MOTIf – online tests for language impairment

The first spin off from the SciPilot launch pad was Motif – an online test interface for language impairment studies. This was the brainchild of Dr. Genevieve McArthur and Prof. Anne Castles from the school of MACCS at the Macquarie University, Sydney with a little help from myself to turn it into a web-application. I saw the web as a massive opportunity to distribute this free tool to a much larger audience, helping teachers and parents evaluate their kids and also potentially enabling MACCS run broader studies online. The previous tests were run on paper, PDFs and CDRoms with a mixture of issues, including borrowed laptops returning with kids’ pens jammed into them.

You can check out the site here at, but to see the tests, you have to pass some fairly rigorous approval processes! The site is intended for a serious research audience only. We are now planning to add more tests to the site, so it could become a serious tool in this area of research.

Technically speaking, I built the site with CodeIgniter, finally giving myself a chance to build a pure MVC application. I implemented the models with Deepend‘s CMS which provides an easy way to create¬† the administration functions, plus generating the models automatically. It was also my first experiment with Blueprint CSS to lay out the module grid which was very easy – after I’d spent a few weeks fighting with my own layout scheme. I hate browsers, I don’t have time for their quirks, give me a deterministic back end any day! I also used JQuery for most of the front-end interactive code, including the great form validation plugin – what a time saver! As I’ve often found JQuery combinations can lead to difficulties – I did have some trouble with using ReCaptcha and JQuery together, but it turned out to be the curvycorners plugin alone, so disabling corners in the user area was an honest repair. Oh, for -moz-border-radius in IE!

So at least I can say I finished one thing this year!

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