By Vera Blau McCandliss

Our current generation of children is in the midst of a digital revolution that includes even our youngest learners. With so many innovative technologies in the marketplace, it is difficult to tell which ones will truly make an impact. Square Panda is deeply dedicated to the mission of helping every child learn how to read. To make that happen we look toward the Science of Learning. What have researchers learned over the past couple of decades that could better inform the design of technology? For one, cognitive research on reading development has taught us a lot about what matters most in learning to read, such as focusing explicitly on teaching letters and letter sounds as early as preschool. In addition, research has told us to pay close attention to the individual differences in those skills and to address any gaps as early in a child’s academic career as possible. Brain science is also backing this story. We have learned that the brain undergoes dramatic changes when a child learns how to read and that those changes relate directly to their reading ability. We can now directly map brain function in a child from pre-reader to expert reader and directly observe these changes. But Science has also taught us about motivation and engagement, such as the importance of active, minds on learning, social interactions, meaningful learning goals and the value of data mining for determining educational value.

These insights are extremely important for the design of a new wave of educational technologies dedicated to making a social impact.