Learning the wrong way

I found this article on wired.com from a few days ago and it talks about how we are trying to learn the wrong way. http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/01/everything-about-learning/

When people tend to study, they sit down with their textbook or class notes and read them until they can’t read them anymore. They go back over the same material and think that they know it because they had just read it while studying. I know I do this all the time. But when the test comes, suddenly you can’t quite remember the answer. Then when you look at the answer key or talk to your professor/gsi after and they start to answer your question, magically all the answers jump into your brain and you wish you could go back and take the test over. That’s because you really did know the stuff you just didn’t work on recalling it. “Because humans have unlimited storage capacity, having total recall would be a mess,” said Bjork, the professor interviewed in the article. You’d go crazy if you were always remembering every thing you’d ever learned since its not all relevant. You have to train yourself to pull back the important information. The article suggests different techniques like studying in different places, taking notes after class instead of during class and taking breaks between study sessions to really test your brain. Having your brain switch topics and then coming back to the material or problem lets you digest the information you learned before and helps recall it better.

For me as a computer science student, I know that if I get stuck on a problem or project I will usually get a new idea to try if I walk away from it. They usually come when I’m trying to get to sleep or in the morning while taking a shower, something where I’m not even thinking about the problem. My brain just suddenly switches back to that issue and figures it out. It’s like when you are just sitting around and you suddenly come up with a super awesome come back to whatever your friend had said earlier. So browsing facebook isn’t that bad when studying, if you use it as a break after like a half hour of studying. It lets your brain focus on something else and use a different part of itself. It helps to let the brain diversify itself.

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