Sunday, 2 November 2014

Learning How to Learn (VII): Interaction

Barely a few years ago boys and girls in Africa didn’t have specific individual ages. Rather, they were in groups, cults, and peers. So a boy's age and maturity isn’t measured by when he was born but by which age group he belongs to. In addition, initiation into higher social platforms is done in a collective way together with other members of the same group or peer.
In as much as this concept sounds archaic and possibly ineffective to us today, a careful search as to why it was done in the first place will reveal some astonishing things about how we learn. Children were grouped in peers and cults so they could learn by interaction. In some of these groups what they had weren’t “teachers” (from a narrow meaning of the word) but guides and counsellors. So, they learned to hunt together, farm together, dance together and get married together. As time went by these groups develop such strong bonds that they’ll willingly die protecting each other than live without the other.
Our present-day classes are designed in a way that narrowly imitates this method of peering but we contradict the goal of grouping by encouraging and enforcing individualism within the group. 
If you will learn effectively, I propose you form groups with people of like minds. Interact with one another, advice each other, complement weaknesses and sharpen strengths. In my book, Do it Like Kids, I suggested 5 unifying factors that ensure groups and teams work effectively. Here is a summary:

1. The unifying factor of harmonizing skills: members of a team should complement each other in skill. If you have everybody in a group having just one skill, know that you have no team at all. There is practically no way such a group can effectively provide excellent service at all times. When children form teams, team players take up roles that they feel they can best fit into. They don’t all take up the same role because it makes play boring.

2. The unifying factor of shared purpose: Every team must have a single reason why it is doing what it is doing. Every member of the team must share that ideal reason. This is the purpose of the team. Myles Monroe in his famous quote said, “If the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable.” In line with that I say if the purpose of a team is not known and shared by the team players, abuse is inevitable.

3. The unifying factor of performance goals: A goal is an aim, something someone wants to achieve in a specified period. In view of this, a performance goal is a goal that specifies the performance required of a team. If this is lacking, progress cannot be measured and if progress is not measured, there is no way the team can say if it is successful or not. So every team needs to set goals to help move it forward. Here are some ways to set performance goals-
-         Write them down in clear terms
-         Set a time frame
-         Make a list of everything the team will have to do
-         Plan
-         Review often

4.  The unifying factor of approach: the approach taken to achieve the performance goals is as important as setting the goal in the first place. If you know where you are going, then you immediately become restricted in the number of roads that will lead you there.

5. The unifying factor of mutual accountability: who is responsible? Whose fault is it? Who is to give account? These are questions all groups have to answer at one point or the other and therein lie where many groups fall short of being teams. Note this; in a team, nobody is accountable, everybody is. It is nobody’s fault; everybody is at fault. Nobody is responsible, it is everyone’s responsibility. The moment this is missed, the cords that bind team play are broken. 

Friday, 31 October 2014

Learning How to Learn (VI): Physical Exercises

Have you ever wondered why there are always sports facilities in good schools? These aren’t placed there just for the fun of it. Schools have sports facilities because educators have realized that physical activities in form of sports, jogging, or even walking helps learning. Every good school has a sports program where they develop the physical aspect of their learners. This is important because as you participate in physical activities new brain cells are born in your brain and this helps in learning.
I recently developed a habit of jogging for the first 30 minutes of my day. I do this 6 times every week and I now find it very difficult not to get off my bed and hit the street jogging. In doing this I have benefitted in interesting ways. First, I realized that it reverses any stress I feel in the morning. I was accustomed to waking up tired and stressed out. It was usual to hear me say, “I am tired,” first thing in the morning. When I jog I feel much stronger and the energy takes me through the day.
Second, I realized that it helped me to process information faster. While jogging I am able to steady my mind on a thought and keep it there until I have the answers I seek.

