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I-LABS unveils online training



Every day, scientists learn more about how children's brains work, and how they develop in the first five years of life. But busy parents and overbooked educators haven't had an easy, free way to keep up with these scientific findings – until now.

The University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) has just unveiled a new resource for nonscientists that you can learn from on your own time, at your own pace. Part of the Ready Mind Project, these online training modules take as little as 10 minutes to complete, and by the end of each, you will have a clearer understanding of the state of the art in children's early learning, from research in brain imaging, genetics, behavior development and other fields of study.

"They excel at making what could be very complex ideas tangible and accessible," said Nicole Siciliano, who works in early childhood education at Haggard Nelson Childcare Resources. Siciliano, also a mother, has attended live presentations by I-LABS before, and lauded the online modules for their succinct, easy-to-navigate format.

There are currently four modules: an introduction to I-LABS, "Why the first 2,000 days matter," "The importance of early interactions," and "The power of learning through imitation." More are planned, said Sarah Roseberry Lytle, director of outreach and education at I-LABS, with five in the pipeline now and dozens more on the drawing board. She said the initial response to the modules has been very positive, with many parents learning of them through eager word-of-mouth from friends.

At the same time, peers in the research community are pleased with the accuracy of the science, especially as compared to other ways the public learns about similar research, particularly through mass media.

"As researchers, we worry, ‘will the reporter understand us, will they let us vet what they're saying.' We know (the modules will) be factually correct," said Rechele Brooks, who studies infant social development at I-LABS.

Brooks said she first accessed the modules much as I-LABS expects parents will – at 10 p.m. on a weeknight. She used the same quick registration process the public does, took the quick orientation module, and then viewed the module about her research. "We're all busy people; you can just take a moment for a learning opportunity," she said.

Each module is arranged in a slideshow format, with audio narration or a written transcript (useful options when you're trying to view it during baby's nap on your lap); photos, videos, graphics and other images that enhance the descriptions; questions to remind you what you've learned; an optional survey about your experience with the module; resources and related links.

The Ready Mind Project is funded by private donations, many from corporations like the Bezos Family Foundation and Boeing, and the modules are being distributed through partnerships with organizations like Program for Early Parenting Support, Thrive by Five and Save the Children.

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