21 - The Value of a Library of Chunks

دوره: Coursera – Learning How to Learn / درس 21

Coursera – Learning How to Learn

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21 - The Value of a Library of Chunks

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The ability to combine

chunks in new and original ways underlies a lot of historical innovation.

Bill Gates and other industry leaders, set aside extended,

week-long reading periods so that they can hold

many and varied ideas in mind during one time.

This helps generate their own innovative thinking by allowing fresh in mind,

not yet forgotten ideas to network amongst themselves.

Basically, what people do to enhance their knowledge and gain expertise,

is to gradually build the number of chunks in their mind,

valuable bits of information they can piece together in new and creative ways.

Chess masters for example,

can easily access thousands of different chess patterns.

Musicians, linguists and scientists,

can each access similar chunks of knowledge in their own disciplines.

The bigger and more well-practiced your chunked mental library,

whatever the subject you’re learning,

the more easily you’ll be able to solve problems and figure out solutions.

As we’ll discover soon,

chunking isn’t all you’ll need to develop creative flexibility in your learning,

but it’s an important component.

Chunks can also help you understand new concepts.

This is because when you grasp one chunk,

you’ll find that that chunk can be related in surprising ways to similar chunks,

not only in that field but also in very different fields.

This idea is called transfer.

For example, concepts and problem solving method you learned for physics,

can be very similar to chunked concepts in business.

I found some aspects of language learning were very

helpful for me when I later began to learn computer programming.

A chunk is a way of compressing information much more compactly.

As you gain more experience in chunking in any particular subject,

you’ll see that the chunks you’re able to create are bigger,

in some sense that the ribbons are longer.

Not only are those ribbons longer,

but the neural patterns are in some sense darker.

They’re more solid and firmly ingrained.

If you have a library of concepts and solutions internalized as chunked patterns,

you can think of it as a collection or a library of neural patterns.

When you’re trying to figure something out,

if you have a good library of these chunks,

you can more easily skip to the right solution by metaphorically speaking,

listening to whispers from your diffuse mode.

Your diffuse mode can help you connect

two or more chunks together in new ways to solve novel problems.

Another way to think of it is this,

as you build each chunk it is filling in a part of your larger knowledge picture,

but if you don’t practice with your growing chunks,

they can remain faint and it’s harder to put

together the big picture of what you’re trying to learn.

In building a chunked library,

you’re training your brain to recognize not only a specific concept,

but different types and classes of concepts so that you can

automatically know how to solve quickly or handle whatever you encounter.

You’ll start to see patterns and simplify problem-solving for you and will

soon find that different solution techniques are lurking at the edge of your memory.

Before midterms or finals,

it can be easy to brush up and have these solutions at the mental ready.

There are two ways to figure something out or to solve problems.

First, through sequential step-by-step reasoning and second,

through a more holistic intuition.

Sequential thinking where each small step leads deliberately towards a solution,

involves the focused mode.

Intuition on the other hand,

often seems to require this creative diffuse mode

linking of several seemingly different focused mode thoughts.

Most difficult problems and concepts are grasped through intuition,

because these new ideas make a leap away from what you’re familiar with.

Keep in mind that the diffuse modes,

semi-random way of making connections means that the solutions it

provides should be very carefully verified using the focused mode.

Intuitive insights aren’t always correct.

You may think there are so many problems and concepts just

in a single section or chapter of whatever you’re studying.

There’s just no way to learn them all.

This is where the law of Serendipity comes into play.

Lady Luck favors the one who tries.

Just focus on whatever section you’re studying.

You’ll find that once you put that first problem or concept in your mental library,

whatever it is, then the second concept will go in a

little more easily and the third more easily still.

Not that all of this is a snap,

but it does get easier.

I’m Barbara Oakley, thanks for learning about learning.

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