16 - What is a Chunkدوره: Coursera – Learning How to Learn / درس 16
16 - What is a Chunk
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[SOUND] In this video, we’re going to
answer the question.
What is a chunk?
When you first look at a brand new concept
doesn’t make much sense, as shown by the
jumbled puzzle pieces here.
Chunking is the mental leap that helps
you unite bits of information together
The new logical whole makes the chunk
easier to remember, and also makes
it easier to fit the chunk into the larger
picture of what you’re learning.
Just memorizing a fact without
or context doesn’t help you understand
really going on or how the concept
fits together with other concepts you’re
Notice there are no interlocking puzzle
edges on the
puzzle piece to help you fit it to other
We talked earlier about working memory and
those four slots of working memory appear
hang out in the part of your brain
right behind your forehead known as the
When you’re focusing your attention on
it’s almost as if you have an octopus.
The octopus of attention that slips its
through those four slots of working memory
to help you make connections to
you might have in various parts of your
Remember, this is different from the
random connections of the diffuse mode.
Focusing your attention to connect parts
of the brain to tie
together ideas is an important part of the
focused mode of learning.
It is also often what helps get you
started in creating a chunk.
Interestingly when you’re stressed your
attentional octopus begins to
lose the ability to make some of those
This is why your brain doesn’t seem to
work right when you’re angry, stressed, or
Chunks are pieces of information,
through bound together through meaning or
You can take the letters P-O and P and
together into one conceptual easy to
remember chunk, the word pop.
[SOUND] It’s like converting a, a
cumbersome computer file into a ZIP file.
Underneath that single pop chunk is a
symphony of neurons
that have learned to sing in tune with one
The complex neural activity that ties
together our simplifying abstract chunks
Whether those thoughts pertain to
acronyms, ideas, or concepts are
the basis of much of the science,
literature, and art.
Let’s say you want to learn how to speak
If you’re a child hanging around a Spanish
speaking household, learning Spanish is as
natural as breathing.
Your mother says, mama.
And you say, mama, right back to her.
Your neurons fire and wire together in a
shimmering mental loop cementing
the relationship in your mind between the
sound mama and your mother’s smiling face.
That scintillating neural loop is one
memory trace, which
is connected of course to many other
related memory traces.
The best programs for learning language,
such as those of
the Defense Language Institute where I
learned Russian, incorporate structured
practice that includes repetition and rote
focus mode learning of
the language along with more diffuse-like
free speech with native speakers.
The goal is to embed the basic words and
patterns so you can speak
as freely and creatively in your new
language as you do in your native
As it turns out one of the
first steps towards gaining expertise in
is to create conceptual chunks, mental
that unite scattered bits of information
The concept of neural chunks also applies
to sports, music,
dance, really just about anything that
humans can get good at.
Basically, a chunk means a network of
neurons that are used to firing together
so you can think a thought or perform an
action smoothly and effectively.
Focused practice and repetition, the
strong memory traces, helps you to create
The path to expertise is built little by
little, small chunks can become larger,
and all of
the expertise serves to underpin more
as you gradually become a master of the
In other words, as you’ll see later,
practice and repetition in building chunks
all you need to become a truly creative
master of the material you’re learning.
Chunking helps your brain run more
Once you chunk an idea, a concept, or an
you don’t know need to remember all the
little underlying details.
You’ve got the main idea, the chunk, and
It’s like getting dressed in the morning.
You just think one simple thought like,
get dressed, but it’s amazing when you
the complex swirl of underlying activities
place with that one, simple chunk of
Next, we’ll talk about how you can form a
I’m Barbara Oakley.
Thanks for learning how to learn.
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