TeachTown: Basics is a computer-assisted instructional (CAI) program that delivers highly engaging On Computer Lessons.
The program includes a comprehensive curriculum that addresses skills measured in standardized assessments (e.g., The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills-Revised-ABLLS-R, Partington, 2008). The program was designed for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) between the ages of 2 to 7 years developmentally.
The curriculum includes the following learning domains:
Each domain has 5 levels:
The levels follow a developmental progression. Each increase in level reflects increasing linguistic, cognitive, and/or social complexity.
Upon enrollment, the teacher completes a Student Placement Questionnaire regarding the student's current performance that places each student at a starting rank (i.e., level) for each domain. The curriculum is then dependent on student performance and is adjusted for each student. Teachers can customize the curriculum to meet IEP goals.
|Language Development||Actions, Adverbs, Animal Vocabulary, Calendar, Classroom Vocabulary, Clues - Descriptors, Colors, Concepts, Environment Sounds, Fact Questions, Locations, Multiple Cues Animals, Multiple Cues Objects, Multiple Questions on a Stimulus, Music Instrument Vocabulary, Natural or Man-Made, Nature Vocabulary, Pronouns, Related Questions, Story Characters, Time Concepts, Tools, Transportation Vocabulary, Visual Comprehension, When Questions, Yes and No|
|Social and Emotional Skills||Character Introductions, Character Identification, Choices, Emotion Causes, Emotion Synonyms, Basic Emotions, Eye Gaze, Face Matching, Friend Rules, Gestures, Imitation, Matching Characters, Multiple Cues Emotions, People Identification, Play Behavior, Possessives, Pretend Play, Problem Situations, Silly Stuff, Social Actions, Sports, Toy Vocabulary|
|Adaptive Skills||Body Functions, Body Parts, Career Tools, Clothing Vocabulary, Community Associations, Community Helpers, Community Places, Community Signs, Food Vocabulary, Household Vocabulary, Multiple Cues Clothing, Measurement Tools, Money Identification, Coin Values, Occupations, Personal Needs, Room Functions, Safety, Seasons, Time Telling, Weather|
|Cognitive Skills||Animal Features, Association Matching, Categories, Real and Pretend, Comparisons, Exclusion Categories, Features, Functions, Exact Matching, Non-exact Matching, Matching Categories, Matching Features, Matching Functions, Multiple Cues Shapes, Opposites, Same and Different, Sequencing, Seriation, Shape Vocabulary|
|Language Arts||Contractions, First Sound Matching, Letter Identification, Matching Letters, Matching Words, Matching Letter Case, Sorting by First Sound, Matching Word to Picture, Matching Phrase to Picture, Missing Vowels/Spelling, Phonic Starts, Plurals, Punctuation, Rhyming, Sight Words|
|Mathematics||Addition Facts, Fractions, Matching Numbers, Number-Quantity Matching, Math Symbols, Missing Numbers, Most or Fewest, Number Identification, Patterns, Subtraction Facts|
The On Computer curricula above are supported in TeachTown: Basics by our Off Computer Activities
The instructional methodologies in the TeachTown: Basics program incorporate common techniques in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Specifically, Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Pivotal Response Training (PRT) are combined as follows: The program presents objectives in discrete tasks and guides learning through prompting and reinforcement (e.g., Lovaas, 1987). The student chooses and starts a lesson by clicking on a building in the town scene. Child-choice keeps motivation and attention to task high (e.g., Koegel, O’Dell, & Koegel, 1987). Depending on the student’s previous history with the lesson, a pre-test, learning exercise, or post-test is presented. Maintenance tasks are interspersed throughout the exercises and occur for 20% of the trials. Maintenance tasks help the student preserve previously learned skills and keep the student motivated and on task (Koegel, et al, 1989).
Each trial follows the discrete trial model (Lovaas, 1987; Smith, Groen, & Wynn, 2000) where the discriminative stimulus is presented (i.e., the instructional cue requiring student response) by presenting one or more images (e.g., a happy, sad, and angry face) with a vocal instruction (e.g., “Find the person that is happy”). Next, the student responds by selecting one of the images (e.g., clicks or touches [touch screen] the happy face). A correct response elicits a positive statement (e.g., “You did it!”) followed by a brief (3 second) inter-trial interval (i.e., pause between trials) and the next trial is presented. An incorrect response elicits an isolated lingering correct answer. Due to earlier findings, negative feedback is not included because of reinforcement potential. Students (particularly with ASD) in the pilot phase seemed to choose the incorrect images deliberately and repeatedly to hear the “negative” feedback (e.g., “Try again”). For pre and post-tests, 25 trials are presented including 4 different concepts (e.g., happy, sad, angry, confused). For learning trials, 15 trials are presented (with 3 maintenance trials) targeting at least 2 concepts (e.g., happy and sad). The standard mastery criterion is 80% correct (Lovaas, 1987; Smith, Groen, & Wynn, 2000). The TeachTown: Basics program also requires 80% correct. All responses are coded and presented graphically.
Trial difficulty is controlled by within-stimulus prompting which has been shown to result in better discrimination, generalization, and independence (i.e., prompt fading) in 1:1 trials (Schreibman, 1975) and using the computer (Panyan, 1984). When necessary, a least to most prompting strategy is utilized (stimuli are introduced in a weak [i.e., faded images] form and gradually strengthened [i.e., saturated images]). Gradually introducing distracters at the student’s pace maximizes learning and minimizes errors that help the student discriminate stimuli (Perez-Gonzalez & Williams, 2002).
Correct answers are reinforced on a variable ratio schedule with rewards available approximately every 4 correct (or prompted) responses (VR-4). This Intermittent Schedule of Reinforcement has been effective for keeping responses high, particularly on the computer (Neef & Lutz, 2001). To access a reward (i.e., reinforcer), the student chooses from 6 options that include a variety of casual video games and brief cartoons. The student can play or watch for only 10-20 seconds and then returns to the next trial.
The program contains data tracking and reporting to allow for student progress reports. Data is synchronized using a hosted data server and encrypted internet communication allowing student usage on any computer. Such synchronization allows for consistent programming and allows for school administrators to remotely track classrooms district-wide.
Studies have shown that motivating teaching techniques can result in generalization (Koegel, Camarata, Valdez-Menchaca, & Koegel, 1998). Research indicates that the use of multiple exemplars is critical (Stokes & Baer, 1968; Jahr, 2001; Reeve, Reeve, Townsend, & Poulson, 2007). Varying the instructions and stimuli can result in better acquisition, motivation, and generalization (Dunlap & Koegel, 1980). In addition to providing a motivating platform for students, the program addresses generalization in many ways. Concepts are taught through several teaching modules including receptive identification (e.g., “Find the blue bird”) or identical and non-identical matching (e.g., “Match the tiger” or “Match the color to the object”). Varied instructions (e.g., Trial 1 “Do you see an airplane?”; Trial 2 “Which one is an airplane?”) and multiple exemplars (currently over 15,000 images and sounds) including photographs, drawn images, and animation (e.g., actions) are presented throughout the program. The stimuli in exercise trials are different from pre and post-tests to ensure concept learning rather than memorization. Generalization is also planned by teaching several concepts at a time instead of a common mass trial teaching strategy.