By : Md. Nasir Khan
Quality in education has been an effort globally and we are all in the race. Children on beginning of schooling or even before it were provided some books loaded with information. This information is received and transmits to different actions by the brain. Have you ever asked yourself how your brain operates? Or to your children? The answer is NO! We all spent 1000s of hours studying Physics, Chemistry, Zoology, Botany, English, History, Political Science, Philosophy, Astronomy, Geography, etc. But we failed to work on how my brain works, how do we think? How do we recall? How do we sense? How to learn to create? How to make note? How to study? How to learn? Revision techniques? Memory? Exam techniques? Thinking about thinking? I cannot go in-depth of all these in my short article however I shall try my best how YOU and I can unlock our learning potentials so that we learn when we learn.
You are provided with a user’s manual when you purchase a pressure cooker. You read it once, digest it and throw away once you are aware of it. In the case of your brain’s user manual, all you need is to create your own manual; update it; use it; un-use it; update again;…………..; it continues on and on. Your brain is complex, powerful, infinitely variable and astonishing. It never stops working, and it is evolving constantly.
WHY YOU NEED TO THINK INTELLIGENTLY?
What Age do you think we are in now? To help you make your decision, it is traditionally considered that after the indigenous, aboriginal, and local flowerings of culture, the first global ‘Revolution of the Mind’ was the Agricultural revolution which started 10,000 years ago. During that time we thought, primarily, agriculturally. Children were educated to be labourers. The Agricultural Revolution was then superseded, a few hundred years ago, by the Industrial Revolution. During that time we thought, primarily, industrially. Children were once again educated to be labourers in the industrial-military complex. So, in this context, what Age do you think we are in now? Write your thoughts on a separate piece of paper. The most common answers to this question are: Information, Technological, Computer, Digital, The last! If we are in the Information/Technological/Computer Age, we will think informationally and technologically, and children will be taught to be information technologists. If we are in this Age then such thinking and education will be appropriate. However, if we think we are in this Age but are not, then such thinking and education will be inappropriate. As many as 90% of people believe we are in this Age, and thus the world is currently thinking predominantly in the Information/Technological mode. We are not in the Information Age! The Information Age gave us many wonderful gifts including the television, computers, new medical equipment and the World Wide Web. It also provided us with the greatest cause of global stress the planet has ever known: Information Overload. To deal with Information Overload, the human brain devised the next revolution of the mind: the Knowledge Age. In this Age information was clustered into meaningful chunks in order to try to contain and manage the increasing tsunami of data. This Age gave rise to such new concepts as Knowledge Management, and such new positions in national and multi-national businesses and governments as Knowledge Manager and, on many Boards, Director of Knowledge Management. It should be observed at this point that every Age that is superseded by a new Age still remains with us. The Agricultural, Industrial and Information Ages are and will always remain a part of our societies. In the Knowledge Age we thought knowledgably. Children were taught to become Knowledge Workers. In Singapore, a number of Directors of Knowledge Management came together and announced that Knowledge Management was not working as well as had been anticipated and hoped. Why? Because there is something far more important to manage than knowledge. The far more important to manage than knowledge, is to manage the manager of that knowledge. And what is the manager of that knowledge? Your Brain! Your brain manages knowledge by the use and application of its multiple intelligences. We are thus now entering the Age of Intelligence. This fact was confirmed at the 14th International Conference on Thinking (2009) by the Minister of Higher Education, Malaysia, by Professors Edward de Bono and Howard Gardner, by Tony Buzan, and by the 2,000 international delegates of that conference. At the Opening ceremonies it was officially declared by Tony Buzan that:
We are now in the Age of Intelligence. That the 21st century is the Century of the Brain, and the third millennium will henceforth be known as Millennium of the Mind.
