What can our children teach us about learning?

I’ve just completed the Digital Mums Strategic Social Media Manager Live Learning Programme. The buzzword of the moment is ‘upskilling’ and I figured that I needed a bit of that to drive my business into the digital age. So, I immersed myself in the world of social media platforms, creating and curating content, engagement and analytics.

My four year old daughter has just started school and I can’t help making comparisons between her steps into the education system and my steps in adult learning. Not least because the ‘Introduction to phonics’ meet up at school was actually more terrifying than encountering the Google Analytics dashboard for the first time.

It’s been a while since I had homework, new terminology and systems to learn. It’s a daunting experience. Fortunately, the programme is incredibly well structured and has a great community and support system. As it’s specifically tailored to Mums, it offers a truly flexible platform for learning. But, social media is a big topic, it was all new to me and from time to time, the overwhelm set in.

I thought about my daughter starting school and all the challenges she will face along the way. Children are learning and growing all the time, everything they come into contact with holds the promise of a new experience or lesson. I wondered if there was anything my daughter could teach me about learning.

As it happens, there are many things that we can learn from our kids, especially when it comes to learning itself.

How children learn

  1. Children learn through play

They make believe and experiment with the materials available to them. They are not constrained by a right or wrong way to play, they test out different methods, they pull things apart and try to figure out how it works. They learn actively.

For me, playing around with these new tools and systems really helped me get to grips with them. I found that it wasn’t enough to watch a video tutorial or read an article. You really need to test them out for yourself and keep playing around until it makes sense.

It’s really important to look for learning providers that actually let you engage in active learning. Interactive or live sessions give you the opportunity to get hands on learning experiences. For example, Codeacademy is an interactive platform that takes you through the steps of creating a website by showing you each step then making you do it yourself until the pages begin to appear.

Digital Mums actually pair you up with a real client to work on. You plan and implement a campaign for them so the theoretical gets put into practice and makes those lessons really stick. It’s actually running a live campaign for 8 weeks that enables you to get out there and confidently offer this service after the training has finished.

Play also stimulates creativity and imagination. Ideas flow and new possibilities emerge when you start messing around with your new found knowledge. So, test stuff out, brainstorm and open your mind to your new subject.

2. They watch and copy others

This is how children learn social, physical and practical skills. As an adult, it’s difficult to not just try to figure it out on your own or jump in unprepared. It makes sense to spend some time watching how others approach learning. Or how the leaders in your field do things and see if it works for you. This is particularly true with social media, the watch and learn method is key. Each platform has it’s own tone and code of conduct, it can take a while to get the feel of it and understand how to act ‘native’. Similarly, sharing knowledge and experiences with others helps to expand your learning. One of my favorite parts of the program was the weekly Google Hangout with our peer cohort. The other mums were so supportive and helpful. Often, it was just great to share frustrations and let off a bit of steam. Realising we were all in the same boat created a sense of solidarity, ideal if you are working remotely.

3. By asking questions

Ok, this is a big one for me. Firstly, because my daughter’s favorite word seems to be ‘why?’ and secondly, because I’m the suffer in silence type when I don’t understand something. Digital Mums has a great community in Google+. We use the hashtag #DMhelp to put questions to our tutors and fellow trainees, trust me when I say it can be a real lifeline. Sometimes it’s difficult to raise your hand and admit that you don’t get something, but it often becomes clear that you are not the only one. By asking, you have opened up a discussion and received the answer to your question. Asking the right questions can really make a difference to the depth of your understanding. So, take the time to consider where your knowledge gap is, be curious and think about what you really need to know. Don’t be afraid to speak up!

Finally…

Kids have fun when they learn and learn by having fun! So, get stuck in, get creative and enjoy the learning experience.