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ePub How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens download

by Benedict Carey

ePub How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens download
Benedict Carey
Random House; F First Edition edition (September 9, 2014)
Behavioral Sciences
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1599 kb
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1727 kb
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In the tradition of The Power of Habit and Thinking, Fast and Slow comes a practical, playful, and endlessly fascinating guide to what we really know about learning and memory today—and how we can apply it to our own lives. From an early age, it is drilled into our heads: Restlessness, distraction, and ignorance are the enemies of success. We’re told that learning is all self-discipline, that we must confine ourselves to designated study areas, turn off the music, and maintain a strict ritual if we want to ace that test, memorize that presentation, or nail that piano recital. But what if almost everything we were told about learning is wrong? And what if there was a way to achieve more with less effort? In How We Learn, award-winning science reporter Benedict Carey sifts through decades of education research and landmark studies to uncover the truth about how our brains absorb and retain information. What he discovers is that, from the moment we are born, we are all learning quickly, efficiently, and automatically; but in our zeal to systematize the process we have ignored valuable, naturally enjoyable learning tools like forgetting, sleeping, and daydreaming. Is a dedicated desk in a quiet room really the best way to study? Can altering your routine improve your recall? Are there times when distraction is good? Is repetition necessary? Carey’s search for answers to these questions yields a wealth of strategies that make learning more a part of our everyday lives—and less of a chore. By road testing many of the counterintuitive techniques described in this book, Carey shows how we can flex the neural muscles that make deep learning possible. Along the way he reveals why teachers should give final exams on the first day of class, why it’s wise to interleave subjects and concepts when learning any new skill, and when it’s smarter to stay up late prepping for that presentation than to rise early for one last cram session. And if this requires some suspension of disbelief, that’s because the research defies what we’ve been told, throughout our lives, about how best to learn. The brain is not like a muscle, at least not in any straightforward sense. It is something else altogether, sensitive to mood, to timing, to circadian rhythms, as well as to location and environment. It doesn’t take orders well, to put it mildly. If the brain is a learning machine, then it is an eccentric one. In How We Learn, Benedict Carey shows us how to exploit its quirks to our advantage.
  • There's plenty of information here to work with. How to be a better learner seems to be a big trend in recent books. In the past couple of months I've read Fluent Forever (about language learning) and A Mind For Numbers (about being a good student, particularly in math and science) and they've all been released at the same time. They're also all, I'm very happy to say, strongly grounded in real research, rather than just making up some interesting-sounding notions about what might work (I have certainly seen books that did that...)

    I would have to say that someone who wants to be a great student ASAP is probably better off reading A Mind For Numbers first. That book takes you by the hand and leads you through the ideas about what you need to DO a lot more specifically. It makes very frequent references to research, but it's plainly written with the intention of being a guide for people who are taking and really need to hone in on exactly what to do NOW, because there are tests coming up. It leads you through the material by the hand, pretty much, asking you questions and reminding you to stop and think about what you've read. It also has a (free) online MOOC through Coursera to go with it that covers/reinforces the same material.

    Fluent Forever, in its effort to teach people how to learn languages, makes use of some of the same research, but shapes it to its topic. It offers a sort of general idea of how you should proceed, but the emphasis is on giving you a basic plan and just enough understanding of the research so that you can make good decisions about how to move forward with it.

    I feel like How We Learn is a little farther down the spectrum in that same direction. Most of its emphasis is on teaching you the research (some of which is the same research cited by the other two), with an assumption that you'll be able to make reasonable decisions about how to put it into practice. So he goes over exactly why it is NOT a good idea to learn a new math trick by doing 50 problems in a row that use that trick. He touches on how it can be put into practice, but it isn't something he dwells on. This vs A Mind for Numbers is sort of like... one being a professor who teaches key points but assumes that the students are capable of drawing some reasonable conclusions on their own, and the other being a professor who strives to touch on every single possible issue that might be of importance. It's a very different style.

    For someone who's actually writing a paper on learning or something of that nature, I suspect this will be more valuable. For someone who is actively taking classes or trying to learn a language, I'd say read either A Mind for Numbers or Fluent Forever first, because they'll get you going on making progress faster. Then, it certainly wouldn't hurt to come back to review some of the concepts and generally deepen your understanding overall by reading How We Learn. (If you're not taking classes and you just love teaching yourself new things, you might want to skip A Mind for Numbers. It puts a lot of emphasis on things like dealing with procrastination, which is very valuable, but not really a core issue if you're learning for pleasure and there aren't really any deadlines to speak of.)

  • If you are interested in the history of the science of learning and its development, this book is for you. As mentioned by other readers this book is not a how to recipe for better learning. Most of the theories and research shown in the book don't have any conclusion or solid outcome yet. As the author mentions in almost every chapter; how this works, no body knows. There is not a comprehensive and factual list of what to do and how to learn better. The learning techniques are interwoven with anecdotal padding that seems to be purposely created to dissipate the possibility that this theories are actual proven facts. Which in my opinion is a total contradiction of what the book is suppose to offer. What "might" work is pretty much an invitation to guess what and if some of these techniques work for you based on the authors personal experience.

  • What's interesting to me about this book - and the title itself - is how learning is almost entirely discussed in the context of memorization and retention. This idea, which I realize might be physiologically true, almost seems quaint especially when describing the strategies that students might use to retain information that they can then use on tests. Or retain information that they will likely never even use again despite the fact that they are required to absorb it and prove their mastery of it to matriculate and qualify for university (or simply move to the next grade). I worry that the arguments in Mr. Carey's book will reinforce this idea that success or failure in school is a result of success or failure in applying the right strategies for remembering things. We all know that you really learn something when you can apply it to an authentic task or project. You can memorize the manual for talking apart and putting back together a car engine, but you'll never be able to actually learn how to do that until you, well, do it. I suppose the same goes for the Pythagorean Theorem. Who really cares if a2 + b2 = c2 if you can't actually apply it somewhere in the world? So I was a bit disappointed that so much attention was paid to learning theory but so little mention was made of the ways we actually learn and how little attention is paid to that in schools. True, you can learn to recite entire passages of Shakespeare (and that might be a fun thing to do and a handy parlor trick) but what does that have to do with the sort of problem solving that results from really getting inside something? Until you have acquired tacit knowledge, not just explicit knowledge? I almost felt a bit of relief when I read the final sentence "Learning is, after all, what you do" until I realized that I was totally misinterpreting it.