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

Without desire you cannot achieve anything meaningful in life. Learning isn’t any different. Most of the people in classrooms and other learning fields 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. It was Napoleon Hill that said, “The starting point of all achievement is desire.”

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,” Bello responds, “I haven’t eaten for two days!”
If we interrupt their discussion at this point we’d all assume Bello would have a greater desire to get a meal. 

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 mean.” 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 two 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.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Learning How to Learn (III): Probing Questions

First Associate Pastor: Can I chew gum while praying?
Senior Pastor: Definitely NOT! Why even consider it?
Second Associate Pastor: Can I pray while chewing gum?
Senior Pastor: Why not? The Bible says to, "Pray without ceasing!" 
 
Have you noticed that all kids are curious. Sometimes they are annoyingly curious. They want to see it, they want to touch it, they want to smell it, they want to hear it and they certainly want to taste it. This is one reason all drugs carry the caution: "Keep out of reach of children.” This inherent curiosity in kids is taken to be foolishness by many adults but the contrary is the case. It goes to show us that children are curious, which is a good thing because curiosity is the beginning stage of searching and it is, “the glory of God is to hide a thing; but the honor of kings is to search out a matter,” (Proverbs 25:2). Kids are curious because they are creative. Their curiosity stems from their creativity.                                
You can use your curiosity, which is actually easier to form, to develop creativity. That’s the lifeline: use curiosity to develop creativity. The easiest way to do this by the way is by ensuring you do not see things in a single dimension. Do not look at things the way they come, rather look at them from a several-dimensional point of view and ask yourself probing questions

Questions open up doors that ordinarily will remain closed but it is noteworthy that not all questions will bring about the desired result. There are questions you can ask that will immediately shut the doors of further creativity while there are those that will make the creative genius flood your mind. Here are two tips on right questioning.

Tip no. 1: Ask yourself about changes. One form of questioning that will help you think more creatively is to ask yourself to change things and make them the way you would like them to be. This gives you room to innovate. For example:

● What would taste better if it were less sweet? How can I make it sweeter?

● What would be nicer if it were bigger? How can I make it bigger?

Tip no. 2: Ask yourself questions with lots of answers. You strengthen your creative thinking skill anytime you ask yourself questions that permit many correct answers. Here are some examples using the concept of air:

● What are some of the uses of air? 

● What floats in air? 

● How does air help us? 

● Why is cold air cold? 

Probing questions are some of the fastest ways to learn. Don't sit back and accept things only because they were told to you by a reputable source. Ask questions and take a quantum learning leap!

                                      [MAINLY CULLED FROM MY BOOK, "DO IT LIKE KIDS"]

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Learning How to Learn (II): Active Engagement


How are (or were, as the case may apply) your classrooms? If they are like mine they'd look like this: The teacher stands somewhere at the front. She rarely strolls around nor gazes with intent at every student. She is somehow fixated on some students. Tibeck and Wemimo sit in front. Their position in class gives the impression that they listened attentively and are loved by our teachers. James and Kayode are sending notes to each other on which football club they think will win the UEFA Champions League. John leads a group at the opposite end on the room. All teachers feel he and his group won't amount to much. They hold this impression even as it is popularly accepted that John is one of the most intelligent students in the set. Sagir is listening intently, flipping through a textbook while the teacher speaks, taking side notes where he feels they are needed and interestingly engaging the boring teacher. Where was I? I was the definition of "lost" somewhere at the back of the room.
How did our results turn out? Well Sagir got just nine A's out of nine subjects, Tibeck and Wemimo got enough credits to get into a university, John and his group were suspended and didn't write the examination with us, James, Kayode and I failed woefully. Of course we pretended we were shocked by the results but we knew deep down that we didn't deserve better.
Learning, as Sagir showed us, was best done by active engagement. When you are engaged in a thing it establishes itself deeper and better in our brains hence increasing our chances of actually learning and remembering it when the need arises. But what do most of us do? We passively listen. Passive listening leaves you with the deception of learning when you aren't. 
Unfortunately, passive listening is what our classrooms, churches, seminars and conferences are designed to accommodate. Someone stands in front of an audience and goes on and on with something he is presumed to know better than all. The ability of the audience is judged by how attentive they are. We ignore the major fact that silence is not a prove of attention and much less shows learning has been achieved.
If you'd learn better and faster you should be actively engaged in it. Never allow lethargy take you over. Engage your mind, engage your teacher (a good teacher will love this), engage your lesson materials. Probe deeper than is expected of you and you will certainly learn better. This would work no matter where you use it.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Learning How to Learn (I): Activities


If you have been through school you'd have asked yourself or someone else if all you were taught were relevant in the first place. You look at all the information you are required to soak in and you wonder if it could be learned - and if it can, then you wonder if you could learn it. I look back at my over twenty years of formal education and I realize I was never taught how to learn. I am just now learning how  I learn and it is amazing the simple stuff I am discovering.

How do you learn? Have you ever learned how to learn? I ask this not as a trick question - although it feels like one - but because learning isn't automatic. It is a skill - an art in it's own right - and must be learned itself. Think about it, how did the ancients learn how to learn? Many ancient cultures have left us glimpses into how they taught their children how to learn. They told them stories and fables, they took advantage of their childhood and teenage years to input the life information they wanted to pass across. They raised their children in peers, groups, cults and fraternities. This developed communal learning and ensured deeper lifelong learning experience. But how do we "modern" cultures learn?
In the next few articles we will look into modern ways to learn. I will in effect show you ways I am learning how to learn. I will give examples where it suffices and will also be very incisive and informative. So lets get right to it.

Learn by activity and NOT just by reading. This is important. We are trained to read and read and finally it will become a part of us. I have taught my students for a few years now this same principle of reading until it sticks that didn't work with me. My excuse? That was exactly what I was taught. So, I was probably saying to myself that, "although it didn't work with me it must work with someone else for my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and hundreds of other teachers to say it works." 
I am only now realizing that what is wrong remains wrong even if the whole world says it was right. Until fairly recent world history, people of different cultures - from the Chinese to the Greek, Indian to Aboriginal - believed the world was flat. It was until people like, Herodotus, Pythagoras and Parmenides, postulated a possible spherical earth that the whole world population began to entertain its possibility. The earth didn't become spherical when they postulated it. It had always been so and all the people and cultures of the earth thinking it was flat wouldn't change it.

    Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. - Benjamin Franklin

It is the same with the "read, read, read" approach to learning. In fact, when you learn by activity you learn faster, recall better and enjoy the process. Do not take only my words for this. Pause and think of the things you do perfectly and without thinking about it like riding a bicycle. Did you learn them by reading about them or by taking activities on them? I already know your answer and this is so because your brain relates to activities and develops a pattern for doing it again and again. 
Finally, I realized, while I was learning to write, that no matter how much I read about writing I didnt know how to. It was until I began to write that I became better and better. Today I am an author, write regularly for a blog and for other people.