Serif in Education

The key to learning a new skill

This week, I really enjoyed reading an article from the Guardian written by Matthew Youlden, linguist and language ambassador at Babbel.

The article discussed the key to learning a new skill and Matthew argues that “wanting it badly enough” is the answer. He says “Learning is all about motivation. When we really want to learn something, we generally succeed, even when the going gets tough.”

He discusses his job as a linguist (he speaks around 20 languages, although he can’t be sure it’s not more) and says “I learned Spanish because we were planning a holiday and thought it would be fun to speak to people in their own language. I was nine at the time.”

This motivation to learn, he says, can be applied to other things. He lists these under four headings, and I thought it might be interesting to relate these to the school curriculum and creativity.

Make it personal


Matt says “If something has little or no importance to you, you’re already fighting an uphill battle when you attempt to learn it.” This is true if I think of Drama when I was at school. I never wanted to be an actor, and so I assumed there was no point in learning. But little did I know that the subject also impacted things like confidence, public speaking and team work.


In the same way, some children will instantly dislike coding because they think that you only need to do it to become a computer programmer. Of course it is our job to make it interesting enough to capture their attention. Tailoring learning is key. If they like football, could they make a football related game? If a child likes to problem solve, could they work on something where they have to solve little programming puzzles?  If they like using their hands, get them to build something with a robotics kit.


Make it matter


Matt says “Make sure you know why you’re learning in the first place.” In a hectic world, we all go about our daily routines, often not knowing why we’re doing the things we do. Sometimes it feels like we’re programmed to do things. However, knowing the end goal will motivate us to continue putting in the effort. Make it clear to your students why they are learning things and more importantly, what they will be able to do once they’ve finished. Show them an example of the end product (a game, a robot) and they will be so impressed they’ll be eager to get started!


Make use of it


This applies to languages of course – practise makes perfect. But it can also apply to things like photography and digital literacy. Encourage your students to continue their learning at home, and take snaps around the house. They can then look forward to editing these in school.


Make it entertaining


Matt says “If you’re studying a language, this is easy – just go out (or online) and speak to people.” In the same way, students can be encouraged to just have a go. They can publish a website before its perfect, and learn ‘on the job’ to make it better. They can ask other people to try it out and give their constructive feedback. With student copies of the Serif Design Suite available for £45 or individual programs available for £10 each, children can carry their work on at home and even ask parents and friends for their thoughts.