Shake hands with your brain

Learning stuff should be easy, right?  

Think of all those myriad things you’ve learnt to do – driving, singing your favourite songs beginning to end (with all the inflections of the singer, or maybe your own twists), chopping onions, counting to 10 to keep yourself calm, using the right irregular past verbs in the right situations, correctly predicting the effect of gravity in any and all situations. How did you get to be so expert in so many and varied skills?

But then again, how come there are such varied, myriad and annoyingly many skills which still elude you? Why can’t you take free kicks like Lionel Messi? Why does the name of the composer of a particular piece of music escape you when you can hum along with it the whole way through? Why do you remember important conversations differently from your significant other and why, oh why can’t you learn when to use the subjunctive of the language of the country you live in?!?

Thomas Young (1773-1829) is widely quoted as the last man who ‘knew everything’. young_thomas_for-web“Young made notable scientific contributions to the fields of vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology, language, musical harmony, and Egyptology” (Wikipedia, May 2017). How did he get to be so smart? We actually have no way of knowing, but there are various fundamental principles which can help us to gain, retain and recall knowledge, and as we uncover and probe them, we may start to see that we can all be Thomas Young as far as we wish. And that is key. We need to wish it.


Young knew everything. But I know my onions.

10613767196_e21e1d1c8a_oI love chopping onions. I find it immensely satisfying. Diced, scalloped, minced, whole- or half-ringed, course, fine, you name it. I’m willing to bet I am better at it than Thomas ‘Know-it-All’ Young was. And there are various reasons for it, which put me ahead of the privileged Young, who became independently wealthy aged 24. Try not to hate him.

This blog will lead you through these, not one by one, but often mixing several reasons and strategies together. The reason for this? One by one, over and over isn’t the best way to learn. Mixing it up, getting free and easy – often counter-intuitively – is the best way to learn. And that’s not the only trick our brains have hidden up their … er… sleeve.

Who says so? Not just me of course, and I shall echo others’ views on it. But decades of studies have given enormous insights into learning which still remain obscure, nay buried, for most everyday folk and educators like me. The aim here is to make them available to the enthusiastic learner and the dedicated educator.

Take the plunge

So – ready to start delving into quickly applicable, enjoyable, crafty methods to add serious percentage points onto your students’ learning outcomes or your own? Read on.


4 Replies to “Shake hands with your brain”

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