Open Future New Zealand

Open Future New Zealand

Improving Your Learning Rate

  Helping New Zealanders connect to each other  

The point about online networking is to keep you in touch with what's happening, and to give you the capacity to learn more, to be more innovative, and to be able to access more resources.

We need to take notice of educational research from the University of Canterbury, led by the late Prof. Graham Nuthall. In work extending over several years he demonstrated the what teachers were doing, teacher behaviour, had no direct effect on children's learning. The key to understanding what children were learning was what children were doing. We learn by DOING.

Too many adults assume that we learn by reading. That's only partly true. By reading we feed a tiny part of our brain.

Now I need to briefly explain about the brain. Research into people with brain injury has demonstrated that the brain is organized in a strange way. Colours and shapes are in different areas, written words and spoken words are in different brain areas, listening and reading feed different brain areas, active functions like hand-writing and typing require different brain activity. We don't remember as in replaying a videotape; our memory is entirely a new reconstruction of things the brain assembles, that come from many different places in the brain. The things you can "remember" depend very much on the context you are in at the time.

A Dancing Example

It's also apparently true that all our "memory" may not be in the brain at all. I'm a dancer. Much of what I do as a dancer is in the body, in the muscles, or from the spinal column, automated. If I think very hard I can over-ride what happens anyway. If I have a fault it can be corrected, but it's very hard work that takes weeks, and if you don't keep at it, years.

Dancing has taught me lots of things about how we learn that I never understood when I was trying to be a teacher. In a dancing class you learn the teacher. You learn the room you are in. You learn the people you are with. You learn that a sequence of steps begin in a certain place in the room. You learn the partner you have. You learn steps. You learn hand and body movements. You learn the music. All of these "learnings" seem to be separate things. Changing any one of them might mean you can no longer do the dance you've been learning.

Strange and silly things happen. You can dance a new sequence in the studio, but you go home and you can't remember it. You learn a set of steps always starting in the same place. You go to the other end of the room and you can't do it. A change of partner may mean you can't recall the steps. A simple thing like changing a hand movement might result in complete loss of a set of steps you know very well. It's difficult to understand. The way the brain and the body work together is complex. Men, if you've ever wondered why dancing is so hard, perhaps you now begin to understand why.

General Learning Principles for Adults

Like children, we learn by what we do. If you can listen to a speaker, and read the text of the speech, you've processed that information it two different ways. That helps. To learn from it you need to do more. Hand write some notes, make a list of key points, build a mind map, these activities reinforce what you've been focusing on. Type about it, send a message to a news-group, or open a discussion topic on a social network. Speak to someone about the topic on the phone or face to face. Give speeches, in your Toastmasters club perhaps, or speak to any audience about it (even one other person). Each NEW WAY of doing something with the information helps you to make it part of yourself.

If you have a blog, recording your own ideas on any topic there, not only gives you a written record, but is also helpful to others.

Because I've kept a journal of over 37 years, I can testify to the great advantage of being able to re-read things you wrote 10 or 20 years ago. That teaches you some powerful lessons about your own memory, or more correctly about the failure of memory. It's also demonstrated to me that the root of much of my present thinking isn't nearly as current as I imagine. I can go back years in my journal and find the first stumbling steps that lead to what I'm doing now. Your thinking has roots, and most people have no way to recall the evidence of that.

Social Networks, Properly Used, Enable Learning

There's not a lot of value in connecting to hundreds of people unless you exchange information with them in some way.

Yes your own time is limited and so is their time. So how can we do this information exchange more efficiently? Twitter and Facebook and Google+ are examples create a "page" of short messages that often point to a longer message or web page. A message posted to the network can by read by hundreds of people.

A possible learning sequence

You are advised by email, twitter or your Facebook page, of something interesting someone else has found.

You listen to an audio presentation, watch Youtube or read a blog, following up on the information given.

If you think it's worthwhile you might pass this on to a discussion network that you use. What you DO is important, because it's in your own action that makes learning possible. If you post a link, adding your own thoughtful comment engages you in the topic, and helps to engage the people who know you.

If a discussion begins, that helps to reinforce the learning opportunity for everyone taking part.

Do you have a blog where you can write about things like this.

Do you keep a private journal, or a notebook where you can record what interests you?

Printing out the information does make it easier to read, but that isn't enough to help you learn it. You need to do more, to be more active to make learning effective.

Can you talk to someone about it? With Skype, you can talk to someone across the world free of charge.

If the original material discovered is valuable, it's important that you have your own private record of the event. For this purpose, I use my journal. Because of the pressure of time I don't always use it well. My memory, your memory is unreliable. What you wrote in your blog, in a Ryze discussion, in your journal, won't change. These activities give you long term memory devices that you can reread months and years later. That's valuable.

I should add that this work is also available to other people years later if it's in an online blog, or a social network like Facebook.

Your Open Future New Zealand Group "setup".
What does Open Future New Zealand Membership offer?
Building your LinkedIn Network
"I don't know you" problems: Open Networkers
Open Future New Zealand Newsletter
Dealing with Email Overload
Rewriting your LinkedIn Profile
Printable Guide from all the above pages (8 Pages)