Author Benedict Carey made this quick video to summarize some the findings he uncovered when writing his book “How We Learn”.
As a teacher and/or as a parent, what are some of the learning structures you put in place? Are there methods you rely on day in and day out that you swear by as good practice? Has the book (so far) shaken up your learning ideals?
In my house, we focus on math 3 nights a week and reading 4 nights a week. I have the same location each time, the same start time and finish time, the same rhythm…start with some worksheets and end using the software Dreambox. Get a reward when goals are met. That all seems so sensible to me. Repeat , repeat the concepts in a different modality, repeat in a tangible, practical way…. I think we need to question Carey’s definition of learn. If learn means memorize, then that’s different than understand deeply. Like with math, music, language….where there is a lot of memorization, then repetition makes sense. Adding real world applications and real world distractions also makes sense but not until the basics are understood. Do you think these are the best methods for history? I’ve always thought the best way to learn history would be for someone to hurry up and invent Star Trek’s Holodeck
…so that we could walk safely and virtually through history in order to experience it from multiple perspectives.
Elizabeth Mason Brown reminded me of the pencil problem that Carey proposes:
You have six pencils to create 4 equilateral triangles. They cannot crisscross and you cannot break them.
Elizabeth says: ” I think that Carey’s ideas about incubation and percolation can definitely lend themselves to subjects that require deeper understanding. I’ve felt for a long time that too much emphasis on just memorization or just critical thinking or just math skills or just literacy skills is short-sighted and doesn’t best serve our students. To meet the needs of learners who have no idea what the world will be like in 10 years, we have to prepare them to be more flexible thinkers, and I am continually searching for ways to achieve this. I had an AHA moment while reading the book, around the Pencil test. I must admit that at first I was unable to solve the problem. I hit that impasse and walked away. Without really working the problem, an idea came to me full-blown and I was able to solve the problem. Now, I can’t say for sure that his ideas are all on target, but I can see how allowing ourselves to walk away from a difficult problem might relax us enough or give us some form of insight that allows us to use our existing knowledge in a new way or innovatively think that lets us see the solution we have been seeking.”
So what do you think? I look forward to your thoughts.