Monday, 22 December 2014

Augmented Learning: boosting your brain

Being able to study and learn effectively is an important skill for whoever works in an ever-improving field like the computer science is. There's always something new to learn that can improve your skills.

So why not leveraging modern tools and technologies to boost your learning and long-term memory effectiveness?

These are tools I found useful.

1) Writing my own private wiki

I feel that writing in my own words all the things I learn really helps me understand clearly the concepts. You can never say you grasped a concept until you can explain it in your own words.
Indeed I think that when you strive to express the concept with your own words, what you are actually doing is organizing your own mental model. It works great.

While it's quite a time-consuming job, maintaining my own wiki is something I found very amusing and being the wiki private I could use all the material (images, videos, etc.) I found useful without any copyright problems.

When you will read again your own explanations in a couple of years you will find it a lot easier to re-learn the concepts and -- last but not least -- maintaining your own wiki can help you improve your own writing and expressiveness skills. It seems that your writing skills reflect on your programming skills.

2) Spaced repetition

The spaced repetition technique consists in using flashcards and a spaced repetition tool (I use Anki.)

The technique leverages the spacing effect to your advantage.
[From Wikipedia] The spacing effect is the phenomenon whereby animals (including humans) more easily remember or learn items when they are studied a few times spaced over a long time span ("spaced presentation") rather than repeatedly studied in a short span of time ("massed presentation").
So what you do is:
[From Wikipedia] incorporating increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material in order to exploit the psychological spacing effect. 
I found the spaced repetition technique to be very effective: it just requires you about half an hour of your time each day (your mileage may vary depending on the number of flashcards) and if you keep practicing it every day you can really store a lot of data into your long-term memory. ;-)

On the other hand not every piece of information is suitable for a flashcard and learning how to write effective flashcards can require quite a lot of practice! So I write flashcards only for the concepts that easily fit it.

3) Mind maps

Mind maps are diagrams that you use to visually organize information. You can get an idea about them by looking at some examples.

When you are studying you don't have to express everything you learn in the mind map: just express the correlations among the various concepts.
After that, you can use the mind map to help you repeat all you have learned and to be sure you don't forget any important part. After a while you won't need the mind map anymore as you will remember all the relations. Here your eidetic memory may help.

There are various tools you can use to create your own mind maps.

Please share any suggestion or tool you found useful to enhance your learning and brain effectiveness. I will keep this page updated.

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