In the Age of Intelligence we will think (at last!) Intelligently. In this new and dawning Age, children of all ages will and are beginning to be taught to become Intelligence Workers by becoming Mentally Literate - focusing on creativity and innovation, communication, service, learning how to learn, memory, ethics, self-management, mindfulness, full use of our cognitive skills, and all forms of thinking including analytical, strategic, lateral, creative, meta- and radiant. Mental literacy will be defined as being similar to normal verbal literacy and numerical literacy. Verbal literacy means understanding the alphabet of letters, words and language and being able to juggle with those appropriately. Numerical literacy means understanding the alphabet of numbers and being able to juggle with the infinite combinations of those. Mental literacy means understanding the alphabet of the brain’s physical structures and that of the brain’s cognitive and learning functions.
RIGHTIES OR LEFTIES?
Our brain has two hemispheres, the left and the right. We are either a left brain dominant or the right brain. To help you understand whether you are a left brain or right brain dominant you will need to analyse your learning styles. Here are some commonly accepted learning styles:
·Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
·Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
·Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
·Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
·Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
·Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
·Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.
·Naturalistic: These types of learners process information best when it is related to finding patterns in nature and applying scientific reasoning to the understanding of living creatures. They usually grow up to be farmers, naturalists or scientists. These learners particularly enjoy being outdoors and connecting with Nature. They are often found observing and appreciating plants and animals in rural settings.
Your amazing right brain is concerned with Rhythm, Imagination, Daydreaming, Colour, Dimension, Spatial awareness, Gestalt; While your amazing left brain is concerned with Logic, Words, Lists, Numbers, Sequence, Lines, Analysis. These two amazing sides of the brain with its unique feature do not operate separately from one another however in most cases we try using either side. The more you can stimulate both the sides of your brain at the same time resulting to synergetic brain, the more efficient your brain will be.
Learning is a continuous process and there are frequent blocks happening around. Some learning blocks may be Fear: of past failures and success; Classroom: difficult seeing the demonstration or white board summary (WBS), unable to hear the lecture, unable to understand the level of language the teachers use, there may be sunlight in rural school’s classrooms, pollution, teacher’s dress and ornaments; Humiliation: there may be cases when you were humiliated for being skinny, short or ugly; Restlessness: mentally unrest, unrest due to physical needs; Shy or Timid; Social Factor: school environment, health, absent, Low Intelligence, Poverty, Dislike of Teachers, Lack of Family guidance; Teacher’s in-efficiency: unplanned lesson, home work without guidance, Lack of pupils’ involvement in the class, insufficient audio-visual aids, bad communication; Curriculum: outdated syllabus, excessive number of lecture, less worksheet, syllabus has less learning aims, difficult; School Management: non-availability of books in time, Pupils’ punishment, Lack of teaching aids, Insufficient teachers, 2 classes incorporate into 1, Skipping Lesson, Class size, Too many class in a day. Let us take for an example: A student sitting near a window may have stuck by a small sunbeam which the teacher might not notice it. The teacher is trying to explain the topic of the day, the entire 45 minutes; however that particular student got distracted by the sunbeam and he is unable to focus on what was taught. This way the above mentioned points are out of the many learning blocks that may lead to un-effective lectures.
‘Open your eyes and look deeply at what you wanted to learn, now close your eyes and feel it’. This way we learn! The logic here is with respect to conscious and subconscious mind. The conscious mind is the thinker and decision maker, gives instructions to sub-conscious mind to obey. The conscious mind closed and the sub-conscious mind received and the body reacted. Proper learning happens with proper management of thinking. It’s with thinking the informations are processed and our senses gets activated. We will discuss here two types of thinking known as the focused mode and the diffuse mode. When you are in focused mode: you are paying attention, letting a specific part of the brain to turn on and get the learning process started. When you are in diffuse mode: your mind is relaxed and free, you are gently using other parts of the brain that are mostly different from the parts you use when you are focusing; letting your brain imaginative connections between ideas. For an effective learning and more creative experiences what you need is to go back and forth between these two thinking modes.
