native speakers of English. DECTALK makes use of a 30,000 word dictionary, a syntactic parser, a user-built dictionary, and linguistically-based letter-to-sound rules to produce natural sounding speech in a variety of voices. The unit is fully programmable, so that the user can alter the rate, the intonation, the stress, and the phonetics of the utterance to suit most of the needs of normal spoken American English. DECTALK will enable us to provide useful instruction in spelling, punctuation and related aspects of sentence combining, and relations between word order and intonation. Spelling, to put it simply, cannot be taught without recourse to sound. Punctuation appears to obey a set of arbitrary rules until stress, intonation, and juncture are considered; and control of word order and ellipsis is difficult to teach without demonstrating the relationships between writing and speech that underlie syntactic variation. Such instruction, not previously possible on computers, provides an aural link with the classroom and effectively tightens the bonds between grammar and the communication processes.
The prewriting program, "The Writer's Plan," will use dialog to lead the student from simple, general ideas to more complex and highly structured notes ready to be turned into a draft. The program will prompt and search for key words and phrases in the student's responses to guide the development of both content and rhetoric. By searching for markers of cohesive ties, the program will be able to suggest rhetorical modes and logical development appropriate to the student's content. The flexibility of such a program is dependent upon the storage capacity of the VAX 11/785, but the integration of DECTALK will further
expand the impact of "The Writer's Plan" by simulating the writing conference in which the instructor acts as coach, impartial audience, and judge.
The literary appreciation programs will simulate the process by which the writer develops a literary work of art. The student will see, for example, an early draft of William Blake's "Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright," as we have it in Blake's notebooks, and will then consider the problems of revision that Blake himself solved. The student will face the consequences of inappropriate solutions and will, through the dialectic of the creative process. experience a simulation of a part of the creative artist's work. DECTALK will enhance these author simulations by allowing the student not merely to see what the author saw on paper but to hear something close to what the author heard as he composed.
The project is being carried out by a staff of six faculty members, including writing teachers, literary scholars, and a linguist, all of whom are familiar with the Renaissance authoring language, with the problems of instructional design posed by CBE, and with the content and teaching problems of their respective disciplines. Five members of the project staff underwent 160 hours of training during Summer 1984 in Renaissance, EDT, and VAX VMS. The three parts of the project, then, will be carried out by designer/programmers. All work uses VAX 11/785 computers with VT241 terminals, DECTALK, and associated software. Ball State University's cooperation includes $414,000 in hardware and personnel to support the $2l5,000 from Digital Equipment Corporation. Direct benefits from the Grant for the English Department's computer related instruction are 32 VT241 terminals with DECTALK units, but benefiting the entire University will be the 30% upgrade on existing University CPU, 1.5 billion bytes of disk space, and a communications upgrade to l200 baud, later to 32,400 baud.
All courseware will be tested during the l985 Summer Sessions and the 1985/86 academic year. The testing will be carried out by the project staff in appropriate BSU classes. Revision, empirical evaluation and implementation will be carried out during 1985/86 and will be completed by November 30, l986. The finished product will include the programs, technical manuals, teachers' handbooks, and student study guides.