Social Skills Training with a Cool Gadget! by @KarenLMahon

Last night I attended a Mass Innovation Night event for the first time.  Mass Innovation Nights, for those who haven’t heard of them, are monthly meetings that showcase new, innovative products, mostly from entrepreneurs in the Boston area.  Not only do you get the chance to see some cool new products, but it’s also a great networking opportunity.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the evening….as an entrepreneur myself, I was curious to see what the event had to offer.  And as always, I was hoping to learn something new and see if there were any products that would be relevant to the education market.

One of the companies, Trovare, presented a really interesting product called the Amico bracelet.  A user sets up a social profile in an online account and that profile syncs with the silicone bracelet.  Then, if a bracelet-wearer encounters another bracelet-wearer with a similar social profile, the lights on the bracelets start blinking to let each of them know that they are in proximity of someone with similar interests, backgrounds, hobbies, etc.   The idea is that knowing that you have something in common, along with the blinking bracelet, gives people just the ice breaker they might need to start up a conversation.  Pretty clever.

Of course, the whole idea is predicated on a lot of people in the same space wearing the bracelets.  Some of the ideas kicked around at the event last night were using sets of bracelets for social mixers, dating events, trade shows (which I thought was brilliant) and other networking events as they enter the market and before the bracelets catch on more broadly.  But of course, my brain was spinning about education applications…in what context do kids need help initiating a social interaction?

So by now the answer is obvious, right?  What if we had sets of these bracelets available in schools and special education classrooms?  We could use them to teach kids who need a little extra help how to use the lights as a cue to initiate a conversation. We could even  give them some scripts for how to approach the conversation.  I’m thinking, in particular, of kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders, though there’s no reason regular ed kids couldn’t benefit from this as well.  It would be interesting to teach the kids to listen for what they have in common with their conversation partner as well.

I’m thinking a training program like this could start out very structured, depending on the needs of the kids.  But having a device like the Amico bracelet to cue the kids would add a level of independence that would make it easier for multiple pairs of kids to be practicing their social skills simultaneously in a classroom without a teacher needing to prompt the initiations.

What do you guys think of this idea?  Is it interesting?  Do you think it would be useful for ASD kids?

TechCrunch wrote a nice review of the Amico Bracelet.  To check it out, click here.

Mass Innovation Night events occur monthly.  To see the schedule of events, click here.

About @karenlmahon

@karenlmahon Karen L. Mahon, the Founder and President of Balefire Labs, an educational app review service that provides science-based and objective reviews of PreK-12 mobile apps, focusing on instructional quality. She previously established the instructional content strategy for DYMO/Mimio Instructional Teaching Technologies and while at Praxis, Inc. wrote federal SBIR grants through the National Institutes for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to support the development of instructional software programs targeting children who are traditionally difficult to teach. Prior to her industry experience she was on the research faculty at the University of Kansas.


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