Magnus Carlsen vs Garry Kasparov, 2004: The standing boy in the picture is Magnus, who is rank no. 700 and Garry is ranked no. 1 in the world. Amazingly Kasparov didn’t win the chess match. Magnus seems a distracted boy wandering around watching other’s play.(It happens during his match). Soon after this photo was taken Magnus returned to the table and focused on the game again. He had taken a little break so he can focus better when he returned. The match was a tie. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjEmquJhSas
In the short real event story above Magnus was using both the focused and the diffuse mode while Kasparov was in focused mode only. The logic here is simple: All you need is the shifting modes of thinking, from focused to diffuse and from diffuse to focused. Here are some diffuse mode activators that you may practice as rewards after focused mode work: playing physical game of your choice, jog, walk, swim, dance, ride a bike, draw/ paint, take a shower, listen to music ( especially without words), meditate, pray, sleep, talk to a friend etc.
Let me be honest and be very frank on my note-taking experiences. It was during my 10th class only I began doing so. Isn’t it surprising? I somehow managed to do it till my 12th standard and then I discontinued. My journey on Learning How to Learn began in 2015, since then I realised its importance and the roles it played in Learning. I didn’t blame my teacher, may be they might have taught me however my mind wasn’t attracted to it and that was how I was unaware.
Note-taking, as we know means summarizing someone else’s thoughts, as expressed in a book, lecture or article. You need to develop this habit as early as possible in school days. While trying to summarize an idea, you will stay focused, physically and mentally; your mind will get actively engaged as you hear and would be able to organise the ideas recorded for studying and review after the class. Note-taking involves active listening and you need to learn active listening as well. Listening is an art! What you need is to focus on the key points presented not on how well the presentation was delivered. You need to make a commitment to yourself not to get distracted by the noise around, pollution or the people. Be prepared to learn before you begin taking notes; this way you can focus on the central ideas, the associations and the links and make it powerful.
Note-making, is organising your own thoughts, often creatively! How could you do this? It can be possible once you are clear with the concepts. Organising a creative thought involves the full understanding of the concepts. The simple steps to organise a creative idea is to read, study, discuss and analyze the topic. With powerful note-taking you can later on come up easily with note-making.
I would suggest you a note-taking & note-making style that would give you a complete step by step procedures. This may take time however practice again and again to make it handy.
Date Course Topics
Putting this information at the top of the page primes your brain with what you already know about these topics, making it easier for you to make new connections and helps the note organised.
Reflections/ Thoughts & Cues:Note your reflections, draw or write your feeling; What you put in this column acts as a key and an index, aiding recall. Notes:Notes: Use this space for making traditional notes on what is being presented; in whatever way you already like using.
Summary: Here’s where brain based research really kicks in: write a summary of what you want to remember from these notes. Be sure to do this before you sleep. This will help solidify the new neural connections you want to know. Review your summary using five times repetition formula.
Mind Map: After addition and deletion of key-words MindMap it as soon as possible. If you’re super into aesthetics, like to doodle, or are a particularly visual learner, this method will add flavor. However you don’t need to be an artist to MindMap. Any learner can MindMap.
ARE YOU A RELUCTANT LEARNER?
It sounds WEIRD, right? How can you say I’m a reluctant learner? If I’m reluctant, why will I learn? I’m sure these questions pops in your head; let us accept it without further argument. In most cases we have this habit of I will do it later, I still have time, I’m tired today, today I’ve got headache, my mom asked me to cook today, and on and on… the excuses continues. As a result when you have less time and more books to study say during the year-end nearing final examinations, you are being mentally swamped and literally weighed down. You are overloaded with informations. Let me introduce you a technique to help you solve this procrastination, the Pomodoro Technique.
