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Welcome to the Farnam Street podcast called The Knowledge Project, I'm your host, Shane Parrish, the curator behind the Farnam Street blog, which is an online community focused on mastering the best of what other people have already figured out.
The knowledge project is where we talk with interesting people to uncover frameworks you can use to learn more in less time, make better decisions and live a happier, more meaningful life. On this episode, I have Barbara Oakley. She's a professor of engineering at Oakland University, the cocreator who is popular online course on learning a speaker, the author of two books, A Mind for Numbers and MindShift.
This podcast is a near non-stop exploration of how we learn. We bust the myths about how we learn, offer effective strategies you can use today and show you everything from reading to memory to recall all fits together. What better way to master the best of what other people have already figured out than improving your ability to learn? Enjoy the conversation. Before we get started, here's a quick word from our sponsor, this episode is brought to you by Intel. Every business needs great customer service in order to stand out and gain a competitive advantage.
Yet many businesses struggle with how to provide their customers with world class customer service. Intel Contact Center Solutions is a turnkey solution for all of your customer care needs. Intel trains their customer service reps to know your business almost as well as you do and help you build your brand. Managing a call center can be a complicated, expensive and time consuming task, and you still may not be able to do it well to do it. Many leading companies do and outsource your customer service needs to a partner who specializes in taking care of your contact center needs.
Intel can provide your company with every touchpoint, including telephone, email, chat and social media. As a listener of this podcast, you can get up to ten thousand dollars off if you go to Intel dot com slash and that's, I think, TEFL dot com. Shane Barbe, welcome all. It's nice to be here, Shane.
I've been waiting for this conversation for so long. I've been so excited about it.
Well, I think we'll have a lot of fun here today. So first of all, you've worked as a Russian translator on Russian boats. You've taught in China. You're in the U.S. Army as a signal officer.
You were a radio operator in the South Pole. You're an engineer many times over, a professor, a writer, many times over. What gives men like why'd do you make everybody else look so lazy and boring? And we're all like, what's in your wienies?
I have no idea.
I think it's I just love it when I'm concentrating on something that's sort of my my therapy. And so what that means is like if I'm not concentrating on something, I feel all antsy and it's just like, really? And so I end up just sort of doing this stuff. Mostly it's I keep saying yes to when some bizarre opportunity arises and I don't know, it's just turned out with this strange what you get into this path where you start doing kind of wacky things, then it becomes more comfortable and you're actually you're like itching for what's the next wacky experience I can become involved in.
And so it's looking back on it, I'm sort of surprised at everything because I'm actually at absolutely perfectly normal person. I am not some super genius or anything of that nature. I'm actually a very slow learner, slow reader, slow whatever. And so I think this is a tribute to what an ordinary person can do if they just try out some new things that apply themselves in kind of one direction.
Yeah, yeah. So that's a good launching point.
I mean, there's so many things that I want to talk to you about today, and I was trying to narrow it down before our conversation and hopefully we can chat again sometime. But today I really want to focus on learning. Can we start with an overview of how you got so interested in learning and what it means to actually learn something?
Well, it's kind of surprising because so I'm a professor of engineering now. I started out as a linguist and and and then changed completely when I was in my late twenties to to study engineering. And but I always had this sort of yin to understand from a broader perspective. And unfortunately, what academia often does is it like sharpens your focus so that you're, you know, more and more about less and less. And so I just didn't want to end up being that way.
So that meant that, you know, I did my dissertation. I got my doctorate hired on as an assistant professor trying to get tenure. And even while I was trying to get tenure in the background, I just had this stupid idea. I want to find out why. I mean, people I mean, people do what they do, not psychopaths, but just those kind of people that they're super nice to you.
And then suddenly they just stab you in the back and try and, you know, kill your career and things like that.
Why do people do things like that? And so I thought, wow, I'm a professor. I I'm in a highly technical topic right now.
My background is electrical engineering. I was my PhD was in systems engineering. Why don't I look up and see what science has to say about meeting people? And it turns out that you didn't have a lot to say about me and people not at that time and that but psychology had all this stuff that had no scientific foundation whatsoever. So there was a great body of literature on malignant narcissism and but no connection to fMRI studies or anything like that. So I anyway, I am really getting back to answer your question, but I spent six years kind of squirreled away while I was trying to get tenure, also working on this book that became called and this is a totally tongue-in-cheek title.
It was Evil Genes Why Rumsfeld, Hitler, Rose and Roennfeldt and my sisters stole my mother's boyfriend. And and I'm like, why am I doing this? It's just it's kind of nuts. Nobody's ever going to read what an engineer has to say about the discipline of psychology and why. I mean, people do what they do. But to my kid, after six years of working on this thing and I really did my homework and exposed a lot of flaws in the field of psychology.
And and prominent psychologists such as Steven Pinker gave me a great blurb, really liked the book. And it was a hit, critical hit with with prominent psychologists, psychiatrists and so forth.
And what they gave me, though, was it gave me a very good understanding of what, you know, not the best, but pretty darn good about what's going on in neuroscience. If you know how to our brains really work. And then I begin researching, well, why do good people do bad things? And that became an edited volume for for Oxford University Press called Pathological Altruism. And and then I did a sort of a popular science book at the same time called Cold Blooded Kindness, which was about a murderer who used this excuse that she was helping other people when she was a killer, actually a wolf in sheep's clothing.
And her, you know, she'd present herself as, oh, I'm just doing it to help other people. And that was her facade that helped her to actually harm other people. And so so in any case, I'm working on all these kinds of cases. You know, you can only take researching really nasty people for so long before it starts to get to. Yes. And and so one of my students happened to ask me, you know, why did you how do you change your brain from somebody who who hated math and science?
When I grew up, I mean, I flunked my way through through those subjects and in all the way through high school. How do you change to become someone who is now a professor of engineering? And I only started, you know, studying remedial high school algebra when I was twenty six.
And the thing is, I there was a really good question and I said, well, how did I change? Maybe I'll write a book about this, about how how I learned to change my brain and and also how people in general can change their brain and learn more effectively. And I didn't really realize at that time this is like such a long winded answer to your question.
It's just going, yeah, that I didn't realize that, that a lot of people who are working in education do not have any sort of understanding of what's going on in neuroscience. And more than that, a lot of the top professionals who are in, for example, educational psychology, it's again that deep tweetie discipline problem, like they know a whole bunch about this little tiny area of their discipline. And often the people who are in educational psychology like that, for the most part, have no real good, solid background at highly professional levels in math and science.
And so what this means is they'll often talk about, you know, general learning and what's important in general learning as if what they're talking about is going to work at for for learning at advanced levels of math and science.
