Learning how to learn

I’m obsessed with learning. Especially when it comes to education, food and exercise. I’m constantly reading up on these topics and the more I learn about them, the more I realize there is so much I don’t know. So I started reading up on HOW to learn. Yep- learning about learning. You would think in today’s sophisticated society that we already have that figured out. But the reality is most of us (myself included) are not up to speed on learning how to learn.

Over the past year I have read a few books, followed a few blogs and watched a few TED Talks on this topic and it has helped me to change the way I approach any learning environment. If you are about to enter a meeting, class or workshop, or you are responsible for running a meeting, class or workshop you might want to consider the following….

1.We all know that exercise is good for our body. But it’s also like fertilizer for our brain. Exercise improves cognitive function. John Medina does a great job of explaining this with his Brain Rules.  I make it a priority to exercise 5-6 days a week not only to stay fit but also to ensure I’m providing my brain with the exercise it needs to function at a high level.

2. Brain Trainer Brian Thwaits outlines 7 brain training basics.  Motivation (mentally prep for a learning experience), Practice (repeat, review), Association (associate the information with something easy to remember), Meaning (re-write it so it makes sense to you), Visualization (use images, shapes and color to amplify your message, NOT bullet points) , Chunking (the most important information should JUMP OFF THE PAGE) , Emotion (start with a hook-a video, story or essential question you hope to answer).

3. We need to embrace A New Culture of Learning outlined by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown. If you are a parent, teacher, ed tech advocate or anyone interested in learning this book is a wonderful resource. I will devote the time and attention this book needs in a later post, but in the meantime I think this quote best sums up the book: “For most of the twentieth century our educational system has been built on the assumption that teaching is necessary for learning to occur. Accordingly, education has been seen as a process of transferring information from a higher authority (the teacher) down to the student. This model, however, just can’t keep up with the rapid rate of change in the twenty-first century. It’s time to shift our thinking from the old model of teaching to a new model of learning”.

4. If you want to inspire people, Start with Why. I have watched this TED talk from Simon Sinek several times and read his book. The Golden Circle is an inspiring way to introduce new information. Your message will stick.

5. Know how to Start a Movement. This is a great example of the adoption curve in action.

Most of what I have learned about learning is common sense. But most of what is being taught (not only in classrooms, but work meetings, workshops, seminars, etc…) is delivered in the exact opposite way of what the research suggests. And what baffles me the most is when the individual who provided the information is frustrated by the lack of knowledge absorbed. “I already covered this, why don’t they get it?”

If you are responsible for delivering information to people, make sure you are creating an optimal learning environment. If you are presenting the information digitally, Garr Reynolds’ book Presentation Zen  is an absolute must read.

Think about your most inspiring learning experience. What made it memorable?