In 1980s Francesco Cirillo came up with this technique. The steps are:i. No interruption, decide the task, make your room a favourable place to study. Arrange a tomato shaped timer, set the timer for 25 minutes;ii. Focus for 25 minutes. Never be in hurry to complete the task, stay calm and work out normally;iii. Reward with a 3-5 minutes break (diffuse mode);iv. After the 4th Pomodoro reward with 15-30 minutes breakv. reset the checkmark count to zero, go to step one
Note: If you are a 10 to 12 years old or below, you may want to start with 10 or 15 minute pomodoros, you have the freedom to choose based on your mental focusing power but not beyond 25 minutes.
The best thing about Pomodoro Technique is, it makes your mind active by helping you get regular breaks. Regular breaks recharge your brain and enable you to refocus more efficiently.
What effective learning techniques you use? Almost everyone may say, I don’t know! How do you expect to learn effectively when you don’t even know how to learn? Don’t be panic! Even many teachers don’t know. Not because they have weakness but because like you they also didn’t learn when they were like you today. First you need to be physically and mentally prepared and then get ready for its application. The following steps may help you learn better: The PQRST method, it is an acronym for Preview, Question, Read, Summary, and Test.
Preview: Have a picture walk, look briefly at all the pictures, captions and diagrams, and then, look at the topic to be learned by glancing over the major headings or the points in the syllabus.
Question: Formulate questions to be answered following a thorough examination of the topic(s) i) Should I study this content? ii) Why should I study? iii) What should I study?
iv)How much should I study? V) How to study?
On finding answers to these, you can select specific areas and you can structure your study. Now prepare questions that you need to go in-depth to extract the idea so that you can associate further.
Read: Read through the related material, focusing on the information that best relates to the questions formulated earlier. Highlight the key-words, but avoid too many.
Summary: Summarize the topic, bringing your own understanding into the process. This may include written notes, spider diagrams, MindMaps, flow diagrams, labeled diagrams, mnemonics, or even voice recordings. If you are unable to get the proper understanding take help from peers or teachers.
Test: Now find answers to the questions drafted earlier, avoiding adding any questions that might distract or change the subject.
Active recall is easy if programmed well. Most of the student finds it critical. The simple step is: Look away from the page and see what you can recall. What are the key ideas on the page? Play them back in your mind. Or say them out aloud to yourself. Repeat it until you can form a mental picture. This helps your neural pathways clearer. Tony Buzan’s five times revision formula is the best way to store your information in the long term memory. The technique is: The first review should be an hour or so after you’ve read or learnt something, for example when you get home. The second the day after (so take another look the next day after school). The third should be about a week later, the fourth one month later and the fifth and final time six months later.
Exams are opportunities. Be happy to go for an examination; enjoy the given moment of 1, 2 or 3 hours time. I frequently heard of examination blues, examination phobias, and examination pressure. Remember you can’t perform your best and recall your learning if you are mentally depressed. Such mental pressure causes examination phobias and that’s how examination becomes a blues. Sleep well before you go for an examination; meditate before you write your answers. If you are looking to score better overall grades, focus on the subject you find easy. Example: Isabel, a class 10 student is bad at numbers, and so she is weak in Maths. For one whole year she prepares to improve Maths, she even took extra tuitions. She kept struggling but unable to master on it. She ends up getting 45 in Maths out of 100. She too got stuck in all her easy subjects, English, Science, Social, and Language II. She only got 55, 60, 52 and 70 in her easy subjects too. Had she focus on her easy subjects and have only a regular review in Maths she would have scored letter marks in all her easy subjects. The moral here is simple: Never get stuck to a difficult subject only. Put equal efforts in all your easy subjects too. Another simple tips yet a powerful tool to write examination: No examination instructions tell you to answer the questions in order. Begin with the question that you fully understand. Check the marks allotted for the question and use the appropriate number of words based on the allotted marks. There is no harm if you have a bad handwriting but neatness adds attraction to the examiner. Remember you can be good at your difficult subjects within a short period of time. Dr. Barbara Oakley was bad at numbers, Maths, but end up becoming Professor of Engineering at Oakland University. All you need is our practical Brain training on Learning How to Learn.