Sunday, January 20, 2013

Brain Gaming Merit: Finding Transfer

The topic of this blog is determining the value of brain games, in follow-up of Ted C. Fishman's May 9, 2012 USA Today article "Gaming Our Brains: Do online mind exercises really improve our mental processing? As the article indicated, the internet is being flooded with a variety of visual memory games and is a $300 million a year business with millions of hours spent playing these exercises.

The concern is that many games are random, non-progressive visual memory for detail exercises that simply measure "right and wrong" speed recognition answers. which can be discouraging to the learner, if not completely beneficial.

Although our cognitive skills have been shown to diminish as we age. i.e. auditory memory (listening) declines at age 35, but varies greatly depending upon the actual task coordinated with the person's innate ability (Craik & Grady, 2000. Changes in Memory Processing with Age). And, there is a high correlation to our sensory acuity of visual, hearing, gait, and balance (p.2). Additionally, Many have cognitive processing discrepancies that they compensate for on a daily basis, and can be improved through the correct intervention.

This indicates that we all would benefit from brain exercise, but what programs will be beneficial specifically to our own personal needs? Subsequently, are short, random, visual brain exercises worth our time, effort, and money? Although the exercises do no harm, how will we know which programs will work most effectively for us?

The key to these exercises is whether they can create "clinical transfer" to every day life work and learning activities. The Mem-ExSpan thirty years of independent research has documented cognitive skills-memory transfer (five published, juried, award winning, longitudinal reports) with remarkable changes in academic and work proficiency. This work is at least a start in the vast research to be continued by many around the globe.

The program that has shown work and academic proficient transfer is called, "The Bridge to Achievement". (The BTA) The question is - how does the BTA differ from other random exercise games offered by competing companies?

My former blog commented on how we each have our own brain map of cognitive skills that make up Intelligent Quotients (IQs). This topic has been explored for decades by various psychologists and scientists evaluating the role that memory plays with daily functioning.

The BTA offers more than mere self-taught memory games, and works as a prescriptive system to strengthen visual AND auditory memory segments and sequencing in gradient, rehearsed steps. Craik and Lockhart"s Hierarchy work (1972) demonstrated the various incremental levels of memory absorption, and the influencing factors create "cementing" to our minds. The BTA steps encompass rapid right-and-left-brain cognitive shifts applying tonal patterning through musical phrasing. Subsequently, synapses strengthen.

Few specialists have conducted in-depth, standardized cognitive skills diagnostics to the extent of examination that I have completed, applying ten standardized cognitive skills test batteries individually and group pre- and post-test (6 hrs. intensive measurement per student), and evaluating them with schools' yearly standardized assessment batteries. Only through this type of correlated, tracked assessment can future change processes and trending be determined and predicted.

I was fortunate that I tested individuals in small town, small group settings, where the schools had students that remained and moved lock-step through the grades. Otherwise, they could not be tracked longitudinally.

Having our own personalized cognitive skills tested has high personal value and will direct to your training options. Yet, psychological assessments are expensive and hard to come by, as they must be conducted by a certified psychologist/clinician/diagnostician. Whether you utilize "indicator" free tests, or pay for a thorough psychologist's evaluation, it is helpful to know your visual and listening area strengths and weaknesses, as this information will be key in determining your required specific intervention, and that you are not wasting your time working on the wrong cognitive area.

It can not be deduced that ANY game will produce desired results, or are similar to the BTA program. Will tracking the random answers of millions playing games produce significant clinical trial information? This is unlikely, because each person has their own cognitive brain map, which processes uniquely to themselves, and gaming tracking systems will not measure specific cognitive improvement in directed areas.

Only by thoroughly assessing each of the millions through prescriptive cognitive skills diagnostics, will it be determined the effectiveness of random brain games. Longitudinal assessment through learning management systems (LMS), will be unlikely, as people will not commit to independent, self-instruction on a continuous basis, nor can cognitive assessment be administered effectively online. Subsequently, it will be unlikely that the games played will have futuristic measurement capabilities of seeing if the memory for visual detail exercises "transfer" to higher work and academic learning proficiency.

