Unlearn to Learn New Things?


Grab a book and an apple, or any other fruit for that matter. Recline on your favorite chair and while you’re at it, try to keep the pages clean and dry please. As you read through the pages of Physiology by Guyton, you wondered how this author managed to explain the nervous system quite succinctly. Then you grab another bite and enjoy your fruit. After a long, tedious reading you realized that there’s no more left of the fruit, only the memory of its juice, its taste and its freshness. Have you gone mad? You should have listened to your mother when she said: “you can’t do two things at the same time.” Eating and reading are two things, remember?

Quite depressed and distressed, you go to the fridge and grab another apple. Taking that first bite, the pages of Guyton flash in front of you. What’s happening? You squint and rub your eyes and taking another bite, the memory of another page flashes again, and again and again as you take every bite.

Magic? Not exactly.

We were taught to exercise our brains by sitting in a quiet room and concentrating on what’s in front of us – more often, a book. Then the dog barks and you lose your concentration. The door shuts close and you lose focus. In an attempt to absorb the material you focus on reading the words, the letters, the conjunctions, each period, comma and space. This is what we call Conditioning.

Fast forward into 2011, coffee shops, laptops, touch screens, MP3 players and students. Have you ever wondered how Conditioning applies to them?

In an earlier research, a group of students were compared on which group would elicit a better test score. The ones intensely reading for three hours, or the other group that read for 15 minutes then watched television for 5 minutes then read again for 15 minutes then played video games for 5 minutes and so on until three hours have lapsed. Which is your guess?

Learning occurs NOT during the actual reading process, when you can see the letters and the pages of the book; but rather AFTER you have left the page. Words and images are registered in the brain as an Imprint and puts it in a box for future use. In addition, the brain places this material into categories like New Learning, Old learning, Happy Learning, Sad Learning, etc and Associates this materials with the old ones called Experience. When there is an exact match, students often find an A-HA! moment.

It’s nice to interrupt the brain, because the interruption give the brain time to Organize itself of the new learning set in place.

So, the next time you read Guyton and don’t find it penetrating your thoughts, grab a bite or do something that you like. It’s that moment when learning starts.

Happy Learning everyone!

By the way, the students who got the better scores where the ones who did other things while they read.

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