CATERS (Contact Person: Atsushi Fukada; By Chieko Kano, Keiji Yamagen, Atsushi Fukada, and Kazumi Hatasa)

System Requirements: 2.0 MB free RAM; JLK required
Price: Free for those willing to commit to piloting during 1996-1997
Announcement by Atsushi Fukada, Purdue University (IN)

CATERS stands for Computer-Assisted TEchnical Reading System and it was originally designed as an instructional/learning tool for Technical Japanese, but the system has turned out to be one which is equally usable for reading practice at all levels of non-technical Japanese. CATERS consists of two parts: a delivery system and an authoring system. Instructors can use the authoring system to create their own reading materials suitable for their students. The students then uses the delivery system to work on the prepared materials.

The delivery system itself has rather simple design. It first asks the students to select a reading passage to work on. It then displays the reading passage and does nothing after this point unless the users instruct it to. The system is equipped with a set of functions for facilitating reading which the users can call up anytime. The goal of the students, then, is to understand the passage with as few calls to the functions as possible. The functions provide help with both top-down and bottom-up processing.

The philosophy behind this design is as follows: Researchers agree that there is no direct way to teaching reading skills to the students. An activity which has been identified as the single most effective is extensive reading. The current design provides with the students a learning environment in which they practice extensive reading for content (as opposed to reading for language) at a reasonable speed. The role of the facilitating functions, then, is to minimize impediments and interruptions caused by difficult or unknown vocabulary items and/or structure, and encourage content-oriented reading. In this sense, the functions work as "training wheels": The more they can read without them, the better. Once they reach the point where they can comprehend materials of a certain level without the facilitating functions, they should move onto more advanced materials.

The following is a brief description of the functions designed to facilitate reading. The timed reading function measures one's reading speed, which serves two purposes. Firstly, the students can monitor their reading speed. Secondly, it encourages a more natural mode of reading employed by native readers, keeping them from falling in the trap of reading one word at a time. The global quiz function presents a series of content questions pertaining to the main points of the passage. The students can check their understanding by taking this quiz. Since this is not a test, they can see the correct answers anytime. The paragraph quiz function presents questions pertaining to a particular paragraph the student wants to work on. Content as well as grammar/vocabulary questions can be presented here. The kanji dictionary search presents information on a particular kanji character at the student's request. The kanji reading function shows the reading of a particular kanji character at the student's request. The display sentence skeleton function displays in three different colors the skeleton (basic) structure of a particular sentence the student identifies. Phrase and sentence translation are also available. The student can also tap an interactive display of the structure of a sentence of his or her choosing. The student can examine the details of the sentence structure along with English translations. The program can also display the referent of a referring expression or show the scope of the modifying materials preceding a head noun.

The authoring component consists of three separate programs: Quiz Editor, Structure Editor, and Reference Editor. These programs do not require technical computer knowledge to operate. The quiz editor allows the instructor to input Global Quiz as well as Paragraph Quiz questions. The structure editor allows the instructor to input four types of information for each sentence in the passage: the skeleton structure, the detail structure, translations at all levels, readings of kanji characters if any. Obviously, this is the most time-consuming part of the authoring process. The program has been carefully designed to minimize the work of the operator. The data entered using this program is utilized by the following functions: Kanji Reading, Display Sentence Skeleton, Phrase Translation, Sentence Translation, Display Structure, and Show Scope. The reference editor allows the instructor to specify referring expressions in the passage and input their referents. The data entered using this program is utilized by the Show Reference function.

A package containing demo materials only should become available in a few months from anonymous ftp sites. Anyone interested in using it should be prepared to author materials for their class(es).