TRAC Structures for Learning Software System

The TRAC Structures for LearningTM (TRAC SL) software system for Windows©-based computer systems, when used with instructional content modules from New Intelligence Inc., can best be described as a unique kind of interactive textbook, according to Dr. Arthur Whimbey, noted author, education researcher, and authority on teaching reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Dr. Whimbey is one of the authors of several of the content modules being published by New Intelligence Inc. for use with the TRAC Structures for Learning system.

Along with the TRAC Structures for Learning system, New Intelligence also offers several content modules for developing reading, writing, and reasoning skills for use with the system.

These include: Outstanding African-Americans: A Text Reconstruction Program for Improving Reading, Writing, and Reasoning Skills, for grades 9 through 12; The African-American Experience: Stories of Courage and Determination, for grades 6 through 9; and Aesop's Fables: The Modern Aesop, for grades 3 and 4. 

A fourth reading series, Outstanding Hispanic-Americans, will be published in Fall, 2000.  A fifth series, Interactive History of the United States: The Story of Our Nation, is a complete textbook on U.S. History for use at the secondary level; Part One (through the Civil War) will be published in Fall 2000, and Part Two will be published in Spring 2001. 

The instructional content modules for TRAC Structures for Learning are focused on reading comprehension and writing skills, and are based on the effective methods of Dr. Arthur Whimbey.  In addition, the materials are cross-curricular, addressing reading and writing skills, and also content mastery. This is a particular focus of Interactive History of the United States.

Quality educational software must be developed through an understanding of how students learn.  Good software must go beyond the printed page in what it accomplishes with students if we are not simply to replace current print materials with more expensive computers and software to accomplish the same ends."

An example is in the critical area of reading comprehension. Reading specialists know that students construct meaning as they read, if they read carefully and thoughtfully - an essential process in developing reading skills and improving comprehension. But much software designed for reading doesn't recognize this process. In fact, when some teachers review software for reading instruction, there is an unfortunate tendency to select software whose main attraction is extensive use of color graphics and animation. However, this kind of highly-graphic software can subvert most of the critical process of constructing meaning from the text as it is read; the process is reduced largely to one of entertainment - or "edutainment" in current educationese."

The TRAC Structures for Learning series from New Intelligence Inc. is a new type of software called an "Interactive Textbook" or an "Interactive Workbook" - a concept that uses Dr. Whimbey's proven strategies for engaging the student in the process of reading text carefully and constructing meaning, with immediate feedback directly to the student during the process. The software takes an  approach that has been very successful with printed material, and adds several elements that allow the software to go considerably beyond the printed page in effectively engaging the student in appropriate reading exercises. It is particularly effective for students with poor reading comprehension skills or other language difficulties. 

The reading improvement software is interactive in (1) eliciting continuous responses from students to ensure that they are actively processing the material; (2) providing feedback to help students accurately comprehend the material; and (3) monitoring student's spelling and grammar as they write.

The TRAC SL system capitalizes on the power of the computer and the New Intelligence content modules to make the student an active learner, with active immersion in standard written English, and continuing feedback on the accuracy of the student's comprehension. In contrast to traditional textbooks, student interaction is central to the student activities; students must actively and continuously respond in a unique approach the called Managed Engagement that engages the student in the content, and manages each student's progression through the content. Managed Engagement makes it impossible for the student to skim over, skip, or casually browse the material. This helps students focus their attention on the material and contributes to mastery and retention.

Web-based enhancements to TRAC SL are a priority for future development. Continuing development efforts with respect to TRAC SL will surround the system with web-based options.  These will be optional for users, since most school computers aren't connected to the Internet at this point, but these options will allow schools licensing TRAC SL to add these web-based features as they add Internet capabilities in their classrooms.  This Internet focus, along with the strength of the system, to make TRAC SL relevant to classrooms and very attractive to educators.

TRAC SL has been developed for Windows-compatible computers running Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows NT. Stand-alone versions as well as versions for local area networks are available. Emphasizing simple point-and-click operations by students using the program, the TRAC SL system software also includes powerful, easy-to-use central student management, performance analysis, and reporting functions.

The concept of Managed Engagement is an important feature of TRAC SL. Dr. Whimbey points out "When a student is assigned to read a chapter from a textbook, the student's attention often wanders, or the student can skim the content, because no active response is required. The student's failure to carefully read the material may not be identified until a test is given days or weeks later. With the TRAC SL system, the student cannot progress unless the student reads and understands the material presented.  Furthermore, a record of the student's accomplishments are immediately available to the teacher through a detailed and easy-to-access reporting system."

The comprehensive data recording and reporting system included in the TRAC SL software system keeps a record of each student's progress, including detailed timing parameters for student performance, and includes multiple class management capabilities. A set of point-and-click analysis queries allow a teacher to interrogate the database for a single student, or for students in a particular class, or for multiple students' data for a single lesson. Teachers can use this information to continually assess a student's progress, as well as for individual conferences with students and parents.

The instructional content was developed by recognized educators and researchers: Dr. Arthur Whimbey, Dr. Myra Linden, and Dr. Eugene Williams.   

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