Completed MOOC – a look back…

I’ve been blogging a little bit about the Learning How to Learn MOOC I’ve been participating in. I finished it up, after taking quite a bit of time off to accommodate a relentless summer, and I thought I’d go back through those learning techniques I rambled on about. A progress report of sorts.  Some of those ideas have become regular parts of our lives, and some, while promising, have fallen by the wayside. Just not enough time in the day to make myself more efficient!

Here are some of the points I covered:

  • Learning How to Learn: A Secondhand MOOC
    • 2010_0401AB.JPGAppreciation for sleep, and all the ways it feeds the brain: I have paid better attention, and I am definitely a better-oiled machine when I get enough sleep. Obvious, I suppose. But as for sleep, this is the only observation I’ve got!
    • Make believe explanations and ridiculous conjecture: Oh, these have been a staple in our household long before this MOOC validated their effectiveness. I am kind of a fountain of ridiculous conjecture; it has always helped me to learn. I like to think it helps my kids too! The active processing that occurs when we make up explanations for things, without a care for their accuracy, has been a staple of our homeschooling journey, and I can certainly attest to its effectiveness. There was a time that I corrected those childish explanations in my kids – don’t want them to run wild with nonsense – but I soon learned that they were the best way to learn. And the kids really enjoyed not being corrected all the time.
    • Making more friends thanks to your ridiculous conjecture: Ask my friends. I’m a gas.
  • Advice I can Finally Follow
    • Stillness/Silence/Exercise: I read a lot about exercise as a means to drop into the diffuse mode and let your brain git’r’dun, and also the concept of just being, in stillness, to settle your brain and allow it to do what it needs, undistracted. It wasn’t until the serendipitous convergence of that reading with the Monks’ advice on stillness that it really fell into practice. As a spiritual exercise, stillness and silence are indispensable, but, as it turns out, the clearing of your mind that occurs has the added bonus of furthering your brain interests. The key to both was, and is, deliberate silence, deliberate. When I attempt silence in my chair, I find sleep. When I attempt silence while doing dishes, I find some, but I find a lot more shiny things to distract me. The mind wanders, and not in the ways I’m looking for. And somehow there are always other people about who bother me. Solo walks, in the morning preferably, in the beauty of my natural surroundings, are my jam. Again, the key for me was purposefulness. I have to set out on that walk with silence – real silence – in mind. When I do, and I start on the right foot, the rhythm of those feet keep me going down the right path. My mind may wander, but somehow only within the established boundaries I’ve allowed myself. I, personally, stick to spiritual wonder and awe. And boy, am I refreshed.
  • Procrastination Indeed
    • Pomodoro Technique, with modifications: I tried it, and I can report that it was incredibly effective for me, with modifications for my own lifestyle. Do I still practice the Pomodoro? Yes, but not all the time. I use it most often when dealing with unpleasant jobs, like cleaning, or even writing when I’m particularly stuck. Helps me power through tough spots without powering down. In general, as I go about my normal routine, with my regular writing, though, its a bit too structured for me. I guess I enjoy my normal routine so much I don’t want timers pointed at me!
    • Habit Rewards – M&M Training: Meh. I don’t know. I tried it for a little bit, but honestly, didn’t give it the old college try. Not enough M&Ms in the house, and I really don’t need an excuse to eat them when they’re here. The whole positive reinforcement thing rubs me a little wrong, but I realize that doesn’t render it ineffective. I just don’t know if its for me. I will say that it was helpful for me to hear, in the course of this habit business, that not all procrastination is not bad. Taking a break to distract myself is sometimes just what I need.
  • Catch and Release
    • Learning styles: A loose affiliation to my MOOC here, but I have been more aware of (and compassionate towards) the differing learning styles in my house. And where they fail :).
  • My Mind Palace… For Real
    • Method of Loci: Oh, yeah. I tried it. Results: Amazing. I’ve been a fairly die-hard menmonic user to date, not because I found it the best way, but because I found it. I think it was grilled into me in school, and then reinforced as I have taught my own kids: ROYGBIV, PEMDAS, Mallory Valerie Emily Meetzahs… (What? You haven’t heard that one? Better order There’s No Place Like Space from your library!). There was even the Greek Alphabet Story, that fell into those lines a bit. Good stuff. And really, they help me quite a bit. But when memorizing something that changes each day, or minute, like my grocery list, or the topics I need to cover during this phone conversation, the mnemonics weren’t spectacular. I don’t have the time to come up with something fun (See Mallory, Valerie…), and in the end I have something only slightly less intimidating to remember. I shorten my list to a series of letters, but I still need to recall them, and what they stand for. The Mind Palace Technique, however, is my new favorite!  Quick, and growing quicker (it takes a little practice). Easy (nothing fancy here). Repeatable (whatever lists, over and over). Pretty cool. I am impressed.

Still, I say that this MOOC is well worth the time. I ambled through it at a pretty leisurely pace, but it’s designed as a four week course. A great intro to the MOOC world as well!

Til the next fit of (debatable) brilliance strikes,


A chronological listing of the posts in this series:


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