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May 06, 2021 Thursday 01:39:17 PM IST

Child Learning Programs: How to Find the Right One for You

photo by tolmacho of pixabay

No matter your age or what you excel at you spend each day solving problems allowing you to go on to solve more problems the next day. No matter what you do for work, where you live or who you are; every mind is a problem-solving machine.

Issues come when you solve repetitive problems, as the brain is designed to be optimised to reduce its mental loading or energy used to solve a problem. Your brain becomes lazy and 'passes over' solutions for similar situations; in turn, harming creativity. As an adult, you see this many times a day. Ask yourself what you want to eat and the answer is usually from a handful of options and limited to one idea depending on physical needs or environmental factors; rarely a conscious effort to try something else. 

Why care about creativity? 

Industries realised that in order to dominate marketplaces that were even more competitive after a post-war boom in growth that the smarter product killed off poorer alternatives. Essentially the monkey with the better stick will get more grubs from the log; creativity and learning go hand in hand with people seldom understanding how or why we need them. 

The Mind and Learning 

Before we can assess learning programs and after understanding the importance of creativity and identifying problem-solving, we now need to comprehend what a mind is. Children are sponges in terms of learning without bias unlike adults; developing bias to the problem-solving processes have not occurred yet; this is due to the 'passing over' we mentioned earlier, and can lead to poor judgement.

Research has shown that learning is a process of relearning to make a subject stick. When we learn a language, we will forget new words and ask again and again until we remember them. When learning physical activities such as Taekwondo we repeat movements until they become 'muscle memory' which acts in a similar learning process to academic learning. For children and for some adults that do not understand the language learning process frustration from forgetting and the embarrassment of asking again can cause challenges in the learner's development.

Now we get to the subject of learning programs. As you can see, we have gone through the same problem-solving process the military uses as well as a graphic designer. First, understand that we have a problem to solve. Next conduct research, hopefully why you're reading this article. Next, hopefully defining some form of specification for what an expectable 'design' boundary is and basing it on quantitative and not qualitative values (ideally) such as cost, resources, quality, processes, regulatory conformance, accreditation, etc.  Next, harness potential solutions to the problem, assess them and then apply the optimised solution. 

To assess your success in solving the problem you compare the specification boundary values with the outputted values of in this case the child. For example, you may choose a learning program that is rated by a 3rd party as the school that produces the highest number of A's per student in given fields; does the student annual reviews correlate to this expectation? Is the learning program still accredited by the 3rd parties that it started with? Have the quantities of students per class been consistent compared with the researched values? If your researched areas are now outside of the initial 'learning project's specification then either your research was inadequate, the specification as a consequence inadequate to measure the success of the 'project', or the expected outcome has not met your criteria due to things changing. 

 Selection in an ever changing Landscape

Assuming that you have done everything correctly and not chucked your plan in the bin, at this point what next do you need to consider? Well, in an ever-changing landscape things must have changed. Changing through technological advances in first world countries, wars, pandemics and other factors- these risks are difficult to predict or define and yet adaptation will be needed.

Hardware advances to computers and access to cutting edge technology in Schools, Colleges and Universities mean these are exciting times no matter what your child wants to do. However, desires change frequently in children not to mention the 'weight of the world' and 'putting rice in your rice bowl' influences that haven't impacted their dreams yet. Some children want to be astronauts, others fighter pilots and some do achieve this.

Between having this idea and getting to that point, for instance, eyesight and general health can change over time. Also, the initial desire may change with exposure to different things during the study and to make this worse, technology and external factors are more rapidly changing than ever before. 

 Advances in Learning Practices in Response to Change
Some people choose active learning programs based on the amount of funding and prestige of the institution and the number of established accrediting bodies associated with the program. While these are good indicators that the course won't fold up mid-course while being well known by people in the industry it does not necessarily guarantee the child will learn anything in them. It means only that they may have a better opportunity to get their hands on good technology that may be used in their industry or provide other benefits such as travel as part of the program or better placement opportunities due to more companies signed up with the program.

Learning Programs can change due to changes in technology. One year there could be a mechatronics or automation line unit to a course that is taken out due to teachers changing, technology becoming of less interest to parents during enrollment or funding needing to be used to push an aspect of another program. In its place augmented reality (AR) or artificial intelligence (AI) could be taught until that technology becomes too mature to leverage by the institution to bring in students or get research funding.


The interesting thing about this from a teaching perspective is that teachers often need to adapt to a changing technological climate just as much as the child. For example, if the syllabus changes either the teacher is transferred to teaching something else, leaves, or upskill. If the teacher teaching computer programming originally in C# Yet python is used in artificial intelligence courses, then they need to not only learn and create a new program unit but also learn it better than the students they teach. To combat challenges with this, some programs will use students in higher institutions that already have this knowledge to ‘assist’ with teaching to help reduce the loss of face of the teacher still potentially learning the new course material (and not trying to be a dinosaur). 
What have we learnt?
The levels of complexity in selecting a learning program for a child are vast and constantly changing. Understanding problem solving and the importance of creativity may help you in determining what decisions to take. Research the learning program by first looking at the syllabus all institutions provide on their website and read into each unit and associated deliverables.
While researching, remember what may be state-of-the-art this year could be obsolete next year as 'bubbles' burst after new advances are made.  While the early adopters get the lion's share of benefits if they don't adapt and change to accommodate a change in the world they get left behind – and it doesn’t matter what field they work in. Awareness of all of these in child learning programs appears to be much of a muchness, however, it is the start of the specialism-truncation process, whereby each year of a learning program slowly leads to one eventual pigeon hole. In that pigeon hole, they may survive for a while however eventually as the bubble pops, continued upskilling related to existing knowledge is required to bring in the bread. 

To aid your selection process, use a problem-solving methodology, highlight the criterion important to your scope and periodically review progress to achieve your child's goal. Manage your expectations with regards to change and have multiple alternative routes planned should the tide changes. Be aware of the necessity to adapt over time which may help you reach the best solution you can, given limited information at the time of deciding what you need to do.    


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