Smart’ technology seemingly is everywhere, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s making kids do any better on the education front. In fact, there’s now a wealth of research showing that too much screen time negatively affects both brain development and general behavior. And in contrast, scientists know that hands-on, sensory experiences in early childhood give the brain a positive push. And fortunately, there are e-commerce companies who have set out to make digital learning more physical based on the available science. Meet Piper & MEL Science.
Used in schools and endorsed by Steve Wozniak, Piper creates build-your-own computer kits for kids. Youngsters get to dabble in both computer science and engineering.
The deepest learning is multi-sensory, and interactive: You probably don’t remember anything from your biology class but you will never forget the time you dissected the smelly frog. For technology, the ideas are inherently very abstract, which makes it difficult for young learners to truly engage with the information and make it their own. Piper is designed to engage all senses in the learning experience: you build a physical computer with your hands and then engage with programming and engineering concepts through a Minecraft-like 3D game environment which makes abstract concepts of loops, variables, conditionals and current tangible and interactive. The Piper computer kit is based on work that my co-founder, Joel Sadler did for his PhD at Stanford focusing on empowering kids to create technology.” – Mark Pavlyukovskyy, Founder and CEO of Piper
Creates at-home science kits that combine physical experiments with virtual reality to help kids better understand chemistry, biology and related concepts.
Every time I do experiments with kids, I see their eyes light up. It’s like magic. Hands-on experiments are the best way to motivate kids to learn science as they immediately start asking questions about how it works. It’s not just to get good grades – it’s a natural curiosity all kids are born with. Unfortunately, if you do not properly explain what happened in these experiments, it remains “magic” to them. We can use VR to put them inside those experiments and explain what happened. It connects the dots for them and gives them a fundamental understanding they will remember.” – Vassili Philippov, founder and CEO of MEL Science
Something else to consider with these hands-on companies is that, by encouraging kids to think outside just a screen, they can interact with you and their peers more. For example, if you do a MEL Science experiment, you can talk about what you think will happen and share your reactions with each other. In other words, the experience is as much social as it is sensory. That adds an element of memorability to what is going on. It also teaches the child interpersonal and teambuilding skills as they navigate the tools, keeping them from isolating. Those types of soft skills are ridiculously desirable and marketable and play a big role in hiring managers determining whether someone is a good fit for a company.
Both e-commerce companies are great examples of how technology can integrate beautifully into sensory and interpersonal experiences, and in the long run, benefit children. If we want the next generation to be solid innovators with real brain power, it’s worth investing in the approach.