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Themes in Science and Technology Education, v3 n1-2 p9-30 2010

Search engines have been a major factor in making the web the successful and widely used information source it is today. Generally speaking, they make it possible to retrieve web pages on a topic specified by the keywords entered by the user. Yet web searching currently does not take into account which of the search results are comprehensible for a given user--an issue of particular relevance when considering students in an educational setting. And current search engines do not support teachers in searching for language properties relevant for selecting texts appropriate for language students at different stages in the second language acquisition process. At the same time, raising language awareness is a major focus in second language acquisition research and foreign language teaching practice, and research since the 20s has tried to identify indicators predicting which texts are comprehensible for readers at a particular level of ability. For example, the military has been interested in ensuring that workers at a given level of education can understand the manuals they need to read in order to perform their job. We present a new search engine approach which makes it possible for teachers to search for texts both in terms of contents and in terms of their reading difficulty and other language properties. The implemented prototype builds on state-of-the art information retrieval technology and exemplifies how a range of readability measures can be integrated in a modular fashion.

Descriptors: Information Retrieval, Search Engines, Readability, Language Patterns, Web Sites, Classification, Second Language Instruction, Second Language Learning

Themes in Science and Technology Education. The Educational Approaches to Virtual Reality Technologies Laboratory, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, GR 45110, Greece. Tel: +30-2651005697; Fax: +30-2651005854; Web site:

Author: Ott, Niels; Meurers, Detmar


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