If you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them.

How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference – An adult considers constant repetition boring because it requires reliving the same experience over and again. But to preschoolers repetition isn’t boring; because each time they watch something they are experiencing it in a completely different way. 

Malcolm Gladwell, the bestselling author on psychology and sociology, describes The Stickiness Factor as “the quality that compels people to pay close, sustained attention to a product, concept, or idea”.

Sesame Street – The Stickiness Factor:

The creators of Sesame Street accomplished something extraordinary, and the story of how they did that is a marvellous illustration of one of the rules of the Tipping Point, the Stickiness Factor. They discovered that by making small but critical adjustments in how they presented ideas to preschoolers, they could overcome television’s weakness as a teaching tool and make what they had to say memorable. Sesame Street succeeded because it learned how to make television sticky.

Later, an even more successful format was introduced – Blue’s Clues. How is it that such an unprepossessing show is even stickier than Sesame Street? The answer is that Sesame Street, as good as it is, has a number of subtle but not insignificant limitations. Consider, for example, the problem created by the show’s insistence on being clever. From the beginning, Sesame Street was intended to appeal to both children and adults. The idea was that one of the big obstacles facing children — particularly children from lower-income families — was that their parents didn’t encourage or participate in their education. Sesame Street’s creators wanted a show that mothers would watch along with their children. That’s why the show is loaded with so many “adult” elements/jokes/humour.

The problem is, preschoolers don’t get these kinds of jokes, and the presence of the humour can serve as a distraction. It becomes easy to understand how you would make a children’s show even stickier than Sesame Street. You’d make it perfectly literal, without any wordplay or comedy that would confuse preschoolers. And you’d teach kids how to think in the same way that kids teach themselves how to think — in the form of the story. You would make, in other words, Blue’s Clues.

Some segments on Sesame Street elicited a lot of interaction from kids, where the segments asked for it,” says Daniel Anderson, who worked with Nickelodeon in designing Blue’s Clues. “Something that stuck in my mind was when Kermit would hold his finger to the screen and draw an animated letter, you’d see kids holding their fingers up and drawing a letter along with him.

Nickelodeon did some pilot shows before Blue’s Clues where kids would be explicitly asked to participate, and lo and behold, there was a lot of evidence that they would. So putting these ideas together, kids are interested in being intellectually active when they watch TV, and given the opportunity, they’ll be behaviourally active. The second thing that Blue’s Clues took from Sesame Street was the idea of repetition. The Sesame Street writers figured out why kids like repetition so much. The segment in question this time featured the actor James Earl Jones reciting the alphabet. As originally taped, Jones took long pauses between letters, because the idea was to insert other elements between the letters. But Jones, as you can imagine, cut such a compelling figure that the Sesame Street producers left the film as it was.

The Stickiness Factor can be applied to education as a way to help students better remember and internalise the material they are learning. By making educational content more “sticky”, teachers can help students remember important concepts and ideas, and encourage them to apply what they have learned in new and creative ways.

Here are some strategies teachers can use to increase the Stickiness Factor of educational content:

  1. Use analogies and metaphors: By relating new concepts to something that students already know and understand, teachers can help increase the Stickiness Factor of the material. Analogies and metaphors can make abstract ideas more concrete and relatable, making it easier for students to remember and apply them.

  2. Create engaging visuals: Using visuals such as diagrams, flowcharts, and infographics can help students visualize and understand complex ideas. These visuals can also make the material more memorable and easier to recall.

  3. Incorporate storytelling: Storytelling is a powerful way to make educational content more engaging and memorable. By telling stories that relate to the material, teachers can help students remember important concepts and ideas in a more emotional and personal way.

  4. Use repetition: Repeating key ideas and concepts can help increase the Stickiness Factor of educational content. By repeating key concepts in different ways, teachers can help students remember the material more easily.

  5. Make it hands-on: Encouraging students to engage with the material in a hands-on way, such as through experiments, simulations, or projects, can help make the material more memorable. When students actively engage with the material, they are more likely to remember it in the long term.

  6. Use humour: Incorporating humour into educational content can help increase the Stickiness Factor. Humour can make the material more engaging and memorable, and can also help reduce stress and anxiety around learning.

By increasing the Stickiness Factor of educational content, teachers can help students remember important concepts and ideas, and apply them in new and creative ways.

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