Learning Course #9: Renaissance Learning and Unlocking Your Potential (week 4 lectures) #LH2L1

Here are the points I want to remember or be able to find again from the videos of the fourth week of the Learning course*

How to Become a Better Learner

  • The best gift that you can give your brain is Physical Exercise. 
  • Exercise helps new neurons survive.
  • Practice making perfect, but only when your brain is prepared. 
  • There are certain critical periods in the development of your brain.
  • The critical period for first language acquisition extends up to puberty. .
  • Learning, Planning, Language, these are the skills that make us human.
  • The prefrontal cortex is also involved in complex analysis in social behaviors, as well as decision making and planning.
  • It is the last part of the cortex to mature, so until this happens, there may be a little bit of zombie in you.

Introduction to week 4: Renaissance learning and unlocking your potential

  • Learning doesn’t progress logically, so that each day just adds an additional neat package to your knowledge shell. 
  • Sometimes you hit a wall in constructing your understanding.
  • Things that made sense before can suddenly seem confusing.
  • This type of knowledge collapse seems to occur when your mind is restructuring its understanding, building a more solid foundation.
  • Remember it takes time to assimilate your knowledge.

Create a lively visual metaphor or analogy

  • A metaphor is just a way of realizing that one thing is somehow similar to another. 
  • Simple ideas like one geography teacher’s description of Syria is shaped like a bowl of cereal, and Jordan as a Nike Air Jordan sneaker, can stick with a student for decades.
  • Metaphors and visualization, being able to see something in your mind’s eye, have been especially helpful not only in art and literature, but also in allowing the scientific and engineering world to make progress. 
  • In the 1800s for example, when chemists began to imagine and visualize the miniature world of molecules, dramatic progress began to be made.
  • Metaphors and models are often vitally important in giving a physical understanding of the central idea behind the process or concept you are trying to understand. 
  • Interestingly, metaphors and analogies are useful for getting people out of Einstellung that is, being blocked by thinking about a problem in the wrong way.

No need for genius envy

  • Connection between learning math and science and learning a sport.
  • In baseball, for example, you don’t learn how to hit in one day. Instead, your body perfects your swing from lots and lots of repetition over a period of years. One chunk instead of having to recall all the complex steps involved in hitting a ball.
  • In the same way, once you understand why you do something in math and science.
  • Remember, people learn by trying to make sense out of they perceive. They rarely learn anything complex simply by having someone else tell it to them. 
  • Chess masters, emergency room physicians, fighter pilots, and many other experts often have to make complex decisions rapidly.
  • They shut down their conscious system and instead rely on their well trained intuition, drawing on their deeply ingrained repertoire of chunks.
  • Being smarter often equates to having a larger working memory. 
  • If you’re one of those people who can’t hold a lot in mind at once, You may have to work harder sometimes or even much of the time to understand what’s going on. But once you get something chunked you can take that chunk and turn it outside in and inside round, putting it through creative paces even you didn’t think you were capable of. 
  • It is practice, particularly deliberate practice on the toughest aspects of the material that can help lift average brains into the realm of those with more natural gifts. Just as you can practice lifting weights and get bigger muscles over time, you can also practice certain mental patterns that deepen and enlarge in your mind.
  • The Imposter Syndrome : it’s a fluke when you happen to do well on a test, and then on the next test, for sure they, and your family and friends, are going to figure out how incompetent you really are. 
  • This feeling is so extraordinarily common that it even has a name.
  • If you suffer from these kinds of feelings of inadequacy just be aware that many others secretly share them.

Change your thoughts, change your life

  • Santiago Ramon y Cajal Santiago Ramon y Cajal was a born troublemaker, then won the Nobel Prize, but eventually became known as the Father of Modern Neuroscience Cajal was already in his early 20s when he began climbing from bad boy delinquency into the traditional study of medicine. This may explain why teenagers often have trouble controlling their impulsive behavior. The wiring between intention and the control areas of the brain isn’t completely formed.
  • It seems people can enhance the development of their neuronal circuits by practicing thoughts that use those neurons. 
  • Brilliant people can do exceptional work, just like anyone else they can also be careless and biased.
  • The key to success: perseverance: the virtue of the less brilliant, coupled with his flexible ability to change his mind and admit errors. 
  • Out on his own (out of school), Darwin was able to look with fresh eyes at the data he was collecting.
  • Approaching material with a goal of learning it on your own, can give you a unique path to mastery. 
  • There will always be those who criticize or attempt to undermine any effort or achievement you make. If you do well in your studies, the people around you can feel threatened.
  • On the other hand, if you flunk a test, you also may encounter critics who throw more barbs, saying you don’t have what it takes.
  • We’re often told that empathy is universally beneficial. But it’s not. It’s important to learn to switch on an occasional cool dispassion

