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Center for Health Literacy Promotion Blog

Promoting Health Literacy with Beginnings Guides Part 12: Interaction stimulates learning

Interaction is a literacy skill that is used to personalize information. We interact with the information and with others (family, friends, professionals) to make meaning from it and decide how it applies to us in our situation, with our resources and our challenges.
Interaction also is a parenting skill used to engage a child and stimulate learning.
Interaction physically changes brain chemistry
Brain imaging shows how interacting with information stimulates learning. It produces a measurable chemical change in the brain that takes the information into long term memory. No interaction, no long term memory. No recall. No ability to use the information for health (health literacy).
Ask questions, spark thinking and action
You can work interaction into print materials, face-to-face teaching and any media format. By now you may not be surprised to read here that the way to facilitate interaction for learning is to ask a reflective question that requires the learner to think. In printed matter, our subject here, interaction usually looks like blanks to fill in, boxes to check, pictures or words to circle, choices to make, alternatives to consider.
For example, In the Beginnings Parents Guide, running text about lead testing for infants is replaced by a set of five short personal statements and check boxes to choose [ ] Yes or  [ ] No.  This follows guidelines we’ve discussed previously in this space:  no more than 5 items are chunked” under one subhead;  a 10% cyan (blue) screen behind the text draws the reader’s attentionto the information.  The key information is placed at the upper left where reading starts, using the principles of reading gravityto further ensure the reader does not miss it. The headline engages the reader with a reflective question that requires thinking:  Does your baby need a lead test?
Thinking through each question and physically checking the box is the interaction that stimulates the chemical change that fosters long term memory and converts information to knowledge that can be used again later.
Running text is easy to read, understand and forget. Read the next sentence now; when you finish reading the rest of this post, see what you recall.
Your baby needs a lead test if you live in a home built before 1960 or your home has lead pipes. Also, If you live near a highway, lead smelter or recycling plant, or you live with someone who works with lead, your child needs a lead test.
A question-answer format is more engaging than straight text, but it is passive, rather than interactive.
You can build interaction into audio and video taped information by including a question for each important point. Ask listeners a direct question and include a pause. After the pause, give the answer. In face-to-face teaching, use the “teach back method”. Ask the learner to tell you in their own words what they are going to do at home, and what problems they might encounter. Use their words in this conversation.
SAM- the Suitability Assessment of Materials - says that Superior health education materials present problems or questions for reader response. Information that does not offer interaction does not stimulate learning and is not suitable for health education. Information that improves health literacy is interactive.
Now, close you eyes and say out loud the ways you know that does a baby needs a lead test.
To see how you did and check out the example, take a look at  the lead test questions in the Beginnings Parents Guide Book 2 Page 59,
Next: Motivation
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