Saturday, March 10, 2012

Learning to learn

I read an interesting article in January that I thought I'd share. It's called Everything You Thought You Knew About Learning Is Wrong. It is from the website run by Wired magazine. I think the title is pretty misleading but it is still an interesting article. In it, the author, Garth Sundem, talks about going to a learning lab run by Robert Bjork (the psychology professor, not Robert Bork the legal scholar). The article contains a number of helpful hints including not doing all your studying in one long block. It actually helps to split it up so that there is time between sessions. This forces you to go back and remember what you learned in the previous session. It's that remembering that helps you retain what you learned. Another suggestion is to not take notes during a class or lecture but to write down notes after the class or lecture is over. Again, this forces you to remember what you learned and this helps you retain it. Read the article to get a better explanation. The comments are also informative. There is a lively discussion about whether writing notes after class is really a good idea. I kind of like it myself - within reason. I think it is important to take some notes during the class or lecture. But too often, the taking of notes causes you to miss something else while you're writing (or typing).

An example used in the article brought back a childhood memory. It was of one of my first worries about technology. I sometimes wonder how I ever began to love technology and become an engineer - oh yes, it was my love of science fiction - a story for another day. Anyway, in the article, the author uses an example of asking if you remember the phone number of a childhood friend. I remember the time I first tried to call my best friend on the telephone. I had called my grandparents and my aunts and uncles before but when I went to call my friend, using the number I found in the phone book, I noticed it had a zero in it. I remembered my parents telling me about dialing zero to get the operator in an emergency. None of the other numbers I had ever called before had had a zero! I started to dial my friend's number but when I was about to dial the zero, I froze. What would happen? Would the Operator come on and ask me a question? How did people ever call someone with a number like that?

I don't remember how I got through this. I must have asked my mother for help. At some point, of course, I did learn that dialing a zero while dialing a phone number was no problem but I don't remember that. I just remember the trauma of dealing with it the first time I was faced with it. Technology can be a little troubling sometimes. And there were no manuals for the old phones.

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