Archive | May 30th, 2010

Holistic Learning

May 30, 2010

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I wrote this post as there have been many people who kept asking for some information about learning. As I was writing a post, I thought that others might also be interested in this as a big chunk of the demographic of scanlation readers are poor students in college or highschool.

Time spent studying does not equal learning.

More studying time won’t help if the way you are studying is flawed to begin with.

Holistic Learning
Smart people don’t just learn better. They learn differently. While many students get caught up in memorizing facts, intelligent learners know to seek the bigger picture and connect the facts together. This form of learning I call holistic learning.

Holistic learning is basically the opposite of rote memorization. Instead of reciting lists of facts, rules or formulas, you seek to connect ideas together. Instead of having separate boxes in your head for geometry, algebra or ancient India, you deliberately link facts together, so they form a bigger picture.

Excessive studying shows you aren’t learning holistically. It shows that you didn’t learn the material the first time. If you properly link ideas together to see the bigger picture, studying should only be a brief refresher.

How to Boost Your Study Habits
Holistic learning isn’t like a brainstorming technique or mind-mapping. It is fundamentally changing how you look at the process of learning and how you absorb information. As such, there isn’t an easy ten step program to master it.

But there are some tools that can help you shift your learning habits so they become more holistic:

Visceralize
You’ve probably heard of visualizing, right? Visceralizing means taking all of your senses and connecting it to information. Studies have shown that people remember more vividly information that comes to us in an emotionally aroused state. Linking feelings, senses and imagery to bland ideas makes them more real. You probably counted on your fingers when learning numbers, why can’t you do the same when you are learning now?

Metaphor
The heart of holistic learning is relating things together. Metaphors are literary devices that link two things that normally don’t go together. Come up with metaphors to describe more complicated ideas in simpler terms.

Ten Year Old Rule
Explain ideas to yourself as you would to a ten year old. Sure, this isn’t always possible in your last years of a medical degree or learning how to apply neural networks to computer AI. But the idea is that you should be able to “dumb down” an idea enough so it seems obvious to yourself.

Trace Back
Put away your books and start with a random fact or concept. Then relate that idea to another concept in your subject. Keep doing this tracing pattern until you've linked many ideas together. The Gupta Dynasty reminds you of ancient Greece which reminds you of Socrates, reminding you of Confucius…

Refresher Scan
Scan through information in your text book. Notice whenever you encounter information that you either don’t remember or weren’t 100% sure about.

Scan a second time after 24h!
Quickly link that information back to existing ideas through viscerlization and metaphor.

Scan a third time after a week!
If your refresher scan is turning up more than a few points per chapter, you haven’t learned it thoroughly enough.

Remember, the secret number is THREE!

Compress Information
Not all information works well for holistic learning. A common point cited to me is learning anatomy for first year medical students. Anatomy involves learning arbitrary Latin names for hundreds of different elements of your body. There often aren't clear patterns and constructs, just a dry list of facts. When encountering information such as this, your goal should be to compress it.

Find ways to group information into smaller chunks of memory through pictures or mnemonics.

Write
Take a piece of paper and write out the connections in the information. Reorganize the information into different patterns. The key here is the writing, not the final product. So don't waste your time making a pretty picture. Scribble and use abbreviations to link the ideas together.

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