But they've never taken it. So they don't know that it doesn't work. And and so or that it's just not very useful for people. So the more I began researching things, the more I began seeing how educational psychology often sort of cherry picks what they want to communicate, for example, they don't talk about things like Chongqing, which is that is incredibly important aspect of learning. And they they just don't talk about it. And I think part of it is this sort of cognitive dissonance, because if you talk about Chongqing with relation to music, in other words, practice and repetition, everybody knows that you need that for music and everybody knows you need that for language.
But when it comes to math, it's like, oh, let's not talk about the how the neuroscience supports the fact that you also need practice and repetition for math, because then you start getting into the math wars. And so so looking at all this, I began to realize there's this gaping hole in what's available for the general public about how we learn effectively in that a lot of the great and super useful information about how your brain works from neuroscience is simply not being communicated to the general public.
And so so I think a lot of that information, you know, is what I've conveyed through Terry Szymanski.
He's the Francis Crick professor at the Salk Institute. And he and I teach the course and learning how to learn together, which has had over two million students, now registered students. And it's also what I conveyed in the book of mine for numbers. And I think the people just they eat this stuff up. I mean, people are smart. They know that if you have something really solidly grounded in research and neuroscientific research and you present it and show it to them, well, they're I mean, they know what's useful.
They can see the practical use and they they just love it. And so so anyway, I guess that's the long story of how I got started in working on this.
What does the neuroscience of learning show us about how we can learn more effectively?
Oh, it shows us lots of different things. One of the things that shows us, like one of my biggest concerns is that I think there are a lot of people like me. When I was growing up, like I said, I was no super genius or something. And so we moved when I was a little kid. I was seven years old. We moved from Texas to Massachusetts and suddenly they were way ahead of me in the multiplication tables.
So I wasn't a super genius and I never really cared for math anyway. So I just said, well, heck, I don't have the math gene. I'm not good at this. And so I just gave it up and nobody ever told me that. For example, the way your brain works is there are two fundamentally different modes. There's sort of this focused state and there's these resting modes. There are many dozens of resting modes. I mean, probably we're just really getting a handle on it.
But often the most prominent of them is is called the Default Mode Network. So you either have a mode where you're focusing on something and that can activate different parts of your brain. Or you can have this mode where you're not focusing at all. You're just sort of thought at all, you know, and thoughts are coming in and out. But you're not focusing. They're just doing it sort of randomly on their own. And that learning involves going back and forth between these two different modes.
And if you don't get something the first time, guess what? That's OK. If you don't get it when you're sitting there focusing the first time back off, you're after you focus back off, let it go. And what will happen is that default mode network that the diffused network, I often call it the diffuse mode, kind of indicating the default mode network will it will kind of take over in the background while you're not concentrating and it will work away consolidating and making sense of the material.
And that's why when you come back later on, it makes sense. And in fact, you can go, oh, you know, how could I have been so stupid? It's so obvious now. And if if someone had even just told me back then, oh, it's not yours that you're stupid. That's not why you can't understand. They are you. Maybe I was stupid, but.
But no, no more so than, you know, countless other children. It's just that if you can't figure it out when you first are trying, that's very normal. Give it a break. Instead of getting all frustrated and then come back to it and practice and repetition, those are all going to help in building things, a lot of these insights into how the brain works. I sort of figured out sort of, I guess, and but, gosh, because when I when I graduated from high school, I enlisted in the Army in order to learn a foreign language.
And I went to the Defense Language Institute, which is one of the greatest institutions in the world for learning another language. And the techniques they used are really the same great techniques that you would use to learn dance, to learn a musical instrument, to learn math and science. And when I later began, so when I was 26 and I got out of the army and I'm trying to learn math and science, and the only way I knew how to learn by then was the same way I'd learned Russian, which I hadn't known at all before when I started using those practice and repetition and back away a little bit, if you can't get it right away and then come back to it.
When I started using those, you know, even the impossible happened. I was able to learn math and science. I started really low and went really slow and all of those things worked beautifully. So that I mean, it wasn't easy. And if I'd known then what I know now, it could have been a lot easier, but I was able to be successful.
Do we learn different things the same way? Do we learn how to dance and learn a language and fundamentally the same underlying way?
It depends on what level you look at. If you think of learning as creating a new pattern in your brain, which is exactly what what new learning is, then yes, fundamentally we are whether we're learning dance or taekwondo or, you know, differential equations, whatever you're learning, you're creating a new pattern in your brain.
The thing is, of course, when you're learning different things, you have to get those patterns into your brain in different ways. So you're you're practicing with the mandolin. And so you're you have to practice in that way. You're practicing the Rastogi, which is hello in Russian. So you're practicing with your mouth and and math and science are a little bit more abstract. So it's harder to see that you're simply creating physical patterns in your brain when you are learning a new idea, but you are creating a physical pattern in your brain.
And so so that is the underlying commonality, I think, of all of the learning and the tactics by which we go about creating those new patterns.
Yes, except that practice and repetition is it is a is an important part of creating those patterns. So so you're going to practice differently, but you're still going to repeat if you're learning learning a song on the flute. And then if you're let's say that you have a bass there. And problem is the statistics and probability you want to work it and then you want to see if you can work it cold. And I think that's one mistake we often make in in the U.S., at least as far as doing homework.
We just do it and throw it in. Right. Instead of saying, oh, this is a key problem. If I've got this this one I should memorize, I should not memorize like like just sort of like an automaton. But I should get this like a song. So it will this problem's solution will unfold naturally and smoothly, like a song in my mind when I look at it, that only comes through practice.
Is there a specific way we should practice?
Yes, we should look at what hurts the most and focus on that.
So that's something called deliberate practice, which I know you know, OK, but if it flows really easily and then you keep going with, you know, repeating this very easy stuff, you're not going to make very fast progress in what you're trying to learn. Deliberate practice is super interesting because, you know, it's widely considered that we improve through that and someone who can run a few months, who can't run a few miles and works at it gets better.
So there's this great feedback system. But I want to talk about knowledge workers for a second. So if I'm a manager, maybe a portfolio manager, maybe a people manager in a large organization, let's also say I'm above average in my performance, but I hit a rut and all of a sudden my performance is worse than normal. I'm underperforming. This is kind of normal and natural, this variation. I mean, it happens, but at the same time, I feel smarter and better, like I'm learning.
But history is replete with people like me being stubborn or lacking humility or missing a big change. And I'm just like my one of these people. So how do you measure whether you're in the typical trend of loss, the skill advantage in this book? I mean, Ed Thorp kind of talks about card playing and how he hit a rut, but as long as he was within this consistent data, he knew he was fine. But cards are a physical system.
