Test Preparation Material
Test preparation material applies to an array of paper, video, and computer software products that are designed by commercial publishers to help student applicants prepare for FAA tests. While test preparation materials may be effective in preparing students for FAA tests, the danger is that students may learn to pass a given test, but fail to learn other critical information essential to safe piloting and maintenance practices. In addition, FAA inspectors and designated examiners have found that student applicants often exhibit a lack of knowledge during oral questioning, even though many have easily passed the FAA knowledge test. A major shortcoming of test preparation materials is that the emphasis is on rote learning, which is the lowest of all levels of learning.
Test preparation materials, as well as instructors, that dwell on teaching the test are shortchanging student applicants. All instructors who use test preparation publications should stress that these materials are not designed as stand-alone learning tools. They should be considered as a supplement to instructor-led training.
Electronic communications, including use of computer databases, voice mail, e-mail, Internet, World Wide Web, and satellite-based, wireless communications, are routine and this explosion of information access affects aviation training. It will be even more significant in the future.
Computer technology continues to advance in quantum leaps, challenging traditional ways of teaching. For example, voice-recognition technology, which lets computers accept spoken rather than keyed input, is highly effective for technical training.
Miniature electro-optical devices allow computer-aided information to be projected electronically on sunglass-style eye wear which is connected to a lightweight, belt mounted computer. Computer-aided information is particularly useful for aviation maintenance activities. For example, it would be possible for a technician’s eyes to easily move back and forth from computer-generated technical data to the actual hardware while diagnosing and correcting a maintenance problem.
Trends in training indicate a shift from the typical classroom to more extensive use of a lab-type environment with computer work or study stations. Using simulation devices, computer networks, and multimedia programs, students become more actively involved and responsible for their own training. Aviation-related learning centers are usually associated with colleges, universities, and research centers. The airlines, as well as aeronautical programs at some colleges and universities, have used similar facilities for many years.
Another type of computer-based technology, virtual reality (VR), creates a sensory experience that allows a participant to believe and barely distinguish a virtual experience from a real one. VR uses graphics with animation systems, sounds, and images to reproduce electronic versions of real-life experience. Despite enormous potential, VR, in its current stage of development, has drawbacks. It is extremely expensive, and versions with a head-mounted display sometimes produce unfavorable side effects.
For those engaged in aviation training, the challenge is staying abreast of technological changes that apply to training and adopting those that are the most useful and cost effective. Since much of the new technology is based on computer technology, instructors with well-developed computer skills are in demand.
Although the explosion of training technology offers new opportunities, instructors must remember their main teaching goals and be selectively receptive to new possibilities. Electronic information on computer networks and bulletin boards is from commercial providers, as well as community, state, and national government agencies. There is no guarantee that all of this information is current, or even accurate.