The value of teamwork

  • Broad-perspective perceptual disorder of the right hemisphere. People can retain their intelligence. If they make a mistake in their calculations, concluding something nonsensical. It doesn’t bother them. There’s no big picture.
  • The right hemisphere helps us step back and put our work into big picture perspective.
  • Even subtle avoidance of some of our capabilities can have a surprisingly negative impact on our work.
  • If you go off track early on, it doesn’t matter if the rest of your work is correct. 
  • When you step back and recheck, you’re allowing for more interaction between the hemispheres, taking advantage of the special perspectives and abilities of each.
  • You must not fool yourself. And you are the easiest person to fool. 
  • One of the best ways to catch your blind spots and errors is to brainstorm and work with others who are also smartly focused on the topic.
  • Explaining to friends helps build your own understanding.
  • The importance of working with others doesn’t just relate to learning. It’s also important in career building.

A test checklist

  • Testing is itself an extraordinary powerful, learning experience.
  • If you compare how much you learn by spending one hour studying, versus one hour taking a test on that same material, you’ll retain and learn far more as a result of the hour you spent taking a test. 
  • A checklist, you can use to see whether your preparation for test taking is on target, developed by legendary educator Richard Felder.
  • The answer to the question, how should I prepare for the test, is do whatever it takes to be able to answer, yes.
  • Did you make a serious effort to understand the text?
  • Did you work with classmates on homework problems or at least check your solutions with others?
  • Did you attempt to outline every homework problem solution before working with classmates?
  • Did you participate actively in homework group discussions contributing ideas and asking questions?
  • Did you consult with the instructor or teaching assistants when you were having trouble with something?
  • Did you understand all your homework problem solutions when they were handed in?
  • Did you ask in class for explanations of homework problem solutions that weren’t clear to you?
  • If you had a study guide, did you carefully go through it before the test and convince yourself you could do everything on it?
  • Did you attempt to outline lots of problems solutions quickly without spending time on the Algebra in calculations?
  • Did you go over the study guide and problems with class mates and quiz one another?
  • If there was a review session before the test, did you attended and asked questions about anything you weren’t sure about?
  • Did you get a reasonable night sleep before the test?

Hard start – jump to easy

  • The classic way students are taught to approach tests is to tackle the easiest problems first. For many people it’s counterproductive.
  • Tough problems often need lots of time, meaning you’d want to start on them first thing on the test.
  • Difficult problems can also scream for the creative powers of the diffuse mode.
  • Start first with what appears to be the hardest problem. But steal yourself to pull away within the first minute or two, if you get stuck or you get a sense that you might not be on the right track. 
  • Starting hard loads the first most difficult problem in mind and then switches attention away from it.
  • The hard start jump to easy technique may make more efficient use of your brain by allowing different parts of the brain to work simultaneously on different thoughts.
  • The only trick with this approach is that you must have the self discipline to pull yourself off a problem once you find yourself stuck for a minute or two.

Final helpful hints for tests

  • If you’re a stressed out test taker: sweaty palms, a racing heart, a knot on the pit of your stomach. The story you tell yourself about why you’re stressed makes all the difference. 
  • If you shift your thinking from, this test has made me afraid, to this test has got me excited to do my best it can really improve your performance.
  • Momentarily turn your attention to your breathing. 
  • Movie to a deep breathing pattern in those final anxious moments before a test is handed out.
  • Cover up the answers to multiple choice questions and to try to recall the information.
  • Face your fears. Often, your worst fear is not to get the grade you need for your chosen career. Have a Plan B for the alternative career.
  • Study hard up until the day of the test and then let it go.
  • Good worry helps provide motivation and focus, while bad worry simply wastes energy. 
  • Don’t feel guilty if you can’t seem to get yourself to work too hard the day before a big examination.
  • Remember how your mind can trick you into thinking that what you’ve done is correct, even if it isn’t. Blink, shift your attention, and then double check your answers
  • In science classes, having your units of measurement match on each side of the equation can provide an important clue about whether what you’ve done is correct.

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” course I am taking.

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