Managing people is a biological system. How do we how do we do deliberate practice in a biological system? How would you kind of advise me?
Oh, that's a great question. I think it's really hard in that if you have a mathematical system, it's all kind of quantifiable. It's everything. It can be laid out. And there are concrete solutions to the problems that you are faced with, with people. It's just not that way. You can be a fantastic supervisor.
And if you have one, one of those, one in 10000 who is, you know, kind of got subclinical manifestations of borderline personality disorder or something, and my word, you know, you've got some work ahead of you, even if you're the world's greatest manager, because whatever you do, they're going to be one step ahead of you in sort of making it look like it's all your problem. So I don't think there's a way to necessarily optimize being a manager, because it is it's it's an open ended system and an ill posed problem in a sense.
You just you can't get there from here, but you can in most cases incrementally improve.
And there's obvious things you can do that are often covered in many managerial sorts of courses.
I mean, I see it when I see mistakes in managers, you know, they're they're often like just really dumb mistakes, like somebody going up for a promotion with walks on water reviews.
And they just say, I don't like this person. So it doesn't matter if they've got great reviews. I just simply turn it down. And it's obviously a case of deep personal antipathy and bias. And but what you're going to do, you know, a lot of I think administrative mistakes are of these kinds of form. They're they're unforced errors that that any rational person would probably not do. So I don't know. I think that being a good administrator is one of the world's most difficult jobs, because part of it's a it's it involves vision.
It involves being able to inspire people. It involves being able to be a little Machiavellian yourself, because you have to be able to anticipate the kinds of tricks that can be pulled on you. And yet also, you know, being genuinely decent enough that most people can catch the fact that that's what you're trying to do. So, you know, so I just don't think it's as simple as I'm going to optimize my administrative skills because every set of personnel you ever get will have their own sets of great things and potentially their own sets of, for example, who's the latest one who is at was at CNN or one of those little apparent superstars who turns out to be quite nefarious and what they were what they were actually doing.
I was just appalled when I was reading about one fellow. And what he do is. He would give some undesired proposals to the young women who were trying to, you know, come up in the the news profession and when they turn him down, appalled, he would go to the office and tell everyone there that this young lady had had given him an indecent proposal and to really watch out for her because and he kept killing the careers of these young women.
And, you know, if you have sort of a nefarious star who's doing that kind of thing, who's working for you, it's pretty hard to you know, how do you deal with that? Because it's it can be kept hidden until it all explodes and, you know.
So do you think we as a society will learn from all of this coming to light and change?
Such a good question. I have I have really wondered about that because there are nefarious ones among us and they are really, really clever.
And so it looks like this is shutting down some of these nefarious individuals, but they're really, really intelligent people. And so it will find other ways to manifest itself. And what I'm interested to see is how how will that manifest? Because it won't manifest in a way that is as easily detectable as what's going on now. And, you know, what's going on now is really only the tip of the iceberg because a lot of people are too afraid to come forward.
And I say this as a you know, as one who is also very cognizant of the fact that there are there can be, you know, just as dishonest men, there can also be dishonest women who can make false accusations. So I don't know, I'm just kind of sitting there with my bowl of popcorn, watching everything unfold and going, wow, this is a first really in history that there's been such a solid kind of outpouring like this.
And is it actually just the beginning of the Jacobite, you know, that it's actually going to go way too far the other way. And I mean that that's possible, too. Will will decent people start being brought down because they're because they can find a group of women to make accusations?
Because all it seems to take is you have some I don't know.
The burden of proof seems to have shifted from. Yeah. I mean, yeah, it's a very, very difficult situation.
I want to go back to something you said earlier about the two modes of thinking so focused and diffused and how does that relate to procrastination?
Oh, I think it relates in that it is it is the other main key of learning.
And in other words, learning about focused interviews helps inoculate you against thinking you're stupid when you're trying to learn. But the other major, major issue in learning relates to the fact that the people procrastinate.
And, you know, how do you do how do you deal with that?
Because I think a lot of times it's just it's easy to say great learning takes place when you use deliberate practice and so forth. But they people forget about the fact that, well, you've got to get to the table. You've got to not procrastinate before you even start using deliberate practice.
So in any case, what happens when you even just think about something you don't want to do or don't like? It activates a portion of the brain in the insular cortex that experiences pain. So it's kind of like that same feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you don't really want to do something right. You know? So what does the brain do? The brain says, oh, hey, guess what? I didn't like this when I thought about this.
It made me feel uncomfortable. So I'll think about something else and so often skitters to think about Facebook or something or anything.
I mean, even cleaning your room can be more pleasant than whatever unpleasant task you're you're thinking about. So the best trick, you know, to overcome this as as literally thousands and thousands of people from learning how to learn have told us is the pomodoro technique.
So this technique is just it's fantastic. It was. Invented by an Italian Francesco city, hello. And all you have to do is just turn off all distractions. So nothing bugging you on the phone or whatever. Nothing popping up on your computer screen. And instead, what you do is you just after turning off these distractions, set a timer for 25 minutes and then focus for twenty five minutes and your mind may drift off it because that's very natural.
But just bring it back. And the whole idea is you are focusing as intently as you can for those twenty five minutes. And when you're done, you and this is the most important part of the whole pomodoro technique, you reward yourself. So listen to a piece of music you like.
Go on to Facebook, you know, go walk around, go dance around anything to comfortably distract yourself from what you've been doing and that can this whole business of focus intently and reward yourself at the end that almost train your brain to to be more comfortable in the focused mode and to and to enjoy it and then to integrate that the consolidation that's happening in the diffuse mode at the end of your your little session there. And it is really a powerful technique.
There's some activities that are better than other for encouraging that diffused mood kind of reconciliation, like going to the gym, or are they all very similar as long as they take your mind off?
Well, I always think that something active is is better than anything else in that what you wanted. Let's say you've been writing a report and then when you're taking your break, you don't want to go onto Twitter or Facebook and continue writing because you're using sort of the same areas of the brain and it's not giving that area a little bit of a rest. So the best All-Purpose break thing is to move around, to some extent, do something that's physical.
And we, of course, as far as exercise itself goes, oh my gosh, that's one of the best things you can do for learning. What exercise does is it helps produce brain derived neurotrophic factor in your, you know, in your brain. And this is kind of like a fertilizer that helps dendritic spines grow. In other words, it helps make new connections. So and you can see it I mean, there's some great neuroscience papers like in Nature Neuroscience that that show that a little dendritic spines just popping right out when they've got BDNF, you know, they're exposed to that.
