42 - Create a Lively Visual Metaphor or Analogy

دوره: Coursera – Learning How to Learn / درس 42

Coursera – Learning How to Learn

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42 - Create a Lively Visual Metaphor or Analogy

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One of the best things you can

do to not only remember, but

understand concepts, is to create

a metaphor or analogy for them.

Often the more visual the better.

A metaphor is just a way of realizing that

one thing is somehow similar to another.

Simple ideas like one geography

teacher’s description of Syria is

shaped like a bowl of cereal, and

Jordan as a Nike Air Jordan Sneaker,

can stick with a student for decades.

If you’re trying to understand

electrical current,

It can help to visualize it as water.

Similarly, electrical voltage

can feel like pressure, a push.

As you climb to a more

sophisticated understanding

of whatever topic you’re concentrating on,

you can revise your metaphors or

toss them away and

create more meaningful ones.

Metaphors and visualization, being able

to see something in your mind’s eye,

have been especially helpful

not only in art and literature,

but also in allowing the scientific and

engineering world to make progress.

In the 1800s for example, when chemists

began to imagine and visualize

the miniature world of molecules,

dramatic progress began to be made.

Here’s a fun illustration of monkeys in

a benzene ring from an insider spoof of

German academic chemical

life printed in 1886.

Note the single bonds with

the monkey’s hands and

the double bonds with

their tiny little tails.

It’s often helpful to pretend that you are

the concept you’re trying to understand.

Put yourself in anelectron’s warm and

fuzzy slippers as it burrows

through a slab of copper.

Or sneak inside the x of

an algebraic equation and

feel what it’s like to poke your

head out of the rabbit hole.

But just don’t let it get exploded

by an inadvertent divide by zero.

In chemistry, compare a cation

with a cat that has paws, and

is therefore paws-itive,

and anion with an onion that’s

negative because it makes you cry.

Metaphors are never perfect, but then,

in science, all models are just metaphors

which means they break down at some point.

But never mind that, metaphors and

models are often vitally important in

giving a physical understanding of

the central idea behind the process or

concept you’re trying to understand.

Interestingly, metaphors and

analogies are useful for

getting people out of einstellen.

That is, being blocked by thinking

about a problem in the wrong way.

For example, telling a simple story

of soldiers attacking a fortress from

many different directions at once can open

creative paths for students to see how

many low intensity rays can be effectively

used to destroy a cancerous tumor.

Stories, even if they’re just

using silly memory tricks,

can also allow you to more easily

retain what you’re trying to learn.

Metaphors also help glue

an idea into your mind,

because they make a connection to neural

structures that are already there.

It’s like being able to trace

a pattern with tracing paper,

metaphors at least help you get

a sense of what’s going on.

I’m Barbara Oakley, thanks for

learning how to learn.

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