Yet, we can not overlook the possibility that the games are fun to play.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Theatrical Puppetry Exercises with Musical Choral Speech Serve as a Tool to Enhance Memory and Learning Proficiency

Today, there are many brain exercise programs online that expect the client to have the motivation and interest to stay focused with an often tedious program. Many are random visual figure exercises to learn a series of images. The various types of visual and listening memory are not over-viewed, and, what is presented are visual memory exercises that are difficult to complete.

What is obviously missing from this paradigm is the crucial "listening-auditory memory" facet. Researchers have long written that auditory memory must couple with visual memory for the learner to understand or comprehend new information. Auditory/listening memory exercises must accompany the visual ones, and obtain effective results in the process. This challenge becomes a complex measurement and evaluation process to discover what is effective and works with all learning levels and capabilities. Following years of test-train-testing iterations, puppets were found to be an engaging, differentiating tool.

Yet, it can not be “any puppet, with any instructional purpose, or with any filmed procedure”, but should have a specific rationale and lesson objective in mind. Students are taught how to interface, react, and engage effectively.

To teach rapid auditory-visual memory, and to make the training palatable and exciting, I engaged a family of historical vaudevillian ventriloquist puppets that taught sequential learning to children age 9, up to the adult learner, who appreciated “the Charlie McCarthy – Edgar Bergen retro Hollywood radio days”.

Puppet characters offer the following beneficial qualities:

1) They offer a non-threatening, stress free, fun-like presence, and can become a “family affair” for the learning process. The learner remains in an abstract "one-up" position. Although they can challenge your capabilities to the next level, they do not intimate. When they back-talk, you are not personally offended, as they become your friend.

2) Their messages are rapidly understood. For example, they have been used in political cartoons and comic strips for decades.

3) Their vocal intonations penetrate the memory system.

Becoming an effective learning tool, we can learn from speaking puppets, but only when uniquely presented, are programmed effectively, and engage the learner.

Rather than fighting your way through a labyrinth of random, abstract memory lessons, as an alternative, instructional Mem-ExSpan puppetry games can improve our cognitive skills and memory uniquely and easily. We can learn visual and auditory factual names, words, and sequential memories, as in learning technical procedures, having jumped past outdated, rote memory systems.

And, if we find that these puppet characters do give us "guff," we really do not mind!

To find out more about Jan’s 5-Gen’s of classroom instruction backed by published, juried research, visit

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Good Reasons to Understand Your Tablet's Operating System "

My recent article, “Electronic Tablet Devices: Questions to Ponder” drew some criticisms from family members. I was advised not to write such heavy technical articles that no one can understand. I agree that eyes glaze over when you start talking about operating systems or platforms, but – there are several simple reasons why you need to know just the basics, and not ultimately regret your purchasing decision.

Carefully consider why you should chose a tablet according to its operating system (OS), and not depend on a friend’s selection or advice. Or, totally ignore the OS process.

The primary reason is that your tablet's basic functions, or “how it works”, depends upon its OS. That includes settings, features, and controls like its operational rules, and the complexity of your use of them.

First of all, new, updated OS’s are coming out all the time. That very fact makes this discussion confusing. When I wrote the article, there were primary ones (Apple iOS, Google’s Android, RIM’s Blackberry, Hewlett Packard’s Linux, and Windows 7), and now there are multiples by many companies. Furthermore, the tablet may seem like a larger “handset device” that you already have.

To top it off, Windows 7 has morphed into its “Surface” tablet with Win 8 and its NT OS coming out later this Fall with new, updated features trying to resolve some of the iPad “non-productivity” shortcomings.

The initial tablet focus was on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. Now, both companies are in subsequent gen's of rapid, sequential development; Android is in its’ 3rd version called “HoneyComb”, and Apple’s iPad sells the iPad2 and 4G light. At the end of this article, I will point you to where you can find excellent tablet comparative insight, with blogs by Dan Grabham.