And so exercise is what kind of brings this all out for you. And it's it's some it is a fantastic learning. You know, it's like a medication to help you learn better make my constructor. Terry Szymanski, I'm convinced he did some of the earliest studies that showed that exercise is a really helpful tool in learning. And because in part because it promotes neurogenesis, you get new neurons and they help you build new patterns. But day is approaching, you know, 70 and he's going stronger now than he ever was before.
And I'm convinced part of it is just he really makes exercise an important part of his working day. And, you know, every other day or so, he's down on the beach going for a run.
And I I think that people don't quite sometimes don't take the the wherewithal to add exercise in, you know, because they're working as hard as they can.
And they don't realize that adding at least a little bit of exercise can actually help them to learn in shorter periods of time and help it kind of stick in their brain better if they're kind of like an ideal frequency or ratio between how much time we should be spending in focused versus defacement.
I'm not that I'm aware of. I think the one thing to be the that I'm just aware of is I think there's a little bit of of concerning evidence and it still has to be borne out with even further research and so forth, that the more time use.
And focusing as, for example, if you are Folke, if you do focus montera type meditation, and let's say you add that in to a lot of other focused work you're doing and so forth, did the mantra meditation can be excellent in helping to even further build your focusing ability, but there's some evidence that at the same time it's also suppressing that default mode activity. So it may be that you're focusing great.
You can get even better at focusing, but you may be doing it at a trade off cost as far as that other very different network, which makes wild and random and totally crazy connections, which is what fuels your creativity.
So I can't help but wonder that I think it's important to spend at least some part of your day letting your brain just go random. And that's why I think going for a walk is excellent, especially if you're just kind of letting your brain go while you're doing it and almost letting yourself be bored for some periods of the day is helpful, because if you focus every every single second that you have available, I'm just a little concerned that that that's that's not healthy for for your creative thinking.
I like that a lot because I do think we need this sort of downtime and we can't always be on. I want to come back to a little bit more about learning, which is can you explain to me kind of the role that memory plays as it relates to learning?
Well, memory is integral to learning, and then we all know that. But we've kind of gone off. I mean, there's this, like, seesaw through history. I mean, we see this in all sorts of ways through history. Some some idea will take hold and then everybody will go nuts for this idea and they go way overboard and then it goes way overboard and like Freudian psychology or psychiatry that you can think there were some points to Freudian psychiatry, but everything got Freudian and then you couldn't, like, break out of that.
And then it went to Skinnerian ism and that you couldn't publish anything that was against Skinnerian approaches and so forth. And similarly, in education, we've gone on to this thing where memorization is school. No, never allow people to memorize things because you just want them to understand it. And I mean, just gone just crazy. And the fact that I even had a student I remember I had a student come up to me and he'd flunk this test and he's like, oh, you know, I just don't understand how I could have flunked this test.
I understood it when you said it in class. And he'd heard for so many years that all he needed to do was understand something and that was it. That's enough. That's like the golden thing. And and it's not enough. It's not enough at all. Sometimes I will say to people like you'll hear poets say, memorize the poem and you will understand it more deeply. It's why should we let the poets have all the fun? I mean it if you memorize an equation, you will also understand it more deeply.
So sure, I think there's ways you can memorize where it's just sort of your your rote putting something in your mind and you're not thinking about it while you're doing it. But actually, if you memorize equations, if you actively pull out a solution from your mind, enough times, it's it's you've memorized it. Right. But it's really a healthy form of memory memorization that allows you to master the material. So so I think that memorization has gotten a terrible rap for, what, the last 70, 50, 70 years.
And due to the the wonderful work of some of these great memory experts like Nelson Doulas, he's the four time U.S. memory champ course, Alex Morgan then and and then Josh four in his great book and so forth. I think that's starting to get people to think again about how many? Memory is important, but it still hasn't made its way into educational systems who wear it's still kind of a dogma that now you've got to have them understand it.
In fact, you've got to understand eight ways from Sunday, which actually can turn out to be confusing for people. You know, if you can understand something really well in one way and you really got it later, you can build and add different sort of perspectives on that. But if you're just trying to give someone an initial idea of how to do something and you're like, well, see, look at this, not look at it from this way and then this way.
Well, this is why the Chinese, for example, are really just laughing at us, because you're a someone from China who is 12 years old, is so much further ahead of a typical U.S. student in math that it's almost like a joke for them. It is because we're we're really not we're using educational methods that are counter to what we know from neuroscience and actually can to some extent cripple students abilities to really be successful in math and science. And I think that's why we've gone from from being at the very top to becoming I think we're dead last in the group of 22 top nations in the OECD as far as the math abilities of our students.
So you are you are a parent. I mean, what did you do with your kids to change or augment, I guess, what the schools were doing?
I, I put them in a program called Coolman Mathematics, and I think some of what the schools are doing is really good, but they don't give enough practice and repetition so that students build solid neural neural patterns, neural chunks. So Coolen, mathematics is a terrific system developed in Japan where you gradually master different areas and you're you're developing these great neural patterns. There's another program that is much more recently developed called Smart Tech. That's Esmay. Ah, I see.
Okay. And Smart Tech is similar to come on, but it's online and and so it has more of those online bells and whistles that can help Gamefly what you're doing.
And how effective was that in improving understanding. Because I think ultimately this is where people get computers. Right. Like you can understand something without memorizing it. You can memorize it without understanding it. But what you really want is kind of some sort of balance between the two or.
Well, I think that there's a lot of confusion on the part of psychologists, educational psychologists in this area. And and I'll illustrate this in several different ways. So there's a great study by Jeff Karpinsky of Purdue about where he showed what is the best way to learn. If you're reading, for example, a complex paper on some scientific study or subject is the best way is you read it and then you look away and you can you see what you can recall of that that page.
So you're you're basically reading it as carefully as you can and then you're looking away and just trying to recall what what's the key idea.
And this was contrasted with underlining rereading or our concept mapping.
And it turns out that just the simple look at it and then look away and see what you can recall is far better in building your understanding of the material. When people were tested even several weeks later, they they understood the material better. And you think, well, you're just memorizing. Right. But you're not. Because when you're putting it in your brain, you're actually understanding it and that's how you're getting it in your brain. Now, other studies have shown, for example, that that understanding does not it isn't like some little golden key that you click.
It goes on. And then you got it. You think you have it. You're part white there, but only when you practice it. We can see those patterns further developing it. And then so you go back and forth. You're you kind of you're reading about it. You think you got it. You start with. A problem? Oh, it's the practice that builds your understanding. It's this conflation, I think, because there is a way that you can look at a solution to a problem, memorize it, and have no real understanding of what it means and what you're doing.
