[Link] Holistic learning ebook
This ebook is kind of dopey, but it’s one of the few resources I’ve seen where someone who’s reasonably good at learning stuff tries to dissect and communicate the mental mechanisms they use for learning:
Here’s a quick summary.
You can learn things faster and better by improving the strategies you use for learning stuff.
“Holistic” learning is opposed to “rote” learning. Holistic learners make lots of connections between different things they learn, and between things they learn and things that are personally relevant to them. An example might be this diagram of various concepts in electrostatics, which I no longer know how to interpret. Another example might be me remembering about that diagram when reading the book.
Holistic learners understand concepts in many different ways in order to really “get” them. They focus on building mental models instead of memorizing facts or procedures.
If you understand a body of knowledge well enough, and forget a specific thing, you should be able to reconstruct your understanding of it based on related things you understand.
The book refers to a “model” as something specific you understand particularly well that you can explain other things in terms of. For example, your “model” of a subspace (in linear algebra) might be a plane cutting through 3d space. Not all subspaces are planes, but thinking of a plane could be a way to quickly preload a bunch of relevant concepts in to your head.
To learn holistically:
“Visceralize” concepts by summarizing them with a specific image, sound, feeling, and/or texture. Example: when learning programming, think of an array as a bunch of colored cubes suspended along a cord.
Use metaphors to understand things better. Whenenever you learn something new, try to figure out what it reminds you of. If it’s something from a totally unrelated domain, that’s great.
Explore your understanding network, ideally by solving problems, in order to fix glitches in your understanding and refresh it.
Holistic learning works great for some subjects, like science and math, but it’s not as good for others, like history and law. It also helps less with concrete skills, like playing golf.
The author sells various information & coaching products in this vein, but as far as I can tell the ebook I linked to is the only free one: http://www.scotthyoung.com/lmslvidcourse/2.html. (If anyone pays for any of these, they should summarize them (to understand them better) and post the summaries to LW ;].) I’m definitely interested in hearing about other resources people know of on the mechanics of learning.
Someone once told me that if you’re a grad student studying under a Nobel laureate, you’re much more likely to later win the Nobel yourself. (I just searched the internet for evidence regarding this claim and couldn’t find any, so I’m now less confident in it.) This claim suggests that doing good research is learnable.
The person who told me this thought these research skills couldn’t be described with words, and could only be transmitted through actual research partnerships. I think it’s more likely that they can be described with words, but no Nobel laureate has bothered to sit down and write a book called “How I Do Research”. (Please leave a comment if you know of a book like this!)
Even if your fluid intelligence is static and difficult to improve, that doesn’t prevent you from improving the mental algorithms and habits you use to accomplish tasks.