This post investigates the best methodology that fits the learning habits and thinking processes of a person so-called Jin, belonging to the species of homo sapien on planet earth written in the year of 2015. It deals with the effort of reading various books and synergizing the best practices into a single blog post in hope of sharing this with those in resonance of learning. The text is interested in hacking the best alternative for “his personal” learning through exploring the relationship between memory and conceptual understanding, hence achieving the purpose of mastering and fostering an efficient output known to many as sh*t or ‘examination’ whatever you call it; or could be for the goal of a better personal growth for self-help jedis.
I am serious, this is suppose to sound like a thesis.
Photo credit: Ben Yoon
Total reading time: 10 minutes
Experiment duration: 1 lifetime.
Disclaimer: The author is not an expert in the field of learning, memory and understanding. “Read” on your own risk.
Quick fact one: Memory isn’t equal understanding.
Every year, we probably read countless articles without remembering pieces of details within them. Though we may have skimmed through an article at ease with full comprehension, chances are that we don’t remember anything later on, and then there’s the need to re-read it because it may be something related to a coming assignment, task or an examination.
Fact two: we waste whole lot of time repeating the process of reading and memorizing ( or maybe just me).
On the other hand, it is possible to remember something even if we don’t understand it, through various memory techniques called mnemonics, for example visualization, linking etc. But that’s not what we are going to discuss about here today.
However, understanding something does make memorizing it easier, but the question is what’s the missing link between the both?
In A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink as well as Zen Presentation by Garr Reynolds, today we are living in an age that is “animated by a different form of thinking and a new approach to life…something called the conceptual age, which involves the need of a capacity to:
“detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative…”(Reynolds, Zen Presentation)
“Conceptualizing” information bridges the gap between acquisition and process. One of the best technique to conceptualize chunk of information, is through the infamous brainchild of Tony Buzan: Mind-Mapping.
The Problem, however… is that
Many of my peers who had heard or even learned about mind-mapping rarely uses it, including my past-self for a simple reason: We think it’s too time-consuming.
Personally, after four-months of experimentation, I’m back to utilizing it along with two other techniques: speed reading and what i called “flow-map” notes taking. All in all, a three step to achieving my personal goal: a decent retention of information.
Disclaimer 2: As mentioned in the word decent:
I do not strive for 100 percent perfection in any of the techniques mentioned above, including memorizing the course content given by the teacher and so on. I learn what I think it’s important and try to achieve the goal of 80/20 rule as encouraged by lifestyle-design blogger and author Tim Ferris– A really cool self-help guru I look up upon to. The idea is basically to generate 80 percent of your productivity through 20 percent of your efforts.
“It really doesn’t matter what numbers you apply, the important thing to understand is that in your life there are certain activities you do (your 20 percent) that account for the majority (your 80 percent) of your happiness and outputs.” ~Yaro Starak
In that case I have more time to focus on other parts of my life such as my physical, mental, emotional, spiritual growth aspects etc. So all these mumble jumble is basically just trying to make a point that: I don’t strive to remember the whole text books in an all-rounded way. Here’s a good article explaining the concept of 80/20 rule.
But Anyways here’s the “vege” of the day.
Step One: Speed reading.
To master speed-reading takes up a whole lot of time- practicing how to read again and again. And the details can’t be covered in a single blog post, that’s why people had to write a whole book on just teaching anyone “how to read”. As you progress, you will soon learn that by skimming through various paragraph at the same time time, you can acquire a high percentage of information from it without the need of reading through them words by words – but that requires a good deal of vocabulary knowledge as well( in fact reading words by words reduces comprehension because you get caught up in words and you forgot about the context as a whole).
Here I will just recommend the simple use of a visual guide such as your finger or pointer to move along passage of text to prevent yourself from constantly jumping to and forth (causing distractions and losing focus) between words and sentences. Just read on and see if any magic comes into sense.
Usually, I highlight important points and move on, sometimes reading through a paragraph while ignoring some unknown words before going back to finding their meaning and understanding the paragraph as a whole later on. The highlighted, underlined points, or jotted ideas,opinions.. will be useful for:
Step Two: Selective Flow-map Note taking( from books or during lecture)
The way I take notes from lectures of books are rather a combination of mind mapping and Scott Young’s “flow-based note taking” methods (highly recommendable to read his book on holistic learning) But there are some minor differences as I do not record every detail of the lecture in the order as they were being spoken but rather the logic, how one idea relates to the next, the significance and how each points are connected with another ( arrows here and there lol) sometimes mixing with some minor mapping as well. However, i try to cover as much details as possible, as compared to mind-mapping so, it’s somewhere between the both…
Sample Notes ( not the most perfect one)
Then I revise the notes during free time. Well-prepared?
Step Three: Conceptualizing the big picture through mind-mapping.
Assume I’ve now read through all the notes in step two, but there’s one last problem I always face:
Let’s say I have an “American Legal Studies” examination tomorrow and I’ve finished revising my notes as mentioned above. However, when I suddenly ask myself
“what have I studied so far?”
I am confronted with a situation in which I can easily pick out details from a certain chapter (those that were more easily imprinted in my mind- maybe a case about a boyfriend killing his ex-gf in the Tarasoff Case etc) and talk about it but there’s a lack of “systematized logic”- my mind is jumping all around the details, and from one chapter to another without some form of “centralized thinking?”.
But at this moment, if I do a mind mapping, based upon a quick skim of my “Flow-map notes”, conceptualizing and categorizing details into their “parent concept” and then the “parent concepts” linked to their “grand-parents concept”, the big picture comes into senses…
Disclaimer: I know this post sounds messy. But I hope it helps in some way.
If you do experiment yourself, and found my post to be faulty or misleading; or you actually explored some other learning methodologies and you wish to share them with me; feel free to let me learn something from you. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Best of luck,