At sageCrowd, we focus on how to get large teams to implement new skills and knowledge, embrace common language, and create unique best practices.

When you look at the current research in the science of learning, it is most often applied to K – 12 and college education—not organizational training—and we are often asked how our learning science applies to the school system. So while we normally focus our discussion on organizational training, for this post we thought we'd switch gears and focus on childhood learning now that school has been back in full swing for over a month.

Different, but the Same

While there are differences in the brains of children versus adults, much of what is required for truly effective learning remains the same, whether the educational setting is online, in a classroom, or an educational app.

Technology isn't only changing our lives as adults and how we train at work, it's also having an impact on how our children are learning, too—there are even educational apps for babies!

A recent report from Hirsch and Pasek (Putting Education in “Educational” Apps: Lessons from the Science of Learning) highlights ways for kids "educational" apps—a growing industry—to be truly effective. While the focus of the report is on how to identify these apps from the plethora available, we think there are wider implications for these findings, too.

Just as with us adults, research suggests that, "children learn best when they are cognitively active and engaged, when learning experiences are meaningful and socially interactive, and when learning is guided by a specific goal." (Italics mine)

Educational content that rests on some or all of these conditions are more likely to result in effective learning. These conditions, called "Pillars" in the Hirsch/Pasek report, "represent areas of convergence from the newly amalgamated field of the Science of Learning." The four Pillars are:

1. Active Learning 
Active learning means that the learner has to engage mental effort and intellectual thinking and not be in a passive role. Sound familiar?

2. Engagement in the Learning Process (or with the learning materials)
Engagement means the ability to stay on task and undistracted. Engagement is supported by extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, meaningful feedback, and being careful with extraneous "bells and whistles" (such as animations and sound effects) that do not add to the understanding of the content, and could actually disrupt the learning experience.

3. Meaningful Learning
When the learner can find meaning in what they are learning, it is more effective. When learning is meaningful (related with previous knowledge), no matter your age, you are better able to connect new material to existing knowledge, and; therefore, expand on it to create new conceptual understanding.

4. Social Interaction
Social interaction and/or collaborative learning is a key factor in learning for young and old. While the techniques employed may vary with age, it remains that "high-quality interactions (e.g., those with knowledgeable social partners or in collaborative learning situations)" are highly effective teaching methods.

Just because your organization's training is going digital, it doesn't automatically make it more effective—as we are beginning to learn.

Many traditional forms of education are simply transferred to a digital context without thought on how children and adults actually learn best or on how to harness the uniqueness of digital media to improve the learning experience.

It's time for the "modern" classroom and organization to catch up with, and start using, the latest advancements in the science of learning to modernize our knowledge and practices.

What To Do Next: 

Want to know what else modern learning science has to say about designing more effective training? Download sageCrowd's whitepaper The Brain's Natural Learning Cycles: Implications for Skill Development.

Work Cited: Putting Education in “Educational” Apps: Lessons from the Science of Learning, Hirsh-Pasek et al., 2015, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol. 16(1),3-34

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