But if you kind of internalize it so that, yeah, you've got it memorized in the sense that you can you can regurgitate it, but you actually are pulling each step up in your mind and you understand what you're doing, then that form a meme of active recall type memorization is it builds your understanding in a profound way. So for our daughters, I will. OK, so this is just between us and our listeners. Don't go. Don't go telling my older daughter.
So so my older daughter, shall we say, she's she's not a natural at math.
So everything was just I mean, she was such a good sport about it. She really wanted to learn math, but everything was just like a struggle. And you know what? I'd be I'd have like a little puppet that come up with its Mr. Hand in my hand has to sit here and now look, do we multiply it and or we add two more fingers.
It's four in my head. So so we worked with the Kuman and and she would so every day she'd be kind of just struggling with stuff. Now her sister on the other hand, is really was pretty natural at math, but she just didn't want to do it right. So it was always pushing rope to get her to do it just because she didn't want to, even though the what was happening was much more intuitively obvious to her than to our older daughter.
So our older daughter goes to college, goes down, and now she's finishing her medical residency in Stanford. And I'm convinced she would have been one of those girls was like, you know, I just don't have the math gene. I just couldn't do it. And instead, she she went forward and she did she did really, really well. But I will say so the other daughter, the one who really didn't want to do math, but we had her doing it anyway, but she was more natural at it.
So she wanted to be an artist and she's a really good artist and now she works as a photojournalist. But when she was in college, she took calculus and she got a four point, which was, wow, that's from her sister.
And she has never let her live it down. So I think it is it is helped her professionally.
I mean, even what she's doing with photography, I mean, all you have to do is read about Leonardo da Vinci and so much of art is informed by by science and math. So if you have some of that with you, it can just help make you better at whatever whatever you're trying to do. Like, let's take Cormac McCarthy. So so I'm just like like kind of flabbergasted, but he's a friend. So Cormac McCarthy is a Pulitzer Prize winning author.
And it is extraordinary. I mean, he's just like unbelievably good writer. How was he originally trained? He was an engineering student and he realized that he was even you know, he was better at writing than it engineering, which is pretty. I mean, his writing is better than pretty much anybody's. But I think part of the reason his writing is so profoundly beautiful is because he he's also thinking about it analytically. So I think that that can very much help.
Whatever field you're trying to do is if you if you're if you try to think in more of a kind of a polymath, an all encompassing perspective, you don't have to be just a you know, just a coder or just a a chemist or just but think of yourself more broadly and kind of incorporate some of these other approaches. And I think your your career and you will be happier.
What's the role of short term memory versus long term memory and learning?
Well, I have a confession to make, and that is that I have a very bad short term memory and my husband will agree with that assessment because he'll be like, well, did you call Fred? You know, he'll have just told me to call Fred. And I really do intend to call Fred. By the time I get to the phone, I'm like, oh, shiny, you know, I got distracted and I just forget so. So the great thing, though, is that working memory and long term memory are kind of different, but they interact with one another.
And if you have a really bad working memory, in other words, the things that you hold temporarily in mind, that that can be a great thing because No. One, there's good research that shows that you're more you're more creative. And another thing is it allows you to simplify, to see some simplifications that that people with better working memory simply can't see. And how this happens is we used to think there are seven slots in working memory cells are seven things you can hold in mind, like seven numbers.
That's why, you know, there's four or five, three, seven, two, three, nine or whatever phone number had seven digits in it because they thought that's what you could hold easily in working memory. Well, that was wrong. It's probably more like four slots in working memory. So for things you can hold in mind. So I prefer to think of it is like you've got this little octopus of attention, of things you can hold in working memory and your octopuses only got four arms.
So so if you're intently looking at something that's really hard to figure out, all four arms of your octopus are going a little crazy. And you can see that your your attentional octopus, so to speak, is in your prefrontal cortex. And we can see your prefrontal cortex working very hard when you're trying to figure something new out. But surprisingly, once you master something, you've figured it out like you can solve this kind of problem fairly easily. You know how to do it.
If you're working, memory just comes right down. It's not it's not working very hard when you're solving these kinds of problems. And it's because you've parked sort of like a subroutine in your long term memory.
And incidentally, that porking of the subroutine happens during sleep. So this is part of why sleep is really important is because sleep clears out your hippocampus and puts it in long term memory. And that's where you're going to go to grab it with that one arm of your octopus, your attentional octopus. You bring it back up and that's how you like if you know how to solve these kinds of problems pretty easily, you just reach into working memory and grab that subroutine and it starts working with things.
So the perfect example of this, and it may be hard initially to see how it relates, but it does is backing up a car. When you first start backing up, learning to back up a car, you're working.
Memory is going crazy because it's so much to keep track of. Yep. Looking in the front mirror, in the back mirror, you know, behind you, where do you look back into the ditch and it's like, not so good. But once you learn to back up the car, you've created that neural subroutine in your long term memory. Right. Which is kind of anywhere in your your cerebral cortex and or, you know, in various places, you can all you have to do is think I'm going to back up the car.
That octopus arm reaches into long term memory, pulls up that it activates that subroutine and boom, you start backing up the car and the other arms of your octopus are still free. So that's why you can also kind of be listening to the radio or talking to your friends or thinking about what you're going to have for dinner that night.
But so it's it's the idea is you want to create those patterns in long term memory that you can easily pull up your activate with, like by touching them with one of your arms of your attentional octopus.
And once you once you've got a lot of patterns like that, you're starting to become an expert. And so it just takes practice and in a lot of, you know, active focus and also diffuse relaxation while your brain is consolidating these ideas and a lot of sleep because sleep is when that the hippocampus is sort of cleared out and it's put into long term memory for you to be able to grab it later on.
And what we store in memory is that the chunking you were talking about earlier? Yes, that's. The long term memory, that's what's the pattern that stored in long term memory, which is sort of like in the the outer cortex of your of your brain.
Well, the cortex is on the outer part. So what happens is your prefrontal cortex. So that's the really the front of your brain where your working memory is. It's it works with this stuff. It kind of creates these sort of temporary chains or patterns in your hippocampus and the hippocampus in turn, sort of the sleep spindles when you're sleeping.
It is transferring that information into sort of the locations in long term memory, kind of more scattered around your your cerebral cortex. And that's where your long term memories are, that you that you're grabbing when you when you need to pull on that particular chunk and activate it or subroutines, so to speak.
If you were to advise somebody on how to like what the steps are to creating a chunk, what would they what would they be first to be aware that there's a way of crystallizing what you're doing, that creates a pattern that is a chunk.
