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Expert Systems in Language Teaching

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On this page: Introduction | Example Project Structure | Why use the computer? | Example Expert Systems
Related pages: Teachers' Notes for the Job Application Letter Writer

Expert systems created by students can help them to understand the rules of a language. These could be rules of grammar (e.g. comparatives and superlatives), spelling (e.g. how to pluralise), pronunciation (e.g. of '_ed' endings), etc. These systems can be built as group projects.

Example project structure (for grammar)

  1. Students do a diagnostic grammar test to find out their grammar problems
  2. Students form groups in which the members all have difficulties with the same grammar rule
  3. Students use a computer program that they are familiar with to write an expert system.
    The expert system should:
    a) Introduce the grammatical problem
    b) Explain the rules related to the problem
    c) Process input such as mouse clicks or the filling in of boxes to give an output following the grammar rules.
    d) Explain which rules have been followed to give the output.
    e) Give a contact method to contact the system's author(s).
  4. The group which authored the system then give a presentation to the class about their system. This is especially useful for courses with a presentations component, such as the ELC's English course.
  5. The other groups of students in the class examine the system and try to find loopholes where the system gives incorrect output. By doing this they have to learn the rules to find out which rules are incorrect or have been omitted.
  6. These groups then contact the authors of the system, informing them of the problems. The authors then have to fix the problem, and thus they learn the rules in more detail.

Why use the computer?

Computers are rules-based systems and are good at processing rules, but only if they are well-programmed. The rules processing can be in the form of a decision tree, for example using hyperlinks on the Internet or in Powerpoint, or in the form of if...then...else statements in programming languages such as JavaScript.

If students don't understand the rules of the system that they are trying to describe, then this will be revealed when their  program is tested. It may be motivating for other students to try to find loophole in the system.

A way of handling exceptions can be programmed into the system. This can be used to cope with irregularity in language.

Example expert systems for language teaching


Last updated on: Monday, March 26, 2012
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