Do your children or you need help learning foreign or English vocabulary, alphabets and numerals, spelling, math facts, music notes, or other quick recall information? So did we, the former developers of the 1990’s Smart Characters language tool for Japanese and Chinese learners and non-native speakers. Frustrated by the mediocre results after using the typical web or computer based learning software online or provided by the school system that uses children’s characters and games to make a “fun filled” learning experience, we decided to see what would happen if we adapted the Smart Characters Vocabulary Tutor to teach the English alphabet and numbers then later basic 2nd through 4th grade math facts that require memorizing the addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division tables. To our delight, the results have been very good, allowing rapid improvement in recall time and accuracy to achieve “first in the class” results in school.
Since that time, the system has been extended to teach spelling using voice and words from book length texts, and stand alone vocabulary lessons prepared using either a text editor or spreadsheet. It was next further expanded to music to teach the music note names and note time values. The latest extension has been to include the original Japanese and Chinese vocabulary lessons included in Smart Characters, and adding optional native or “closest English phonemes” voice for pronunciation. The overall goal is to teach any information that can be learned effectively using a flash card.
We have named the system Tiger Mom™ as it eschews treats and games, and emphasizes speed and accuracy. A timer bar displays elapsed time to remind the student to answer quickly. Progress bars show progress or lack at a glance. Two window panes display the most recent and the most difficult questions (having the worst scores). The app is otherwise bare of decoration -- it is designed to be quick and efficient without distracting eye candy. A student opens a lesson and starts a session. The student is done when a certain number of net correct answers have been made, or a certain low recognition time has been achieved for all the items in the lesson, or when it has been too long and learning is not occuring. Lessons can be reset for review.
The flash card tutor displays and tracks the student’s response time to each question, as well as whether the answer is correct or not. The tutor frequently repeats recently missed questions, possibly as much as every other question, until they are answered correctly and quickly enough. This method quickly identifies the questions that the student is having the most difficulty with, and repeatedly drills the weakest questions until they are no longer difficult. Students having difficulties with particular questions quickly learn that they can avoid the questions by quickly and correctly answering them. Tutor tries to confuse them. They respond by answering quickly and correctly.
The system can be used alone by a student to enter answers, and also may be used by a parent or teacher who presses a key to indicate right or wrong for each trial. This method is preferable when the student is less than enthusiastic or fully compliant (otherwise they can cheat the system), or when disabilities prevent rapid and accurate keyboard or mouse input. An experimental voice input method is available, however, it requires training for each user, which is not practical for beginning readers (e.g., learning the alphabet or basic words). Lesson sessions are saved for future review to see if learning goals or at least efforts are being made.
Development is underway. Certain capabilities and accompanying lessons are done: basic math facts, music note values and times, and English vocabulary to 6th grade, plus the ability to extract and make a spelling lesson from any text file. Porting to smart phones is next.
If you are interested in testing Tiger Mom(tm), contact Apropos Customer Service using the link below. You can aid development by creating and submitting your own lessons for the community to use. Initially, there is no store, forum, blog, or wiki. These applications will be added to the web site as interest indicates.Apropos Customer Service, 8 Belknap Street, Arlington, Massachusetts 02474, 781-648-2041
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