Being able to learn constantly and apply knowledge and skills throughout one’s life will be the key to achieving success in the 21st century. It also reflects a mindset which needs to be nurtured from a young age, especially for future innovators.

But how do you get to this point.

Turns out that there are tried and true effective learning and studying techniques which are backed by science. Unfortunately, most people aren’t using them.

Which is why the book “Make It Stick: the Science of Successful Learning” is NewTechKids’ book of the moment. It’s a great book for parents, teachers and education researchers.

Written by Peter Brown (a story teller) and Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel (cognitive scientists), the book is a deep dive into how we learn and what specific learning practices can boost learning.

Some takeaways:

  • testing is an important tool to measure learning but should be low stakes and frequent, instead of high stakes (quizzes vs. mid-term exams, final exams)
  • frequent quizzing instead of major tests has proven to promote long-term retention and learning
  • simulation-based learning encourages students to pull what they have previously learned and apply it in complex situations
  • space out lessons so some forgetting happens so that a student has to work harder to recall the concept/information which boosts deeper learning
  • teach a mix of concepts rather than one concept at a time so students can identify and distinguish between different types of problems
  • rereading, highlighting and underlining make students think they are mastering study materials but this is not the case as these study techniques don’t involve practising or applying what is being learned

NewTechKids teaching approaches are based simulation-based learning. We teach computer science and programming concepts and then we challenge students to apply this knowledge by designing, building and programming working robots and prototypes. At the end of each class, students have to reflect on what worked, what didn’t and what they would do different the next time.

Case in point: last week, we taught students at a primary school in Amsterdam about if-else logic, challenging them to invent a flower sorting machine which could detect colour. It was a difficult challenge and some were unsuccessful so we are going to teach the same concept this week through another challenge while encouraging them to recall if-else logic and learn from the struggles they experienced previously.