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What I learned from Coursera's "Learning How to Learn"

https://medium.com/learn-love-code/learnings-from-learning-how-to-learn-19d149920dc4

medium.com

What I learned from Coursera's "Learning How to Learn"
How I'm using learning techniques from a Coursera course to be a better developer I've been a Software Developer for more than 4 years now and if there's one thing that never changes about this job it's that it is always changing. There are always new things to learn.

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“Focused” and “Diffused” Modes

“Focused” and “Diffused” Modes

When learning, there are times in which you are focused and times in which you allow your mind to wander. Both modes are valuable to allow your brain to learn something.

Take regular breaks, meditate, think about other things, and give yourself plenty of time in both modes.

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Chunking

Chunking
This is the idea of breaking what you want to learn into concepts. 

The goal is to learn each concept in a way that they each become like a well-known puzzle piece. 

In order to master a concept, you not only need to know it but also to know how it fits into the bigger picture.

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Beware of Illusions of Competence

Beware of Illusions of Competence
There are many ways in which we can make ourselves feel like we have “learned” a concept.

Instead of highlighting or underlining, rather take brief notes that summarize keys concepts.

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Recall

Recall
Take a couple minutes to summarize or recall material you are trying to learn.

It goes a long way to taking something from short-term memory to long-term learning.

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Bite-Sized Testing

In order to avoid or break through illusions of competence, you should test yourself as you’re encountering new material

Recall is a simple example of this mini-testing.

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Over-Learning

Over-Learning

Do not spend too much time in one sitting going over the same material over and over again. The law of diminishing returns certainly applies. Spread it out over many sessions and over many different modes of learning.

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Interleaving

Once you have a basic understanding of what you are trying to learn, practice jumping back and forth between problems that require different techniques. This will solidify your understanding of the concepts by learning how to choose to apply them in various situations. 

Know when to apply a particular concept is as important as knowing how.

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Process over Product

When facing procrastination, think of the process over the product.

Instead of thinking that you have to get X done, rather think to spend an hour on X. It is then not overwhelming, and doesn't require a long breakdown of tasks.

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Metaphors and Analogies

Metaphors and Analogies

They are often talked about as helpful study techniques. 

Try to make a deliberate effort to teach what you learn to someone else and, in doing so, you will likely be forced to explain concepts with relatable metaphors and analogies.

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Study Groups / Teamwork

... have proven to be most beneficial to maintain continued progress and hold each other accountable. Finding the right group is key.

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Learning how to learn

Learning how to learn is a meta-skill. It is a critical skill for everyone who needs to pick up and master new concepts frequently.

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Learning skills

Learning how to learn is critical for everyone. Most of us have to deal with a changing world and to learn how to manage tons of new information.

However, most of our learning methods are outdated and far from optimal. It may even be giving us an illusion of learning, like re-reading and highlighting that don't provide proper feedback to show what you haven't learned.

Focused and Diffuse Mode

Focused and diffuse modes provide two models for how we develop, elaborate, deepen and broaden connections. Both methods are important.

  • The focused mode of learning is about bringing related concepts together into a unit, called a chunk. 
  • The diffuse mode operates through a wider net of connecting general ideas across different fields. We use this diffuse mode while we sleep, exercise or daydream.

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Albert Einstein

"Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much an..."

Albert Einstein

Daniel Coyle

Daniel Coyle

"Our brains evolved to learn by doing things, not by hearing about them. This is one of the reasons that, for a lot of skills, it’s much better to spend about two thirds of your time testing yourself on it rather than absorbing it."

Telling Others About Your Pursuit

It can keep you accountable, but it can also lead to a false sense of completeness. One way to avoid sabotaging yourself is to state your goal as a commitment rather than progress towards the finished product.

Learning is necessary for our success and personal growth

But we can’t maximize the time we spend learning because our feelings about what we ‘should’ be doing get in the way.

When our brains equate learning and work

If we are learning for work, then in our brains learning equals work. So we think we have to do it during the day, at our workplace.

We think that walking is not learning. It’s ‘taking a break’. We instinctively believe that reading is learning. Having discussions about what you’ve read, however, is often not considered work, again it’s ‘taking a break’.

The focused and diffuse thinking modes

When mastering a subject, our brain has two general modes of thinking: focused and diffuse, both important in the learning process.

The focused mode is what we traditionally associate with learning. But we need time to process what we pick up, to get this new information integrated into our existing knowledge. We need time to make new connections. This is where the diffuse mode comes in.