I grew up moving all over the place.
By the time I’d hit 10th grade,
I’d lived in 10 different places.
Math is extraordinarily sequential.
By the time I’d hit 3rd grade,
I’d fallen off the math bandwagon.
Basically, I flunked my way
在小学 初中 高中的数学和科学上
through elementary, middle, and high school math and science.
So it’s a little strange looking back now
because todayI am a professor of engineering
and I’m passionate about my job.
One day, one of my studentsfound out about my past,
他问我 你是怎么做到的 你怎么改变了你的大脑
and he asked me,”How did you do it?How did you change your brain?”
我想 你知道 我如何做到的
And I thought, you know how did I do it.
我意识是 我在这里 这个小孩子
I mean, here I was, this little kid,
and I just loved language and culture,
and that’s all I wanted to learn when I grew up,
but I didn’t have the money to go to college,
so I enlisted in the army right out of high school
to learn a language.
You can see me there, looking very nervous,
about to throw a grenade.
And I did learn a language.
I’d learned Russian,
and I ended up working out on Soviet trawlers,
up on the Bering Sea,
as a Russian translator.
So I just love adventure and getting new perspectives.
So I also ended up in Antarctica, at the South Pole Station.
That’s where I ended up meeting my husband.
So I always say –
I had to go to the end of the Earth to meet that man.
But I begin to realize something, though.
I was doing all these adventures and seeing these new perspectives,
but somehow they were always external.
They weren’t internal; I wasn’t changing inside.
When I’d worked in the military,
I worked with all these West Point engineers,
and they had these powerful techniques for problem solving.
I thought, you know –
I’d look sometimes at what they were doing,
and they had these calculus and physics books,
and it looked like hieroglyphics to me.
But I thought,”What if I could get those ideas?”
What if I could learn that language?”
I mean, the world’s evolving.
Language and culture are important,
but math, and science, and technologyare important, too.
What if I could learn these new ideas
and add them to the ideas I already knew and loved?
So when I got out of the military, at age 26,
I decided to try and change my brain.
It wasn’t easy.
But if I knew then what
I know now about how to learn,
I could have learned much more easilyand much more effectively.
So several years ago, as I begin trying to answer
that student’s question,”How did I change my brain?”,
I begin reaching out to top professorsfrom around the world,
people who not only had knowledge
of their difficult areas of expertise,
but also who could teach effectively.
And I asked them.
I said,”How did you learn?
And how do you teach, so others could learn?”
What I found was the way they learned,
and the way they taught was often similar
to the way I learned and I taught.
It was almost like this kind of shared fraternal handshake.
But we often didn’t know why we did what we did.
So I begin researching neuroscienceand cognitive psychology,
and reaching out to talk to top experts of those fields.
Here is what I found, the keys to learning effectively.
As we know, the brain is enormously complex.
But we can simplify its operation into two fundamentally different modes.
The first is just what I’ll call the focus mode.
The focus mode is just like it sounds like:
你把注意力集中到某些事上 然后 嘭 它启动了
you turn your attention to somethingand boom! It’s on.
But the second mode is a little different.
It’s a relaxed set of neural states
that I’ll call the diffuse mode.
It’s a number of resting states.
So it seems that, when you’re learning,
you’re going back and forth between these two different modes.
How can we better understand these modes?
What we’re going to use is a pinball machine analogy.
You all know how pinballs work.
You just pull back on a plunger,
and the ball goes boinking out
and bounces around on the rubber bumpers,
and that’s how you get points.
What we’re going to do
is we’re going to take this pinball
and we’re going to put it right on your brain.
So, there it is.
There’s the pinball machine on your brain.
If you look, this is the analogy for the focus mode.
When you’re learning, you’re often thinking tightly,
as you’re focusing on something.
It involves thoughts you’re somewhat familiar with,
perhaps historical patterns,
or you’re familiar with the multiplication table.
