Brandon Timothy's Fan Box

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SMART Phones vs. PTSD & TBI

I've been tasked with putting together a computer basics curriculum that would benefit the American wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan. These men and women have served their country with honor and are looking to take on a computer trade in the service or out in the civilian world. There are a couple of challenges to pulling this curriculum together: (1) most of these soldiers have very limited knowledge about technical matters (2) most of these soldiers suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or Traumatic Brain Injury. These disorders make it difficult to focus on tasks and they also make it hard for soldiers remember things. So taking that knowledge into account, I am going about my journey of creating something that would benefit an individual in this condition.

Let's talk about what SMART phones can do to help us out here. I will use the iPhone as an example just because I have one and we have been given 30 of them (thank you Apple) to carry out this pilot with the soldiers. I am playing around with the concept of using apps for learning. I firmly believe that apps can be a nice way to introduce/demonstrate/reinforce course material. Working under the assumption that this approach isn't flawed we proceed.

In learning something new there are a couple of things that always take place: (1) the new concept is defined and explained (2) the learner's knowledge of the facts around the new concept are repetitively exercised/affirmed (3) the learner's knowledge about the new concept is tested by demonstration of procedures (exams, lab experiments, etc.). So if we take a look at the iPhone at these three stages we are able to see that there are apps out there that address the needs of new learners for each stage. Let's go stage by stage and sample some apps that would help our soldiers.

STAGE 1: A new concept is defined and explained
Almost every app out there has some sort of explanation to help guide you as you use it. I play a lot of game apps and part of my ritual before playing for the first time is checking out the tutorial. This should provide a high level explanation of the major concepts of the game and visual reinforcement for the user so that the app (in general) is understood. This stage can be likened to a professor delivering a lecture to a class of students. High level concepts are described, but much of the low-level work is left out. Some examples of apps with high-level tutorials are Tic Tac Toe Ten and Bailout Wars. Tic Tac Toe Ten has a tutorial video while Bailout Wars has a couple of slides to flip through for users to understand how to play. The main point of this stage is to introduce the learner to the concept and to provide any background knowledge about the concept that would help the learner digest it easier in the stages that follow.

STAGE 2: the learner's knowledge of the facts around the new concept are repetitively exercised/affirmed
So at this stage the learner has become familiar with the definitions of words that relate to the concept at hand. He/She should be able to recite a canned (memorized) response to very high level questions concerning the concept in question. This stage can be equated to a professor giving out homework once the lecture has been given. The learner now has to wrestle with the concept and do exercises and problems that reinforce the knowledge from the lecture. Apps like Kaplan GRE Exam and Cram fit this stage perfectly. Both apps allow the learner to drill himself/herself in a repetitive manner until the objectives are met. For the Kaplan GRE Exam app the objective is to learn words and their definitions. For the Cram app, a learner can create flashcards on any subject matter and drill themselves until they have internalized the concepts. The notion of repetition and drilling is a very key component in acquiring information and retaining that information.

STAGE 3: the learner's knowledge about the new concept is tested by demonstration/explanation of procedures
At this stage most of the heavy lifting has been done by the learner. This stage is the equivalent of a written or an oral exam. The learner's knowledge of the concept is now revealed for what it is just as long as the examination is detailed enough. An app like SAT Practice Tests (math) is a perfect example of this examination concept. In the app, the learner must answer multiple choice questions from the domain of geometry, algebra, and trigonometry. There is really no faking it (unless you happen to be an awesome guesser). For the most part, the hard work from Stage 2 (or lack thereof) will come to the surface when demonstration or explanation are required. Research shows that learners who have the best grasp of a concept are individuals who can teach others how to do the very thing that they just learned. The aim at the end of the SMART phone activities would be to get the soldiers to teach each other the very concepts that they have just internalized themselves. If we are able to get to this point then our objectives have been accomplished!!!

More to come in the future ... check out the apps above if you get a chance ... we'll see you soon


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entrepreneur, writer, counselor, gamer, musician, hustler, bookworm, lyricist, engineer, salesman, friend, athlete, dreamer . . .