And you can you can make a bigger pattern. I just like just like a chain and you can add more links to the chain. So it depends a lot on what the subject is that you're learning. If you're if you're learning a language, you'll start with one tiny pattern that you have, which is like a word. The word is Pottow, which is in Spanish. So you just got one chunk. Now, you might you might add to that, you might say, OK, well, you'd learn how to say a big duck or you say, I see a duck.
Oh, I see a duck. Well, how does that relate to you see a duck. So you start creating these patterns and then you learn how to conjugate a verb. So you're creating a pattern sort of in a different way. If you want to think of it in a vector form, you can say, you know, you've got the you've got a verb. Are the the different conjugations of the verb are different vectors that point to the different conjugations and the different words that that word relates to.
But in any case, whatever you're learning, you just start small. So let's say you're learning the guitar. You learn a chunk, right. Or a chord. That's one chunk. Then you learn several chords together. That becomes a new chunk that's larger, that incorporates part of the previous one chord.
So you're building on top of a foundation you already have.
Right. And when you are really comfortable, you can access those chunks from different directions, like you've got a chord.
But you you can access that chord from this song or that song or different kinds of songs. Then you start creating a very rich chunk that's instantly accessible. Then the more you practice it and people when you're learning a new language, people who know a language will often say that when they go to France, for example, that if they haven't used it for a while, will be rusty and kind of hard. But then they'll that's because they haven't been accessing those chunks.
But the more they get at it, the more they start those chunks start to get easier to pull to mind. I still laugh, though. Once I went to Moscow and I had been speaking Russian for like twenty five years and I was like, Oh man, I forgotten it all. And so we get in the taxi cab drivers like trying to rip us off and oh, I lit into him and I was like, oh those words.
You know, I was so amazed at what my mouth remembered, which I hadn't really consciously thought about in decades. So it is funny how that works.
What does the science tell us about effective study techniques for students in school?
Oh, well, I know one of the popular ones is kind of like rereading it.
Is that effective? Should we do that? What should we replace it with?
I think the best thing they can do is, is order my preorder my book, Learning How to Learn, which is on my website, and it's for students. And it is it's all about how to learn and how to study in school, and so it's it's kind of like it's a book. There's like so much information.
What's the table of contents? Kind of like what is the rough outline of what makes for an effective studying versus ineffective? What are the habits we should get rid of?
Well, first off, you don't want to sit and reread because rereading what that does is when you read something again, you think because your eye is like comfortable looking at it and it seems familiar, you think you know what, but you actually don't. So so one of the best approaches is to use the pomodoro technique, set everything aside. When you are studying, you want to be really intently focused and don't just look at something and think you know it.
That is one of the biggest mistakes people do in anything. And that's particularly common in math and science. You can look at the answer and it just seems obvious. And and so then you don't actually work it yourself. And so then it turns out you didn't know it. And it's amazing how so many students will come in and say, I suffer from test anxiety and it's actually not true at all.
It's just that when they sat down to do the test was the very first time they realized that they actually didn't know it. They checked themselves beforehand. And so the more you can test yourself on anything you're doing, the better off you will be. So if you're learning, if you just read a problem, see if you can work that problem yourself. And these are the kinds of things I think that that can be super helpful. And then knowing, for example, when you practice during a day something new, you have to get a good sleep that night.
If you don't, your your hippocampus doesn't get cleared out. Right. And you don't create good patterns in your long term memory. So then you're thinking, well, I'm just stupid because I can't seem to remember this stuff very well. But you're actually not giving yourself enough sleep to be able to consolidate the material you're learning each day. And sometimes people are very good students and they'll do it. They're like too good. What they'll do is they will learn something or complete an assignment, say, on Monday.
Just as soon as they get it, they'll complete it. And then the test is on Friday. Well, they did everything. So then they'll, you know, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, they won't review it or anything because they've already done it. And then Friday they're tested. And surprise, it's not fresh on their mind and they don't do very well, even though they did the assignment just fine. So it's this idea of a little bit every day, like on that assignment is fine to do it early.
But look look at some aspect of it so that you're actively bringing it to mind each day. And I think that's that is an extremely powerful way to to help improve your learning. I think the biggest mistake that people make is not see, because learning involves the creation of a new pattern in your in your brain. You have to you actually it's it's almost like this when you're learning something and you actively do it yourself, it's almost like you're you're conscious, aren't working hard on this or are actively working.
It almost pulls those little Druidic spines up and it gets them to start connecting with the axons of other neurons. And those are the patterns of your memory. And so you have to actively be working at in order to pull those dendritic spines up and get them going and get them growing. And if you're just placidly looking at the material, for example, or rereading it, you are you're just not going to get those patterns and you're you're not going to learn it.
I think this leaphorn is like something that people don't understand and the familiarity and just kind of like doing it every day because what you want to do is test your illusion of understanding based on familiarity and actually practice it. Is that.
That's right. I mean, you can you can have a little test of yourself to see how well this works by just pick something that is really hard, you know, just kind of hard for you to get and just try it. And and you'll see that that day when you're first trying to learn it. I mean, even if it's a simple word like Rusty in saying that in Russian, it's hard for a lot of native speakers of English to say that word.
I'm not even going to try it if you try to say it really, really focus and try to say it a number of times. And then you go to sleep and then you try it again. The next day you will be shocked. It's like I'm better. And people often do this when they're learning to play some difficult piece of music. They've got some little part they're struggling with. And time after time, you just you struggle with it and then you give it up and you come back the next day and it's like magic.
You can suddenly play it. And all of this is that consolidation that's taking place. I think sleep is is totally neglected aspect, an important aspect of good learning. And fortunately, I love sleep, so I'm totally on board with that.
So it sounds like that's a really effective way to kind of test your understanding through problems and books that you're learning in school. But as adults, most of us are trying to learn from other people or learn through observation of other people so we don't maybe make the same mistakes they do or we learn why they were successful and try to copy that. How does that change how we learn?
I think it it depends on what kind of person you are. If you're a little bit extroverted, I think that learning from people is more fun for you and maybe less intimidating. Yeah. If you're a bit more introverted like I am, it's a it's a little bit more intimidating. But learning from people, I think you have to it's it's the same general idea. You're trying to figure out a pattern from them, whatever that pattern actually is.
So you may be struggling with something related to differentiating and you're really struggling or the chain rule or something. And so then you talk to your friend about it and you're learning from them as well as from the the material. And what you get from them can be more relaxing in a way because you're just both struggling over the same topic. I guess this is a hard question for me to answer, because learning from people has so many different aspects, because you can only be learning textbook kind of stuff from people or you can be learning stuff that hasn't been written into a textbook and you're just kind of learning it from sort of a master who's been around for a long time and just kind of has it.