So you think a thought, and it takes off,
and moves along smoothly,
pretty much along the pathways that you’ve already laid.
But what if the thought you’re thinking
一个新想法 一个新观念 一种新技术
is actually a new thought, a new concept, a new technique
that you’ve never thought of before?
Well, that’s symbolized by this new pattern
towards the bottom of the pinball machine metaphor.
To get to this new place, I mean,
at least sort of metaphorically speaking,
look at all the rubber bumpers that are in the way.
How can you even get there?
You need a different way of thinking,
a new perspective in a sense,
and that’s provided here by the diffuse mode.
Look at how far apart those rubber bumpers are
from one another.
When you think a thought, it takes off,
and it can range very widely,
as you’re attempting to come up with some new ideas.
So, you can’t do that careful, focused thinking
that you can in the focus mode,
but you can, at least,
get to the place you need to be in
to grapple with these new ideas.
The bottom line for all of us
out of this is this:
when you’re learning,
you want to go back and forth between these modes,
and if you find yourself, as you’re focusing in on something,
trying to learn a new concept or solve a problem,
and you get stuck,
you want to turn your attention away from that problem
and allow the diffuse modes, those resting states,
to do their work in the background.
How can we actually use these ideas in real life?
If you look at this guy right here,
he was Salvador Dali,
one of the most brilliant surrealist painters of the 20th century.
Dali was the very definition of a wild and crazy guy.
You can see him there.
He’s got his pet, Ocelot Babu.
What Dali used to do when he was kind of stuck
as he was solving some problem related to his painting
was he’d sit down and he’d relax in a chair,
and he’d have keys in his hands.
He’d hold those keys, and he’d relax,
kind of letting his brain noodling away.
Just as he’d relax so much that he’d fall asleep,
the keys would fall from his hands,
the clatter would wake him up,
and off you go: he’d take those ideas
from the diffuse mode over to the focus mode,
where he could work with them, refine them,
and use them for his painting.
你可能会想 “那太棒了 这招对画家很有用
You might think, “That’s great! It’s good for an artist.
But I’m an engineer.
So how can I use these ideas?”
If you see this guy right here, he was Thomas Edison,
one of the most brilliant inventors in history.
What Edison used to like to do,
at least according to legend,
he’d sit in a chair with ball bearings in his hand.
He’d relax away, kind of thinking about the problem, loosely,
that he was trying to solve related to his inventions, relaxing.
Just as he’d fall asleep,
the ball bearings would fall from his hands,
and off you go: he’d be woken up,
and he’d take those ideas from the diffuse mode
back into the focus mode.
He’d use them to refine and finish his inventions.
The bottom line for all of us out of this is this:
whenever you’re sitting down to solve
a new problem or analyze a new idea,
even if millions of other people have thought the same thoughts,
或解决相同的问题 对你来说 它就和
or solved the same problems, for you, it’s just as creative
as it was for famous people like Dali and Edison,
and you want to use some of these creative approaches.
But you might say to me,”Yeah, but I’ve got a problem, though.
You know, I just love to procrastinate.
This back and forth stuff is great, but I don’t have time.
I cram at the last minute. That’s just me.”
So, let’s talk just a little bit about procrastination.
What seems to happen when you procrastinate is this:
you look at something you’d really rather not do,
and you actually feel a physical pain
in the part of your brain that analyzes pain.
So, there are two ways.that you can handle this.
The first way is you can just kind
of keep working a way through it.
And research has shown that within a few minutes it actually will disappear.
But the second way is you just turn your attention away,
and guess what?
You feel better, right, right away.
So you do this once, you do this twice;
it’s just not that big a deal.
But you do this very often, and it’s actually like an addiction.
It can really cause problems in how you lead your life.
So, how can you handle it?
A very simple way: using the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro technique, as it turns out,
all you need to do is you get a timer.
Any timer will do.
