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

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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

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 break...

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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 ord...

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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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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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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...

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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...

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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, an...

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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 explai...

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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.



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.

Understanding what is learning and how our memory works wil...

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

"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."

"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.

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Just start, break the initial barrier

Every task has a certain Activation Energy (AE), where you initiate certain steps in order to start a task.

Reducing the Activation Energy of new habits you want to form will make it i...

Practice chunking

A memory chunk is a solid connection in your mind that relates various bits and pieces of information. 

Focus on the concept you want to form a chunk of. Write down the basic ideas of what the concept is all about. Build up from these fundamentals to finally create a chunk.

Learn, Practice, Recall — Repeat

Just forming chunks is not sufficient. You have to maintain them. The more you look after the chunks, the longer they last.

While reviewing material, recall it instead of just reading it passively. Try and recall in a different setting than where you studied it.

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