And you want to kind of pick up and intuit what that what that guru has to to share with you. So this one is a tough one to answer, because I think it just it's it can be so highly variable. But the main thing is just capture what you can and try to chunk at what are the key ideas. And each time you glean a key idea, figure out some wacky way to get that into your long term memory.
How would you encourage kind of like organizations to allow learning based on like a corporate? So if you had a body that's making decisions, how would you disseminate information to people so that they could learn what factors are being considered relevant? Or how would you encourage this sort of like corporation becoming a learning, a learning corporation where everybody's learning from each other?
I think it's a little tough in that I believe this is something that society should be encouraging right from the get go. And we haven't been doing that. I'm not very well. In fact, is it's amazing to me that people can go through 12 to 16 years of education and never have a single course in how to learn effectively. I mean, that's just boggling. And so I think that for corporations talking about the importance of learning, have the head person, whoever is the CEO, could be modeling the importance of learning, perhaps.
Through learning something and kind of sharing it with the with the corporation and those in the corporation and sharing his struggles or her struggles as as the new ideas are being assimilated and showing, if you show from the top did that, you really serious that lifelong learning is something that is of great value in that company? I think that is probably the very best way and then help make it available. I, I for me, my course, learning how to learn is through a massive open online course provider, Coursera.
And so obviously I'm a little biased, but I think they're a fantastic institution and they they have plenty of opportunities for corporations to interact with them to to provide great learning experiences, not only in technical kinds of or business or professional, but if you're learning about Greek vases or or Sanskrit or even languages that are no longer commonly spoken.
All of these these it manifests a kind of an orientation. And really, whatever you're learning that's new can through metaphor be brought into to bring great new ideas to whatever whatever you're actually working on. In fact, I think that's one of the best ways to be fresh to to maintain freshness in whatever you're working on.
Ad at a day job, so to speak, is to try to spend a little bit of your time, you know, either offline or online or at work or not at work, learning something completely different, completely unrelated to what your your job is.
And what that can do is there's a concept called transfer and transfer means you get a neural chunk, a neural pattern, and whatever that is, you will be able to bring it through metaphor to give you fresh ideas in whatever area you're working in. And even if they don't want you to be creative at your job, it will help keep you fresh and looking at the world in a fresh way.
Do we have learning types like some people say they're visual learners versus auditory learners versus like how do you how do you think of it that I think you have to be very careful if you look at the research literature, because, for example, there was an excellent study done by a woman named Beth Rogalski. And what she did was she took one of the standard tests to kind of analyze a very widely used test that is used to distinguish an individual as to whether they're a visual learner or an auditory learner or kinesthetic learner or whatever.
So she had people take this test. And so then she got categories, right. So she's got her visual learners in, her auditory learners and so forth.
And so she then took the visual learners and had them take a test that was through hearing. And then she had the auditory learners and she had them take a test that was visual. And what she found ultimately was people are fooling themselves completely. Those who thought that they were more visually oriented, they just just fine with auditory and likewise those who thought that they were they only learn best through auditory. They weren't the same as as the visual learners in in looking at some some sort of visual thing.
So people fool themselves that it because we're we're presenting this thing and saying, oh, yes, there are these categories of visual and auditory learners, then people think it's actually true and they quantify themselves that way.
And then when you actually test them, it isn't true at all. And it's a bad thing to think of yourself as only being type. Yeah, because then what happens is you close yourself off to the other sensory channels and you become less expert at them because you're not practicing with them. So I mean, think of it this way. So some student comes up and says, I'm only an auditory learner, so I want you to present me. Only materials and auditory way, what that means is you're not going to give them a written test materials and you're screwing that student's life because you're not giving them any practice in doing written testing.
And that's the way testing usually is. So now not only are you messing up their life, but you're also setting yourself up. If you're a teacher and you're using, you know, teaching to certain learning styles, you're setting yourself up to be potentially sued. Because if a student doesn't do well, they can say, guess what? You didn't teach to my preferred learning style, and that's why I'm failing. And so I think that this whole learning styles business is a very is deeply pernicious and problematic.
And it it keeps going. It's like this hydra because textbook publishing companies make in a lot of independent corporations, make mince of money off of these kinds of tests.
And so it's it's reprehensible. But a lot of these tests, when you actually really check them out, there's no there there. But they just keep going because everybody's like, well, it's a major publisher or it couldn't be or it couldn't be wrong. Well, of course it can be. And it is.
Yeah. I've never looked into the research as much as you have, but I've always been skeptical of it. And my skepticism derived from the fact that a lot of people seem to use that as a convenient excuse. Instead of putting in effort, they would use that, oh, I'm a visual learner. So and that was just their way of like backing out of the situation. And I always thought that that was just almost too convenient mentally for that to kind of be true.
Right. Because it absolves us from the labor or pain of learning something or doing something that maybe causing uncomfortableness.
I think you're right. I think it's a little like that test phobia. Oh, I just suffer from tests instead of not I'm not studying correctly. And then I think people who it it is it's just so easy to say, you know.
Well, like, the one thing I found, there's one common aspect of learning styles, and that is whenever someone claims I'm a kinesthetic learner, I always know that that person has heard the word kinesthetic because everybody's is a kinesthetic learner.
I mean, would you get your hands really get your hands on something? It works great. And, you know, the common thing about kinesthetic learners is they all heard of kinesthetic, but you still learn by looking by say, I mean, you don't get blindfolded when you are getting your hands on something. And so it's yeah, it's it's kind of a quagmire. And I unfortunately, I don't think it's going to go away soon because there's just so much money to be made.
How do you think about the difference between learning something in serial versus kind of parallel? Like if I want to master three different things in the next ten years, I'm a better off working on them all simultaneously or focusing intensely on one at a time? Or is that to kind of situationally driven?
I think it's situationally driven because well, usually the longer you know something, the better you could get at it.
So I suppose that let's say I was trying to learn three different languages.
Well, if I was studied three languages for five years and kind of on a parallel track, I think I think I would be better at each of them than if I studied, you know, three, four, one and a half years or, you know, one of them for one and a half and then sequentially the next and then the next.
Because if you're totally focused, you'll do great on the first one. And then with the second one, will the first one starting to disappear? And with the third one, well, the first two, you're not really focusing on them. So they'll start to disappear. Whereas if they're all three kind of Interac, you've got more and more time to sleep on it and grow those new neural patterns. And there does we kind of talked a little bit.
