Learning How to Learn: Impressions

    I finished the August session of the Learning How to Learn (LH2L) course at Coursera and would like to share my impressions with the habrasociety, as well as give some tips and warnings.

    The goal of the course is to talk about effective teaching methods. Including self-education.

    The course ran from August 1 to September 1. Lecturers - Barbara Oakley (the vast majority of notes) and Terence Sejnowski (appeared occasionally). The course included an optional textbook , A Mind for Numbers , which the authors carefully advertised.

    Course Outline:

    • Week 1. The brain has two main modes of operation: diffuse and focused mode . Focused mode is activated when focusing on the task and following the algorithm. Diffuse mode is responsible for relaxed thinking in the background. To maintain focused mode for a long time, you can use the Pomodoro method : alternate periods of maximum concentration without distractions for a duration of the order of 25 minutes with short breaks. To maintain the diffuse mode, you can use the Salvador Dali / Thomas Edison method : keep yourself on the brink of sleep, sitting in a quiet place with something like a bunch of keys in your hand (falling asleep, you will drop them and wake up from the noise). Repetition is important.Lacking sleep is bad. Doing exercise is good.
    • Week 2. Pushing the information being studied into neat bricks like OOP is called chunking . To form a chunk, you need to concentrate on the idea, understand it and practice with it. Chunk can be generated either from top to bottom, starting from the big picture and working out the details, or from bottom to top, starting from the details and creating the big picture. Ideally, you should use both processes. Constant self-monitoring is required. The simplest thing is after learning something new, pause and recreate in your head the picture of what you have learned. It is worth complementing this with exercises. Avoid excessive repetition of already familiar things ( overlearning , except when you need to learn how to do something on the machine) and instead deal with the problematic (deliberate practice)trying different approaches (interleaving) . The automatism developed in solving one problem may interfere with the solution of another ( einstellung ).
    • Week 3. Everyone suffers from procrastination . According to the mechanism, it is similar to taking drugs: the brain prefers quick pleasure (Facebook, Twitter, pictures with kittens, dose) to long (learning new things, money for work, a healthy life). Procrastination starts with a trigger (an incoming message, a link to a tweet), consists of performing automatic actions (reply, read, watch) and is supported by a reward (pleasant communication, interesting news, funny picture). To overcome it, you need to break the connection between the trigger and the actions behind it. Additionally, you can reduce its effect by focusing not on getting the result from work , but on anticipation of the process of its implementation .
      To remember anything, it is useful to use visual images and metaphors, connecting as many senses as possible. The human brain is well adapted to handle position in space. The Mind Palace method is based on this . The easiest option: remember a set of loosely connected things (such as a shopping list) as a route in a familiar place between fixed points, each of which is associated with an item.
    • Week 4. Impostor syndrome is actually a common problem. Seminars with discussions of the material being studied are useful if participants prepare for them, start on time and follow the plan, without slipping into joint gatherings. Then followed tips on how to pass exams. It was completely uninteresting to me, and I skipped the final part of LH2L.

    That's basically it. A month with a margin is placed on one page.
    In addition to video lectures, the course included:

    • Interview. At the end of each week, one or more. The most interesting for me was Scott Young : among other things, this person completed the four-year MIT program in computer science in one year.
    • Quizzes One for each week + final exam. I had a strange impression of them: some questions were formulated so that incorrect answers were eliminated by the keywords in them ( as mentioned in the videos , as the videos specifically mentioned ). A few questions were about insignificant details from lectures that could not be guessed, either using common sense, or additional sources ( was the slippery skin of an octopus a metaphor for how easy it is to forget something? ). In general, as it seemed to me, the tests were useless, because they did not make you think, but rather checked the careful memorization of lectures.
    • Peer assignments. Two pieces. The most interesting part of the course. The first involved an essay on the topic: who you are, what you want to achieve, what are the greatest difficulties, what methods or scientific research relate to your problems, how you are going to apply them . Writing a long text in this spirit perfectly organizes your head. The second was a free-form assignment on an almost free topic: help others overcome their problems with the learning process. You could make a presentation, video, sing from a stool, anything. I decided to write another text in the spirit of the performance report: at that time most of the course seemed to me absolutely obvious, but a couple of points were very interesting. About them later.
    • Optional reading. A huge list of references. No, really, huge . I have no idea how to navigate it. While I am reading the part about memory and remembering.

    The most interesting part for me personally was the story about Mind Palace (which immediately reminded of BBC's Sherlock). I said a little about this above. But there is a subtlety: LH2L suggests using the Mind Palace, remembering not the routes between locations, but the entire Palace. Accordingly, not scattered lists are stored there, but simply information, without reference to the lists. In addition, no more details were mentioned in the course. It's a pity.

    It was unexpected to learn that such a simple technique as Pomodoro was given a separate name. I try to implement it through Workrave , but it is not well suited for such a task.

    Should you personally take this course?The next session will be held in October. If the choice is to go between and not do anything, I would recommend the first. But if you want to spend time searching and studying more concise and meaningful sources of information , then it’s better not to. However, LH2L has one important advantage: the course makes you remember, again and again, that much more can be optimized. And this is an important part of shifting from a dead point.

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