Learning with Tech: How One App Makes a Big Difference

Ryan Nicholson, Creator barndoorfour.com

Barn Door Four is available on the App Store                  

Barn Door Four is available on the App Store                  

“I saw the need for helping people,” said Ryan Nicholson, creator of app Barn Door Four. “In college,” he continued, “I worked for a company that helped kids and adults with special needs. I taught them basic but necessary skills for independent living: how to cook, clean, pay bills, ride the bus, etc. I knew I wanted to keep working in this area.” What he didn’t know at the time was this passion would lead him into the world of apps.

Ryan’s interest in helping others began in high school when he had the opportunity to work with troubled kids and teens. “Kids are like sponges, they soak in everything from their environment,” he commented. “I realized I wanted to be there to support them during these fundamental years, the period of time that shapes their understanding and outlook on life.” He became particularly fascinated by the intersection of autism and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). After college, his interest in apps grew when he discovered that implementing tech in both homes and schools could provide a more robust and tailored education for autistic needs.

Barn Door Four helps children build crucial skills in an interactive format. 

Barn Door Four helps children build crucial skills in an interactive format. 

“ABA is evidence-based teaching,” stated Ryan. “It uses a lot of different scales to measure improvement, and those scales are a perfect fit with something like the iPad. Kids can touch, pinch, and slide across the screen as they learn in a one-on-one setting.” Approached by an education company in Dallas to make an app for kids, Ryan said, “I came up with the concept of four farmyard characters, and decided to make it interactive so it would seem less like a chore and more playful.” The four characters help build an individual skill: fine motor skills, visual performance skills, communication skills, and sequencing.

Apps are an excellent way to bring different learning methods to communities who don’t have access to them currently; families in remote areas, for example, who couldn’t previously get treatment or find information can now progress using just their phone or tablet. “Disseminating this information to family and kids who haven’t known about it before is vital,” Ryan declared. “These issues can arise from seemingly nowhere and they need to be as well-equipped as possible to handle it.”

Ryan Nicholson, creator of Barn Door Four

Ryan Nicholson, creator of Barn Door Four

Ryan discovered the Alliance through the recent App Strategy Workshop in Los Angeles. Looking to network and learn more about app developing, he appreciated that the workshop was a community event and not a product pitch. “Just being there and learning from the collective pool of knowledge was amazing. Everybody has different insights concerning trends, where the app industry is going, what they’ve read or heard at other events, etc. Attending the App Strategy Workshop is having access to the best of everyone’s knowledge. That’s incredibly influential.”

As for Ryan’s perspective on where the industry is going, he said, “I really think there’s going to be a large push towards gaming in education tech. I don’t think it will take over, but rather will go hand-in-hand with teaching practices. It will be more immersive. Teachers can use these apps in their classrooms, and utilize games that are tailor-made for different learning styles and educational needs. There are amazing, inspiring people out there forming ideas that are absolutely groundbreaking.”

To become a member of the Application Developers Alliance and be featured in our blog, please contact Mike Schwartz at mike@appdevelopersalliance.org.