I have been messing around in MOOC’s for a couple of years and the rate at which they are improving is tremendous. I finished a couple of Coursera Courses recently, one on public speaking and the other on Learning How to Learn. I really gained a lot from both courses and I tweeted the Learning How to Learn twitter account and thanked them and they tweeted me the following question.
I did not feel like a 140 characters would be enough to discuss their question, so I thought I would write this blog post.
The most useful thing I think I learned was that the class re-enforced much of what I try to convey to my students. First, that cramming is not the best way to get something lodged into long term memory. The best learning happens when it is done in shorter spurts and on a more regular basis. Second, that a growth mindset with regards to any subject makes learning and improvement possible for nearly everybody, if they use perseverance. Finally, I always tell my students about how important exercise in not only maintaining a healthy body, but a healthy mind as well. The research found throughout the Learning How to Learn course supports many of the ideas about learning I try to convey to my students in my practice as a mathematics instructor.
I also learned some new things not only to help myself improve as a learner, but to share with my students, and possibly help them become better learners as well. First I learned about a way to avoid procrastination. It is called a pomodoro. It is working on a task in a focused mode for 25 minutes, while avoiding, and ignoring outside interruption. When completed, you should take a short break where you leave your focused mode of thinking behind and do something different for a few minutes. One suggestion is to reward yourself somehow. You should focus on the process and not the final product when using the pomodoro technique. Secondly, I learned about the two modes that a brain can be in: the focused mode and the diffuse mode. I had learned a little bit about these two modes of thought previously, but the course gave me new insight into ways to use those two modes of thought to improve how well I learn new things and maximize how well I retain them. Lastly, I learned that it is good to step outside your comfort zone and try to learn something that is not natural to you. I have been doing that in another public speaking Coursera course I just finished taking with one of my students. It has really helped me in numerous ways that would take another blog post to explain.
Coursera provides some outstanding MOOC’s. I switched to the next session in each of those classes I just completed so I could continue to review and re-enforce the things I have been learning in them. Thanks to the creators of the MOOC’s, Dr. Matt McGarrity, who was instrumental in creating the public speaking MOOC, and to Dr. Barbara Oakley who was one of the primary creators of the Learning How to Learn MOOC. I plan to complete the honor assignments and perhaps pay for a certificate. I love to learn and Coursera provided me with a way to do so.