SBIR Phase I: The Sentence Wheel Mobile App

Period of Performance: 01/01/2016 - 06/30/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

ESOL Skill Builder Sentence Wheel, LLC
5119 Hoffmanville RD
Manchester, MD 21102
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


This SBIR Phase I project will assess the feasibility of a mobile application (App) designed as a supplemental teaching tool to aid the acquisition of English grammar skills of adult learners taking formal ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classroom instruction. The genesis of this projects flows from the experiences of an experienced ESOL instructor who realized that traditional textbooks and workbooks do not provide his students sufficient practice developing grammatically correct sentences. A search revealed a plethora of related English language Apps and software programs ranging from digital dictionaries to self-paced courses. Yet none were adequate to the need. The product envisioned will enhance and accelerate acquisition of English language skills of the adult non-English speaking population. The anticipated result will be an increase ESOL student retention levels and an increase classroom throughput because students will progress more quickly. This project supports NSF's mission to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare and has the potential for huge economic impact in terms of higher tax revenues, not only due to the 10-20 new jobs created directly by the company, but much more importantly by higher salaries that will be earned by successful graduates of ESOL programs. The novel hypothesis behind the Phase 1 project is that a well-structured, engaging mobile App specifically designed as a supplemental teaching tool for the Adult ESOL classroom can lead to improved student confidence, raise class participation, and ultimately increase the acquisition of English language skills. The proposed project distinguishes itself from existing (and known planned product introductions) along two key dimensions: 1. focus on providing contextualized content for adult students and; 2. being specifically designed as a supplemental teaching tool. The goal of this phase 1 project will answer the question: "Can the basic concepts be incorporated into an actual product that achieves the desired level of user engagement and interactivity?" The primary method of assessment will be a pilot test. The pilot test will consist of implementing the App in at least 2 intermediate adult ESOL classes. The students and instructors in these classes represent the targeted customers. The results of the pilot will be assessed using a Think Aloud Study, a Student Focus Group, and Instructor interviews. The secondary research method, intended to expand the scope and diversity of the feedback, will be an ESOL Instructor Focus Group.