I don’t know about you, but I have always felt that the only thing I wasn’t taught at school was how to learn. Is it not ironic?
I’m attending an online English course and at some point we were discussing non-fiction books, when the teacher mentioned Barbara Oakley’s MOOC Learning how to learn. I enrolled in the course that very evening and, whereas I found it really interesting, I started the book before finishing the course due to my preference for the written word.
In the book, Barbara explains the techniques you need to master in order to learn better, and she does it in a didactical manner, even making you practice with her own book through reminders in every chapter about scanning through it first, addressing a series of questions at the end to see if you understood the material, etc.
She talks, among other things, about chunks of time, focused and difuse mode, active recall, memory palaces… And she bases their explanations on research about our brain’s way of working and storing new information. The book is intended to be read by young people or together a child with an adult and, therefore, she uses easy-to-understand metaphors so that all readers can understand and apply the techniques to the subjects and materials they need to learn.
But don’t underestimate the quality of this book: if the first sentence of this post resonates with you, you will get invaluable benefit from the reading of Learning how to learn. The techniques won’t be novel to you, I’m sure, but Barbara presents them in a comprehensive form, adding examples to help you get started, and basically compiling them together so you have the feeling of finally knowing everything you need to know about memory and learning.
Now, I am aware that when you read all this you’ll be tempted to make excuses like “I don’t have time for this, I need to study”, and by that you mean coming back to your familiar study routine of opening the book, highlighting half of it in bright yellow, and forgetting most of it the day after. Changing these old patterns is been also a challenge for me who, after 36 years studying, still follows the same unproductive path for learning my subjects at the university, but I’m making an effort now in order improve how I learn. As Barbara says, practice makes permanent, and by implementing the techniques you will end up having more time for other things!
I wish someone had the idea of including a subject on how to learn in schools curriculae when I was a child. It is frustrating when you have to educate yourself years later on the matter; it would have been easier to acquire these habits at a young age but, anyway, this is where we are at the moment. So, please, if you are a person who believes one must learn new things throughout her life, read this book – you won’t be disappointed!