spirituality - lesson 4: learning to learn

we are born into this world as organisms with the capacity to sense. through time these senses improve to provided us with not only a multidimensional picture of our environment but, more importantly, the ability to react to our surroundings. our conception of what surrounds us will always be highly selective and self serving. motivated by our interests and our concern for safety the nature of human knowledge is somewhat individualised. it is also human nature to continue driving towards a greater complex understanding of our environment through out our lives, something the french philosopher henri bergson calls 'life force'. because everything in our physical world is constantly changing we subconsciously adapt ourselves accordingly. this could be called intuition, which helps us determine a situation and survive it. whilst we are in action we tend to be continually reflecting upon that activity and spontaneously correcting our behaviour in effort to control (or at least affect) the situation. for example, musicians playing together in a jazz improvisation will be continuously reflecting internally on the actions of each other in order to contribute in a coherent manner to the music being made. knowing the immediate nature of things is quite different from the knowledge of our external world. the musicians can interact musically with each other not because they physically are able to use instruments and know the rudiments of

music, instead because they are fluent in a familiar action or language, they understand the nature of music and it is familiarity that allows them to confidently affect the melodic environment. we can't all have this intimate knowledge of every environment or eventuality. if we are lucky we may each have one or two things that we can significantly act on at a higher level of understanding and fluency. this may be as a result of the repetition of a situation or the dedication of actively learning something. we can however learn to have a more receptive mind to what's going on around us. it is something that we are born with and have the habit of losing quite easily.

the act of learning is one that can be learnt, one that has to be learnt in order for true learning to be done. since we do not know what information will be of use to us in the future what should one try to learn in advance? we can not learn everything obviously! to become a person who is open to learning and loves to gain knowledge is perhaps the best solution. for in this case one can learn what needs to be understood in any situation we might find ourselves in. learning allows you to be more purposeful in what you do, adding a dimension of collaboration with your environment, not simply being a spectator. just to clarify at this point... learning is not the same as gaining an education. going to school, college or university may teach us vocational skills but it also tends to stifle the ability to perceive things outside of a curriculum experience at one point in time. learning will never stop in life. everything that happens to us can be a learning

experience. whether it is a negative or positive experience and whether it was intentional or not, they provide opportunities for formative assessment and the chance to improve oneself. as adults one brings much from one's own experiences to enhance your learning and understanding of the nature of things.

memory we can't write down, draw or represent in music everything we have ever experienced. for this we have instead a memory. but a memory can quite easily fill up with useless information that does not really progress us to a deeper understanding of the nature of our environment. it is therefore important to break down information or experiences into chunks and understand which chunks are important to keep. (to use the analogy of a filter would be wrong, it suggests that one should chose a particular way of seeing a situation that is not true.) it is human nature to find order within the chaos of the universe. having a memory allows us to link together the glimpses of order in nature. when the sense we have made of knowledge gained transcends our experience it is then that we can begin to have ideas.

create an image a mental picture of a name makes it easier to recall. if you meet someone named sherry, picture her holding a glass of sherry. suppose you learn that frank has 10 grandchildren. picture frank sitting among a group of children who are all wearing shirts with the number 10 on them. your brain stores information in short-term and long-term memory. the limit on short-term memory tends to be about 7 items for 30 seconds. (you use shortterm memory when you look at a phone number, walk to the telephone and dial it). what visual image can you use to move these following 7 items past the 30 second limit and into your long term memory: clown plank umbrella star flower bicycle apple could you visualize a clown, wearing a hat with a flower sticking out, holding an umbrella with stars on it, eating an apple, and riding a bicycle down a gangplank? now that's a memory. close your eyes and spend a few moments fixing that image in your mind. say it to yourself a few times. we'll check back later and see how many of the 7 words you can recall.

designboom’s courses when most managers think of e-learning, it is as a digitally supported method for imparting new knowledge, often a course. designboom’s e-learning courses, are instructor-led and at the same time self-directed. learning here is an incremental process of acquiring information, and the purpose of formal learning is to acquire information rapidly, cover content, and reproduce facts. only that which can be quantitatively and easily measured is true knowledge. but most important, we enhance informal learning, which is based in conversations, social interactions, and team projects, in which learning is part of the interactions between people from all parts of the world. the success of this forum for informal learning is the fact that participants find themselves in a defined ‘container or collaborative space’ for here-and-now learning. (at this point, we must express that we are a bit demoralized because of the slow course participation in the discussions. we know that in summer courses there is usually a bit less interactivity, but nevertheless we hope this current course will have a big impact on the participants. it might be just too hot in most parts of the world : ) exercises there are 5 main ways to make our brains learn faster: 1) always: try to like what you need to learn. 2) in the short-term: by removing levels of anxiety that may be triggering physiological changes in our bodies and brains that literally prevent us from learning. when the zebra is

running for her life away from a lion her only energy focus is running-not learning. the tips you suggest work in this direction. 3) in the medium-term: by training a set of skills involved in learning, such as visual and auditory processing, attention, decision-making, short-term memory... learning depends on our cognitive skills, and the good news is that they can be trained with targeted and frequent exercise, the same way as our other body muscles can grow. in short, both cognitive and emotional self-regulation training are very useful to maximize the potential of our brains-and let's not forget that learning within our livetimes (i.e., adaptation) is precisely why we have brains to start with... 4) in the long term: make space in your mind to be able to contain the new. 5) start now: pay attention. slow down and do one thing at a time, giving each activity your full attention. if possible, limit or reduce noise, distractions and interruptions - they interfere with your ability to pay attention and learn. unfortunately we can't simply spring clean our minds. nor is this a matter of being able to teach ourselves how to recollect only the relevant information lying within one's brain (not even google can do this!). unnecessary emotional judgements and preoccupations take up a lot of space with in our minds. letting go of these and the fear of change gives space for the acquisition of new knowledge. a more critical approach to thinking will help determine the authenticity of facts and the value of something. this goal of accuracy is characterised by the ability to seek reasons and alternatives. one should always aim to perceive the whole situation not merely from one angle, this ultimately will help in the understanding of complex information. --images from bibliodyssey

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