Before going to these Techradar sites, review my final points:

  • My main point is: conduct online research in advance so you understand what features your device’s OS offers.
  • Understand your tablet’s productivity functions, in other words, what can you do with it?
  • Understand the maintenance requirements with possible ongoing costs.
  • Understand that tablets are not cell phones; will it interface with your cell phone device?
  • Understand that your OS decision will determine where you will find your tablet device. Who will be your carrier? The same one as your cell phone carrier? Splitting company families is unwise. Consider monthly contracts and binding costly obligations.
  • Understand the software compatibility – will selections be primarily in the clouds or various apps to purchase to make it functional like your desktop/laptop? 

Understand that application purchases (apps) vary from company to company as far as selection, price, and download ease. Which apps do you want and need; does it matter? Each carrier offers thousands of choices, all different from each other. That means you will have to sort through them and make purchasing decisions.

Finally, How much time do you have to spend on multiple devices that you may own? Consider why you want a tablet device over your basic home PC or e-Reader? Yet, tablets function as e-Readers. Are you aware that there is a Kindle app for the iPad? Or, should you invest in an e-Reader rather than the pricier tablet? It becomes a matter of personal preferences.

To help decide among the multitude of choices, compare e-Readers online: Kindle Fire Vs Nook Tablet to understand the pros and cons. There are many directions to go.

Understanding that there will be significant improvement updates every few months, you may be tied into a two-year service agreement contract. Are there significant advantages for the increased monthly cost? Or will your tablet investment become another surfing entertainment toy that you replace frequently, or will it become a helpful tool that proves to be a wise use of your time?

For this tablet comparison review, check, “Techradar blog's” by Dan Grabham: "OS Tablet Comparison Articles" and additionally, "Tablet News, Reviews, and Advice".

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Selecting Electronic Tablet Devices: Questions To Ponder "

Introduction: There are many complex considerations to evaluate when purchasing the pricey tablet. 1) Purpose, 2) Operating System Platform Selection, 3) Cost, 4) Application Purchasing (Apps), and 5) Durability, Loss, and Replacement factors.

The very name of “tablet” denotes “simple reading and writing access”. This may be true, but there are many questions you should ask before investing in a tablet for yourself or your child.

To begin with, with the iPad – tablet craze, there are many versions out there for a variety of skill levels. It is becoming a tablet revolution as new operating systems emerge to compete with Apple’s commanding iOS, and now their new O X "Mountain Lion" operating system interface coming out soon.

The tablet device is now being purchased alongside other screen multiples that the average household contains: televisions, desktops, netbooks, laptops, and Smart Phones. To be more accurate, each individual, man, woman and child can each own, and divide their time, between several types of screens, in multiples. They are even being adapted into our automobiles. Even, Internet TV is here.

Tablets are a revolution touch learning device, as students can read and learn new material with the tap of a finger, as young as at the age of three. If you are an adult or teen who has been using a Smart Phone for years, transferring to the touch screen interface will be simple. Tablets seem like an outsized “Smart Phone”, with touch icons, and they give you the larger screen size. The various applications are understood, and where they take you for what you need to know.

There is a question as to how “heavy-duty” the tablet is for intensive business functional document usage, and making presentations, or whether it is best in classrooms or households. To compare the use of a desktop PC and a tablet: With the Windows PC you have to deal with start menus, mice opening and closing specified windows, boot-up time, and directories. It becomes a computer session.

With the tablet device, you launch an application, and you're using that app immediately. That's it. You don't have to teach computer or keyboarding use in order to use the Math or Reading application. And, it is small, highly portable. That is a big difference.

Screen Convergence: Apple, seeing the multiple screen inconvenience, has created a new operating system, OS X called “Mountain Lion”, with accompanying software to interface the iPhone, iPad, Mac desktop, and laptop to merge all screens interactively. They are working on the ability to view desktop apps as icons in an iPhone-like grid. The new Mac software will support a feature called “Air-Play Mirroring”, connecting images of the iPhone, iPad to the user’s television screen, through a $99 Apple TV device.

