The next generation of health care professionals will need to understand the foundational principles of biology. Science textbooks play a critical role in supporting biological understanding in school, yet these books are not designed to meet the diverse learning needs of students in today?s classrooms. By their nature, science textbooks assume a one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Because of this problem, teachers spend substantial time outside of the classroom locating and adapting texts to support students who are learning English, students who read below grade level, and students with learning disabilities. The proposed Fast-Track project seeks to address the limitations of current Life Science textbooks and to revolutionize reading with adaptable texts. Transforming the learning process, SquidBooks makes texts flexible by offering digital texts at different difficulty levels with embedded language support to create a personalized reading experience, optimizing both learning and engagement. In particular, the project will support ELL students and students unable to read at their grade level. Because science textbooks are often written 3 to 5 years above the intended grade level, it is almost impossible for students with emerging and intermediate English reading skills to comprehend and learn from traditional science books. The Phase I project includes 3 aims: translating NGSS-aligned inheritance (NGSS LS3A) content into Spanish (Aim 1); designing, developing, and testing the application to function through a web browser (Aim 2); and conducting user testing with students and teachers (Aim 3). The Phase II project will have 3 aims, including creating content to address 12 additional NGSS standards in English and Spanish (Aim 4); designing, developing, and testing improved software features (Aim 5); developing educator resources and conducting user testing with students and teachers (Aim 6). Successful completion of the proposed project will create knowledge about disciplinary textual processing and adaptive reading technologies and will support students who have historically been marginalized from STEM fields, especially students with low reading achievement and ELL students. In turn, this project will enhance and diversify the STEM and health care fields.

Public Health Relevance

Although science textbooks are a central curricular resource in K-12 education, they are often inaccessible and difficult to read; this problem is compounded when students are unable to read at their grade level, are learning English, or have diagnosed learning needs. This Fast-Track project will produce an interactive, digital textbook to support students? understanding of Life Science by giving them the ability to seamlessly move between different reading levels and languages and to play games that enhance their understanding of scientific language and concepts. This project will also solicit feedback from teachers and students to develop teacher support materials and evaluate the efficacy of SquidBooks at improving science learning outcomes.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase II (R44)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Beck, Lawrence A
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Squid Books, LLC
United States
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