Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Learning How to Learn (III): Probing Questions

First Associate Pastor: Can I chew gum while praying?
Senior Pastor: Definitely NOT! Why even consider it?
Second Associate Pastor: Can I pray while chewing gum?
Senior Pastor: Why not? The Bible says to, "Pray without ceasing!" 
Have you noticed that all kids are curious. Sometimes they are annoyingly curious. They want to see it, they want to touch it, they want to smell it, they want to hear it and they certainly want to taste it. This is one reason all drugs carry the caution: "Keep out of reach of children.” This inherent curiosity in kids is taken to be foolishness by many adults but the contrary is the case. It goes to show us that children are curious, which is a good thing because curiosity is the beginning stage of searching and it is, “the glory of God is to hide a thing; but the honor of kings is to search out a matter,” (Proverbs 25:2). Kids are curious because they are creative. Their curiosity stems from their creativity.                                
You can use your curiosity, which is actually easier to form, to develop creativity. That’s the lifeline: use curiosity to develop creativity. The easiest way to do this by the way is by ensuring you do not see things in a single dimension. Do not look at things the way they come, rather look at them from a several-dimensional point of view and ask yourself probing questions

Questions open up doors that ordinarily will remain closed but it is noteworthy that not all questions will bring about the desired result. There are questions you can ask that will immediately shut the doors of further creativity while there are those that will make the creative genius flood your mind. Here are two tips on right questioning.

Tip no. 1: Ask yourself about changes. One form of questioning that will help you think more creatively is to ask yourself to change things and make them the way you would like them to be. This gives you room to innovate. For example:

● What would taste better if it were less sweet? How can I make it sweeter?

● What would be nicer if it were bigger? How can I make it bigger?

Tip no. 2: Ask yourself questions with lots of answers. You strengthen your creative thinking skill anytime you ask yourself questions that permit many correct answers. Here are some examples using the concept of air:

● What are some of the uses of air? 

● What floats in air? 

● How does air help us? 

● Why is cold air cold? 

Probing questions are some of the fastest ways to learn. Don't sit back and accept things only because they were told to you by a reputable source. Ask questions and take a quantum learning leap!

                                      [MAINLY CULLED FROM MY BOOK, "DO IT LIKE KIDS"]

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Learning How to Learn (II): Active Engagement

How are (or were, as the case may apply) your classrooms? If they are like mine they'd look like this: The teacher stands somewhere at the front. She rarely strolls around nor gazes with intent at every student. She is somehow fixated on some students. Tibeck and Wemimo sit in front. Their position in class gives the impression that they listened attentively and are loved by our teachers. James and Kayode are sending notes to each other on which football club they think will win the UEFA Champions League. John leads a group at the opposite end on the room. All teachers feel he and his group won't amount to much. They hold this impression even as it is popularly accepted that John is one of the most intelligent students in the set. Sagir is listening intently, flipping through a textbook while the teacher speaks, taking side notes where he feels they are needed and interestingly engaging the boring teacher. Where was I? I was the definition of "lost" somewhere at the back of the room.
How did our results turn out? Well Sagir got just nine A's out of nine subjects, Tibeck and Wemimo got enough credits to get into a university, John and his group were suspended and didn't write the examination with us, James, Kayode and I failed woefully. Of course we pretended we were shocked by the results but we knew deep down that we didn't deserve better.
Learning, as Sagir showed us, was best done by active engagement. When you are engaged in a thing it establishes itself deeper and better in our brains hence increasing our chances of actually learning and remembering it when the need arises. But what do most of us do? We passively listen. Passive listening leaves you with the deception of learning when you aren't. 
Unfortunately, passive listening is what our classrooms, churches, seminars and conferences are designed to accommodate. Someone stands in front of an audience and goes on and on with something he is presumed to know better than all. The ability of the audience is judged by how attentive they are. We ignore the major fact that silence is not a prove of attention and much less shows learning has been achieved.
If you'd learn better and faster you should be actively engaged in it. Never allow lethargy take you over. Engage your mind, engage your teacher (a good teacher will love this), engage your lesson materials. Probe deeper than is expected of you and you will certainly learn better. This would work no matter where you use it.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Learning How to Learn (I): Activities

If you have been through school you'd have asked yourself or someone else if all you were taught were relevant in the first place. You look at all the information you are required to soak in and you wonder if it could be learned - and if it can, then you wonder if you could learn it. I look back at my over twenty years of formal education and I realize I was never taught how to learn. I am just now learning how  I learn and it is amazing the simple stuff I am discovering.