Subsequently, you will need to consider how you will divide your time between all of the multiple interactive screens you, and your family, own and operate both at home and away.

Five important key questions to consider when selecting a tablet and making a substantial investment:

First Question To Ask Yourself:

Decide on the purpose and skill level of the person using it. Will the tablet be for quick email communications, watching movies, listening to music, shopping the internet, or for classroom instruction? Can the household decision-makers agree on how time will be allocated between shopping and map surfing, presentations, watching movies and sporting events, social networking, conducting business operations, or for instructional usage?

Engaging heavily in any one interest or objective, as texting all day, is like living on potato chips; it is simply unhealthy and unproductive.

Skill Levels Vary Greatly in Dealing with Functions:

Everything from web and map searching, utilizing USB ports for backups, inserting head-phones, and microphones, downloading apps, and uploading to the clouds requires technical knowledge and performance skills.

Unfortunately, some tablets, like the current Apple iPad, do not have a USB ports to transfer data, or print, except to the clouds, or with a transfer cord to a laptop/desktop/printer. Be sure to check this important feature when you shop tablets.

Second Question:

Operating System Choices and Platform Considerations:

Decide, or have someone decide for you, which operating system (OS) you want to go with. You may want to bundle for better value. Although the Apple iOS now controls 90% of the market share, Android, Hewlett Packard’s Linux OS, and Windows 7 are fighting for positioning.

Be aware that multiple category screen interfaces are in the works for companies, but Apples new OS X "Mountain Lion" has a jump start coming out this year.

Onlive, Inc. has recently released an Apple OS free version of Microsoft Office (MS) – the productivity tools of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, called “On-Live Desktop”. There are still concerns with the mismatch of the touch interface as MS Office was designed for keyboard and mouse.

There has been criticism regarding the Windows 7 Operating System (OS) not doing well on tablets compared to the desktop.

Make sure you do research for your Learning Management System (LMS) instructional requirements and whether you need Adobe Flash Streaming capabilities.

The Google, Windows, and Blackberry Android OS may become favorites as they incorporate Adobe Flash Player. In April 2010, Hewlett Packard (HP) acquired Palm’s web Linux operating system called webOS. The HP TouchPad tablet offers webOS – including Adobe Flash features, and will be released July 1, 2012 at competitive iPad price points.

Although the iPad – iPhone Operating System has not supported Adobe Flash Player which many Learning Management Operating Systems (LMS) require, they have launched a new Media Streaming Server 4.5 for $995 at an Amsterdam trade show.

The Adobe Flash Media Interactive Server 4.5 is $4500.

Third Question:

Price Point and Monthly Fees. When purchasing a tablet, there are many price points from under one hundred bucks up to one thousand dollars. Also, consider service providers’ policies and bundling with your Smart phone. Don’t forget to compare monthly costs for tablet operation. Monthly data fees range from $20 to $80 per month.

With planned obsolescence, you will want to change tablets for ones with newer features. Be aware that your service provider may lock you in for the life of the tablet. When dealing with obsolescence – who will trade them in, and when?

Fourth Question:

Application (APP) Purchase: For home use, who will be the decision maker in buying applications, and what research tools will they use? For classroom learning, who will decide on what apps to buy – where will the budget come from? For educational purposes, will it be a unanimous budget decision by the school building administrators or teachers, or by grades with appointed team-units?

Subsequently, how will the apps be downloaded and launched by younger students? In a classroom environment will all students launch them simultaneously, during break periods, or by the teacher – how? Will the steps and procedures be reviewed to save time and frustration?

Now, with Android and SMS apps, you can both send and receive text messages and calls with Skype and Google voice on some tablets. Check this feature when buying.

