Summer is upon us, plans to prevent summer brain drain are going into high gear, and the good news is that we never stop learning so brain drain may be less of a reality than we think. Obviously, classroom and non-classroom learning is not the same thing and when class is out, what children (and adults) pick up through their social learning, is substantive.
Social learning, for it to be effective, relies on a multi-step process so that the learning is retained long-term. The first component is attention: the attentional process has to be on point, which means that distractions and multi-tasking should be limited. Technology, in this case, can be contribute to problems with the attentional process; much technology we look at on a screen requires the division of our attention between multiple tabs or applications and there is a lot of back and forth. The regularity of dividing attention will mean that that becomes a norm and the need to focus attention on a lesson requires self-limiting of distractions.
The second part of the process for effective social learning is the retention process, which relies on memory recall. For instance, if a parent describes to a child how to change a flat tire – this would amount to social learning as it is a social interaction that hopes for learning – the child would symbolically process the actions being described, store it in short term memory, then allow the symbolic representation to move it in a more permanent long-term memory as the point of learning is now tied to a symbolic representation.
The next step is a motor reproduction of the point of a social learning interaction. With symbolic representational knowledge, the next phase is always a hands-on application so that mind and body bring together the knowledge to reproduce it. And, there’s a big difference between understanding how to change a tire and actually having done it.
The last step requires reinforcement and motivation, both internal and external, to fully appreciate and hold on to the new knowledge. One way to accomplish, aside from positive attention to a learning task well done, is to provide a learner with the chance to teach what they have learned. Or, extending that and asking the learner what they know and can teach, which would restart the whole process and transfer the learning to something and someone new. Social learning is all around us, no real worries about brain drain, after all.
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