Third, I listen to audio books while jogging. This means that I multitask and use the opportunity to learn from books that would have taken me a longer period of time to cover. The moment I realised this secret to learning, I make sure I don’t leave my room without an audio book in my phone.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Success Myth #1: You Must Cheat to Learn

You may think after reading this myth that you don’t believe it applies to you but the only prove of believe is in your actions. In my society our learning has been incapacitated by this myth. We have institutionalized examination malpractice. This scourge, which some years back was a tightly kept secret, now thrives enabled by examination bodies, school administrations, invigilators, students and their parents.
The problem with cheating to learn is that it short-changes your brain, crashes your self-esteem, degrades your integrity, removes your dignity, and makes you less likely to render useful service to your society. At the end of it all, after you have cheated your way to examination “success”, you haven’t learned anything.

Contrary to this myth I have met learners who believed in themselves enough and had sufficient dignity to refuse malpractice. They read, practiced, understood, and passed their examinations with very good grades. As I said in the beginning, if one can do it, you too can.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Learning How to Learn (V): Discipline


You must be disciplined to stick to your goal of learning. This means you control yourself to consistently choose only the things that will help you achieve your goal. It also means you obey the laws that guide to the acquisition of your goal. Many people desire to learn something but at the same time desire a hundred other contradictory things. Others desire to succeed in learning but won’t follow the guiding principles. They want the “golden” egg without nurturing the “ordinary” goose that lays it. in both cases they’d meet with failure somewhere along the path.

This seems to be my story in my desire to learn to play the keyboard. Gift, my wife, bought a keyboard some years ago and I want to play. I don’t want to be the next Ludwig van Beethoven or another Alfred Cortot but just to learn how to strike some chords and make something that sounds like music. I have tried a lot of the tricks in the books. I have placed it in front of me, downloaded free tutorials on YouTube, told friends I’d soon be a keyboard player, but have ever since failed to make any progress. If I were to choose one single reason why I haven’t made progress I’d say I am not disciplined to learn it. The time I should use to practice I use to write or read an unrelated book. I’d even readily watch a movie than practice!


Discipline is indispensible to learning. “If you only write when inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist,” said inspirational writer Neil Geiman. It is true because you require the discipline of writing even at times you aren’t inspired or feel like writing if you’ll be a novelist to be reckoned with.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Learning How to Learn (IV): Desire

It is common knowledge but not common practice that without desire you cannot achieve anything meaningful in life. Learning isn’t any different. Most of the people in classrooms and other learning platforms don’t really desire it. They may want to learn, they may take a step to learn, they may even say they will learn but they don’t desire it. To desire is to want something strongly enough for you to take actions towards it. To desire is to defeat inertia. Desire is the springboard, your springboard to higher heights.
Imagine with me two friends, Sadiq and Bello, who sit lazily under a tree and discuss the fact that they were both very hungry. Sadiq says, “I only had a snack this morning, I am so hungry I can finish a buffalo!”
“You do not know what hunger is my friend,” Bello responds, “I haven’t eaten for 2 days!”
If we interrupt their discussion at this point we’ll all assume Bello would have a greater desire to get a meal having stayed without a meal for 2 days. 
Then there comes Tosin, who becomes privy to their discussion and says, “Why waste time talking rather than eating? There is a restaurant a kilometer away.”
“One kilometer?” asked Bello with sarcasm in every word, “Too far to travel just for food.”
“Not for me,” Sadiq says, “I am hungry and will pay any price to get a good meal.” He stands up and immediately leaves for the restaurant leaving Bello on the same spot looking hungry.
It was a fact that they were both hungry and also a fact that Bello should be hungrier having stayed without food for 2 days, but who among the friends desired to eat? Sadiq of course! This is so because desire is shown only with actions.

If you desire to learn anything it will show in your actions. It will show in the time invested in pursuit of the knowledge. It will show in the sacrifices you are willing to make to achieve your goal. It will show in the amount you are willing to spend on things related to it. Indeed, it will show in the thought energy you direct towards it.