Fifth Question:

Durability, Loss and Replacement Cost. Research durability features and how the tablet device is designed. Electronics can be an expensive investment for any age, but particularly for young children who are not certain how to use them effectively, and are known to drop and break things easily. Durability selection will be an important choice.

I known those who left their tablet device on an airplane seat to find it disappeared. Decide if you can afford to replace it, if necessary. How will breakage and repair be handled? Replace the tablet with a new one, or rush to the repair store?

Instructional Usage:

The highly portable, light tablet can be used in all sectors of instruction: primary, secondary, college, or workplace learning. Costing less than textbooks, tablet sales into schoolrooms are expected to escalate over the next year. Subsequently, parents are wondering whether to invest in them for their youngsters’ usage at home.

On the tablet, learning becomes integrated with sound and text. Reading is now interactive and dynamic. Visualized actions are now replaced by stories that come alive with animations and sounds on the color touch screen. Does this activate their brain-room for their own imagination to grow? This question is answered in that it will depend. There is a big difference in the personalities, attention spans, and capabilities between children and the environments in which they live.

Yet, this learning must be directed, as attention spans for most children are short. Students can play fast games, but when applying tablets for instructional use with reading, math, and spelling, lessons must be parent supervised and managed. Questions must be carefully thought out and answered through automated tracking systems.

Tablets are ideal for displaying a variety of content to learners to explain concepts. This allows for differentiated learning, as pacing and timing are critical. Instructors can carry the tablet and move around learning areas to monitor student’s progress and make important adjustments to work.

Written Instruction Interfaces.

It is also to be determined how tapping out individual letters on a weak touch keyboard contributes to solid written expression capability. Will fast sequencing ability and thought flow be as productive as working on a desktop, netbook, or laptop? Or, should they be used together in tandem as screens converge interactively?

Written drafts may have to be printed out of the clouds, unless the tablet has a USB port for a connected printer. Pen and ink may become an alien concept; cursive writing is also nearly non-existent. How will we add our signature when we open a bank account or sign legal documents? Will we sign our names with an “X”, tapping with a stylus, or resort to rubber stamps?

Written communication instruction will still remain paramount, and will need to be taught, with or without paper, moving to keyboards and screens, embracing tablet domination.

Here's a short list of kid-friendly tablet devices in a broad range of prices that you can find online:

Touch Screen Tablet Alternatives for Kids:

When you don’t want your kid to break your iPad and suddenly turn it into a $600 paper weight, there are less costly alternatives. With the younger child, with more limited interactive sequencing skills, a touch screen can be simple, yet you might consider tablet interfaces created specifically for this age group in mind – like V-Tech’s V-Reader or Learning Innotab with a small 5” screen, designed for learning how to download applications (apps) for ages 4-9, $79.

The Korean Nabi, $200 tablet offers apps for three Select Age Groups, (3-5, 6-8, 9-11). It is a nice alternative for the more expensive iPad, as it has a camera, 7” screen, an SD slot for games, an audio jack, with built in speakers and microphone. This tablet features lots of free apps, a Netflix app is built in, and there is a Nabi store.

As a $200 alternative for all ages, the Kindle Fire tablet offers books, music and Netflix movies on a 7” screen; 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, top-mounted stereo speakers and a USB port.

Finally, Personal Well-Being: Isometric Finger Tension Considerations:

For daily student classroom usage, spending hours hovering over a tablet raises questions regarding back, finger, and eye-strain tensions.

Tapping too hard isn’t the only concern, research studies warn that simply holding fingers rigidly over the surface in anticipation of touches causes “isometric tension,” which presents even more problems for your finger muscles and tendons. The study also points out the double-edged sword of high-resolution screens, which might make for clearer images, but also cause smaller fonts that strain the eyes.

Recommendations are to avoid bending at the neck or back to use a tablet device and, if possible, connect it to a physical keyboard.

The jury is out on many of these tablet device questions, technology is moving forward rapidly, but they are something to be considered, and to think about now, as you select your purchase.