For the last 30 years, special education institutions have used blackboards, pencil and paper to teach students with special needs like Down syndrome. In 2013, IBM Argentina was invited by ASDRA (Down Syndrome Association of Argentina) to participate in a project aimed at developing information technologies for use in the teaching and learning process of children with intellectual disabilities in both school, support centers, and at home. The key was to leverage the extensive use of mobile devices. The use of tablets aids in learning for people with Down syndrome because it is fun, intuitive, and also motivates them to be more open and communicative.
The CCCA team posted the project on the On Demand Community to find professionals with different skills to volunteer their time to develop a set of cognitive exercises for smart phones and tablets. They needed IBMers with skills in open source programming, drawing, painting, music, leadership and project management.
It took the team of six volunteers about five months or 210 hours to complete the project. The game was developed using open source software and can be downloaded for free from anywhere in the world; it is available for download in 4 languages from the Google Play Store. Each of the game scenarios were hand drawn and colored giving and interdisciplinary artistic flair to the project.
The finished game, called "Tuli Emociones" aims to stimulate emotional responses in children by recognizing everyday situations. While playing, the child selects the "face" that represents an emotion described in the stage of the game. Correct answers allow the player to move from the home area through stages in the game. As the player identifies each face drawing correctly, the achievement is recognized with applause. They can then choose to continue to the next stage. If the player makes an incorrect selection they are returned to their original position without highlighting the error.
Since the game was made available, it’s been downloaded over 4300 times and is in use at three schools in Buenos Aires. ASDRA presented the Educational Applications Project and was chosen as the most innovative in the field of education in the past three years.