Saturday, October 22, 2011

Learning How to Learn

How will you learn how to...say cook, paint, program, dance, troubleshoot, network, etc. if you don't know how to "learn"? That is the question.
How do we learn?

Did you know that our brain consists of billions of neural cells that are connected to one another? Yes. When we're in the act of learning, these cells form sets of connections. Our brain cells are always working, regardless the subject matter we are studying or things we are doing. The difference in what we learn lies in how we learn.

A Matter of Practice & Repetition

When we learn, we are trying to create patterns of connectivity in our brain. Neurons connect together and this is accomplished by repeating sets of behaviors or experiences.

Learning to learn is tantamount to learning anything else. It takes practice. This is why sometimes people repeat words aloud (yes, I do this from primary school to university) or solve mathematical equations from simple arithmetic to quantum physics over and over. Taking notes when someone talks also helps because you hear it once and then repeat it when you pen it down.

Learning: Recognizing & Remembering?

Some people think of learning as remembering sets of facts. It can be that, sometimes, but learning is more like recognition than remembering. Because you are trying to build networks of neural cells, it is better to learn a connected whole rather than unconnected parts, where the connected whole you are learning in one domain has the same pattern as a connected whole you already know in another domain.

For instance, think about learning how to dance. I can explain to you the steps, forms, rhythm, timing and mechanics and you can understand all of that, but you still have to try to do the dance yourself to put them altogether in your brain and body system before you get good at it. You have to grow your neural connections in just the same way you grow your muscles.

Think, always, about how you are learning and what you are learning at any given moment and  become your very own master of the art of learning how to learn.