“Put the phone down now! You are way past your screen time,” I say angrily to my 6-going-on-13 year old while he selectively listens (or rather, doesn’t listen) to me, eyes glued to the device that has singlehandedly ruined parenting for all recovering mothers and fathers like me. Frustrated, I call the source gene responsible for this stubborn behavior in my kid and this situation – his dad, my husband. “But he’s on an educational app. He’s learning,” the hubby says reassuringly. “So? It’s still a screen!” I retort almost surrendering to this one-and-a half-men pair that has made it its mission to drive me up the wall every single day.

The number of educational apps on AppStore and Playstore is mindboggling in itself. On the PlayStore, in particular, the biggest category in terms of app volume is education.

app-downloads-play-store-app-categories

Jumping on this bandwagon is TikTok, a Chinese-origin social media video app for creating and sharing short lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos, which has now entered the eLearning market with its EduTok program in India. This program will offer life tips, career advice and motivational speech videos in partnership with educational companies like Vedantu, Vidya Guru, Hello English, CETKing, Toppr, Made Easy, and GradeUp.

I cringe as I digest this information. “One more app to fight about,” I murmur to myself.

My kid, who’s a smooth operator (not sure who’s genes he’s benefitting from!) has, in the meanwhile, moved on to his Reader book. “See, this is what I mean by learning,” I tell my husband proudly. “By focusing on courses alone, you mean?” he asks in disbelief and continues his monologue in the same breath. “It’s time to banish courses and rethink learning and development. Professionals need to be weaned off their addiction to courses and start aligning learning with business outcomes.” This has been a recurring theme at the World of Learning Conference 2019, held at Birmigham’s NEC in mid-October, and now listening to my husband it feels like hosting Andy Lancaster in our living room! Andy is the Head of Learning at the CIPD who believes that L&D’s focus on courses and measuring how many people took the training makes it difficult to understand how training is impacting business goals. He suggests using business metrics and aligning learning metrics to business outcomes.

“You can’t just apply adult education models to K-12,” I say firmly. “It doesn’t go both ways perhaps, but some K-12 principles sure apply to adult learning,” confirms hubby and adds, “Like the Goldilocks zone, where learning progresses most quickly when learning something new. This is based on a research on how newborn babies avoid spending time on things that are either “too simple” or “too complex”. Long before they can understand the story of Goldilocks, babies appear to have mastered the heroine’s art of decision-making.”

Just as I am about to launch myself into a heated debate of how I almost always choose, oftentimes forced by the circumstances, the most complex thing (like dealing with two men who are not just a spitting image but exhibit the exact same behavior when I can’t even stand one!), we are rudely interrupted by a little bobbling head in front of us. “It’s my English spell-bee exam tomorrow. And I don’t want to fail,” my kid exclaims, concern written all over his face. “Awww! You won’t fail, baby,” I console, lifting 17 kgs of cuteness onto my lap. “I’d say, you rather fail,” chimes in the dad. I dart an angry look at the man who I expect to have at least some degree of empathy. “What?” he says AND gestures as if to validate his advice. “Don’t you know, failing 15% of the time is the best way to learn,” adds my husband with the pride of a man who has personally conducted the study. As much as I would like to engage in a mental karate, it’s true. To make sure you are learning at the optimal rate, new research finds that you should be aiming to fail 15.87 percent of the time, to be exact. These findings could have implications for training courses, teaching in classrooms, and everywhere that learning happens.

“All right, all right. I will code an educational app myself that’s not so much of a course yet facilitates learning, hits the sweet spot between too-easy-and-too-simple and allows for failure. Happy now?” I say rhetorically in an effort to end the discussion and proceed to an important ritual that involves sitting around the dining table without any screens for distraction and do what was an expected way of socializing – with your own family – not so long ago. “That’d be amazing! Go for it,” encourages the husband as he begins a private discourse just for me. “Put your Engineering degree to a solid use. You know, there was a sharp rise in enrollment of women coders for the fifth edition of Tech-Gig’s Geek Goddess this year. Finally, Technology industry is seeing improved gender diversity….,” he rambles on.

I roll my eyes and march towards the dining area, kid and husband in tow, ready to substitute food with a good serving of learning this evening. Bon appetite!

‘The month that was’ is a monthly column covering the hot and the happening in the eLearning, L&D and learning technology space presented in a light, easy-to-digest format. While the aim of these posts is to keep the HR and the Learning & Development fraternity abreast with the latest news and views, it is a vent out for the author, Pranjalee Lahri, who deals with a one-and-a-half men pair – her hubby and her 6-year old son – as she moonlights as a wife and a mother.

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