You alluded to there can be a point. I think sometimes when you're learning anything where you kind of just like, yeah, yeah. It just I remember when I I used to work for the Soviets and so I was working out on Soviet trawlers and now we're getting drunk all the time and all this stuff. And and you're just it's all Russian, all the. Time and there can come a point where it's just like, oh, man, you know, if I hear another Russian word, I'm just kind of I just you get almost overloaded.
And it is these cycles when you're learning something new. And I think that if you portioned things out, so you're not just like everything all at once, but you're kind of breaking it up with other topics of it. I think it could be beneficial because if you're going pedal to the metal with everything in your life on one topic, there can come a point where it just becomes so overwhelming. Whereas I think if you can take a break and do something different, that that that's a somehow from my brain at least I'm not aware of any relevant research.
That probably is, but it would be hard to look up for me anyway.
But I can guess, thinking about it some, I do it parallel track.
You've done a ton of work kind of experimenting with online learning. What kinds of things do you find are better learned online in your opinion versus learned in person? And how do we augment online learning?
Let's see. That's a great question. I think that most things can be learned beautifully online. And the challenge is, is getting professors to create great online courses. Professors are often really used to students in classrooms. Right? So they got them sit in front of them. You can be as boring or as you just repetitious and just kind of an awful teacher as you want. And and students will take it because what other option do they have? But online, it's just not like that.
I mean, it's I always like to say that the online world is a mixture of academia and Silicon Valley mixed with a little bit of Hollywood. So it's more exciting. There's there's more potential for some really cool stuff you could do online. And this is in any topic. So like people who are working in the humanities, for example, are like they're often ha, my discipline just doesn't work for online.
That's just this is and it's mostly because, well, they they're not familiar with with studios and videotaping and all of the great visuals that you can bring in. And actually the humanities is one of the best things you could put online because you can do this fun stuff with walking around in metaphors. And, and it's cheap to do too, because it's I mean, it's it's easy. Like when I would get stuck creating something and learning how to learn, I just ask a local high school kid.
I remember I was asked to speak at Harvard, you know, about the course. And I was shocked because I walked in the room and I was just packed and I thought, why is there so much interest? And I come to find out that our one little course there was made for less than five thousand dollars, mostly in my basement. Had on this order the same number of students as all of Harvard's online courses put together made for millions of dollars with hundreds of people.
And so as I was talking to him, I was like, you know, you guys, this is not rocket science and what the reaction was, you know, that folded arms, it's like, well, what Harvard does, it's rocket science.
But some of the the the things that are being taught are there's a use of metaphor. For example, when I describe using metaphors, it's like, oh, my God, you're dumbing things down. You're not dumbing things down. Neuro reuse theory shows that you're actually activating those same mechanisms for the metaphor that you would for the underlying difficult concept you want to try to convey. So rather than dumb things down, you're actually onboarding students more rapidly.
So what I'm really trying to say is if you look at a lot of the top, you know, the materials that are from top institutions nowadays, some of it is just really bad.
And you can go to YouTube and you can go to some of the other, you know, online providers from lesser institution, shall we say, and find much better information. But the challenge is that universities do have great research underpinnings that if they can convey that. What they're teaching, it's a one two punch that is the most powerful and effective way of learning something. So I think there's a lot a lot of progress that needs to be made in the world of online learning to make a great materials that people want to watch.
They're enjoyable to watch. And you don't need millions of dollars to make that happen. You just need professors, some of your best teachers. And and right now, it can sometimes be difficult for the best. Teachers don't really have access to really good online provider platforms. And and so there's kind of I think this is a sinking process at present where universities are few visionary universities are beginning to really improve some of their courses and they're beginning to grab onto talent.
But it's still a slow process. So I think there's going to be much excitement to come and some really great learning materials. And we're just in the infancy of what online learning will be able to do.
Do you think that universities who are funding this have an obligation to make that knowledge public to people about how we can effectively learn online as a means to facilitate a massive global online learning push?
I think that many universities that there are often great administrators who see it as their duty to help share this information. But as you know, as is sometimes said, moving a university is like moving a cemetery. You cannot expect any help from the inhabitants. And there's a lot of institutional inertia. There's a lot of opposition to online learning and at many universities, just because, you know, there's a fear that jobs would be lost. And this makes it difficult for some of these visionary administrators to to get that material out there that they really want to share.
And, you know, it's the hardest part.
This is the part that I find that I really struggle with is the top tier universities are getting information out there with with massive open online courses. It's the second tier universities that often kind of go, oh, no, we shouldn't have anything online because people will lose jobs.
So we're not going to allow anything going on with massive open online courses at our universities because that's bad for faculty and so forth. So what this means is they're shooting that institution, so to speak, in in the foot because and they're allowing these top tier universities to get all their stuff out there and then the second tier universities. Well, the faculty are often hamstringing that those institutions abilities to reach out. And then that I mean, that does a real disservice, because I think that a lot of these so-called second tier universities are fantastic.
They have some of the best instructors, the best professors. Those are the ones you really want to get out there.
And and it's it's really there's something called the tall poppy syndrome where that's an old phrase. It just means if anybody sticks up and they're really good, we're going to beat up down. Right. Lop those heads off if they if they stick up and they're good. And I think this the world of online learning is a little bit like that. And that that second tier universities are sometimes doing this tall poppy syndrome where they you know, if you're a really good instructor, well, it doesn't matter.
We we just want no online learning at our institution. That is of a massive form because it could could affect, you know, our jobs. And what they're not seeing is that it's going to affect their institution. And in 10 years, you don't want everybody getting their computer science masters from Georgia Tech. I mean, you don't want the whole world doing that. You want them to be at your local institution with getting their masters, with getting their undergraduates.
And if you weren't setting things in motion and present, you're I'm ranting a little bit. Just. Because I think it's so important that that more institutions, more universities of particular universities that are not in the top tier, that those are the ones where there's the best teaching often going on and that this needs to get out to the public. I wholeheartedly agree, Barb.
This has been fascinating. Working people find out more about you.
Just go to my website, which is barbarically dot com, and you can find all sorts of great things. And I look at my new book, which will come out in August next year, and there's a little LinkedIn preorder that and also my previous books and the learning how to learn a massive open online course. And the mindshift open online course, which is actually in the top 50 books of all time. So lots of great stuff.
Take a look there. But I hear you have a phenomenal, phenomenal website and a phenomenal articles. And it's really a pleasure to be here with you.
Oh, thank you. That's very generous of you. I've really enjoyed our conversation. So thank you very much. Hopefully we can start again soon.
It'd be a pleasure. Hey, guys, this is Shane again, just a few more things before we wrap up.
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