Then you just take it and set it for 25 minutes,
and make sure everything else is turned off
– so, no instant messengers, nothing like that –
and you work with focused attention for 25 minutes.
Anybody can do 25 minutes, virtually anyone.
When you’re done, you do something fun;
just a little bit, a few minutes of relaxed fun.
What this seems to do is this:
you are enhancing, you’re practicing in some sense
your ability to have focused attention,
and you’re also practicing your ability to relax a little bit.
Now you understand that relaxation
is also an important part of the learning process;
there are things going on in the background.
The only thing is this: when you do the Pomodoro,
you want to make sure that you don’t sit there
and say,”I’m going to do my entire homework set
in these 25 minutes.” No.
You just sit and say,”I’m going to workwith focused attention for 25 minutes”,
and that’s the key.
Students sometimes make the mistake
of thinking that some of their absolute best traits
are their worst traits.
What do I mean by this?
Let’s take the idea of memory.
Let’s say that you have a poor working memory.
You can’t seem to hold things in mind very well.
You watch these other students
and they’re able to grasp
all these ideas and kind of manipulate them,
but you can’t.
Well, what this means is: surprisingly, you are more creative.
Because you can’t hold these ideas in mind so tightly,
other ideas are often creeping in.
If you have problems with the tension,
you’re always kind of diverting off into some other idea,
you are often more creative,
because these new ideas are slipping in instead.
There’s another thing, and that’s slow thinking.
Some students compare themselves to other students
并告诉我：“你知道 相比之下 我真的很慢
and say,”You know, I’m really slow by comparison.
These other students, they are like race car drivers;
they go past me so fast.”
But, think of yourself as a hiker.
Yes, a race car driver
gets there much faster than you ever can,
but a hiker has a completely different experience.
A hiker can smell the pine air,
they can reach out, touch the leaves,
they see the rabbit trails.
在许多方面 你的经历会更深入 更深刻
In many ways, your experiences are deeper and more profound,
and you don’t jump to conclusions.
So if you are a slower thinker, yes,
you may have to work harder
in order to grasp the materials,
but the trade-offs in many cases are well worth it;
you gain solid mastery of what you’re studying.
So, there is something called”illusions of competence in learning”.
What this means is you can study all day long
and you can be spinning your wheels
because you’re not using effective study techniques.
There is such a thing as test anxiety,
but in many cases, surprisingly many,
it arises because you’ve just
come face to face with the scary bear,
and that is that you have just learned
that you are not a master of the material.
Researchers with both critters and people,
are finding powerful insights into how we can learn most effectively.
One of those ways is simply through exercise.
Exercise within a matter of a few days
can increase our ability to both learn and to remember,
and researchers are beginning to understand
the neurophysiological pathways that allow this to occur.
Tests. Tests are the best.
Test yourself all the time. Give yourself little mini tests.
Make flash cards, even in math and science,
mix them up, study them in different places,
and this brings me to homework.
When you do a homework problem,
never just work at once and put it away.
Would you ever sing a song once and think you knew that song? No.
work that homework problem several times over several days
until the solution flows like a song from your mind.
When you’re looking at a page
as you’re trying to learn something in a book,
people’s tendency is to highlight, right?
There’s something about the motionof the pen on a page
that makes you think that it’s actually going into your brain,
but it often isn’t.
Often times, people will just reread,
but that too is simply spinning your wheels.
The most effective technique is simply to look at a page,
look away, and see what you can recall.
Doing this, as it seems, helps build profound neural hooks
that help enhance your understanding of the material.
And finally, don’t be fooled by the erroneous idea
that understanding alone is enough to build the mastery of the material.
Understanding is truly important,
but only when combined with practice and repetition
in a variety of circumstances
can you truly gain mastery over what you’re learning.
So, in closing, I would like to say
that learning how to learn
is the most powerful tool you can ever grasp.
Don’t just follow your passions;
broaden your passions, and your lifewill be enriched beyond measure.