How do you learn? Have you ever learned how to learn? I ask this not as a trick question - although it feels like one - but because learning isn't automatic. It is a skill - an art in it's own right - and must be learned itself. Think about it, how did the ancients learn how to learn? Many ancient cultures have left us glimpses into how they taught their children how to learn. They told them stories and fables, they took advantage of their childhood and teenage years to input the life information they wanted to pass across. They raised their children in peers, groups, cults and fraternities. This developed communal learning and ensured deeper lifelong learning experience. But how do we "modern" cultures learn?
In the next few articles we will look into modern ways to learn. I will in effect show you ways I am learning how to learn. I will give examples where it suffices and will also be very incisive and informative. So lets get right to it.

Learn by activity and NOT just by reading. This is important. We are trained to read and read and finally it will become a part of us. I have taught my students for a few years now this same principle of reading until it sticks that didn't work with me. My excuse? That was exactly what I was taught. So, I was probably saying to myself that, "although it didn't work with me it must work with someone else for my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and hundreds of other teachers to say it works." 
I am only now realizing that what is wrong remains wrong even if the whole world says it was right. Until fairly recent world history, people of different cultures - from the Chinese to the Greek, Indian to Aboriginal - believed the world was flat. It was until people like, Herodotus, Pythagoras and Parmenides, postulated a possible spherical earth that the whole world population began to entertain its possibility. The earth didn't become spherical when they postulated it. It had always been so and all the people and cultures of the earth thinking it was flat wouldn't change it.

    Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. - Benjamin Franklin

It is the same with the "read, read, read" approach to learning. In fact, when you learn by activity you learn faster, recall better and enjoy the process. Do not take only my words for this. Pause and think of the things you do perfectly and without thinking about it like riding a bicycle. Did you learn them by reading about them or by taking activities on them? I already know your answer and this is so because your brain relates to activities and develops a pattern for doing it again and again. 
Finally, I realized, while I was learning to write, that no matter how much I read about writing I didnt know how to. It was until I began to write that I became better and better. Today I am an author, write regularly for a blog and for other people.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Start small or Stay small

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
-Arthur Ashe
I sometimes feel our present human culture is obsessed with having things BIG. We like big businesses, big cities with big buildings. We like to be referred to as, the person with "The biggest ... in town."
Big isn't bad. In fact, I like it big also, but, although culture teaches us to celebrate big, nature shows us to cultivate small. Look around, everything in nature starts small. From the trees to the fishes, the bull to the person, they all start small. I was reminded of this principle when my baby girl, Jamila, was born exactly two months today. As I looked at her lovely white eyes that day, I wondered how a human life could begin in such a small way. But then again, I thought, "In what other way could it start?" Two months on and it is evident to all the way she has grown so well.
This same principle ensures that countries grow, provinces grow, families grow, and you grow. Whole countries - take your mind to the greatest ones - are established with something as small and fragile as an idea. Not races and ethnicity but an idea. It begins with that spark of a creative moment that in the minds of a few, which they fan until it has ignited a flame that burns every heart that hears of it and makes many willing to stake their existence for its realization or nothing else. It is the same with great businesses. Pioneers identify a need that must be met. A problem that cannot go unsolved and they stake all they have and are to seeing they help solve it. 
Greatness doesn't come from mindlessly achieving some BIG stuff - like making so much money - but by growing from small to great. Do not be afraid of starting small. More often than not, it the fear that keeps you as an underachiever and not the fact that what you have started is small.
I and a small team have started a project to support public schools education in Nigeria. At present we have given out thousands of exercise books but their is still more to be achieved. We are setting up free libraries in these schools and we will take it one small school library after the other. It will be our joy to see hundreds of schools with the libraries they need but before we get there we will do with the small we have - one school. Care to join us? CLICK HERE

Friday, 1 August 2014

Sit and Watch Your Life Reel Through!

I love sports. My interest in sports pushed me to know the rules of many sport events that I would never participate in or probably never witness others playing. In particular, like 75% of the 170 million people in my country, I love football. I so love football that I used to sit long periods at a time discussing the players’ rumors, the possible transfer headlines, the problem with referees and lots more. Sometimes our discussion leads us on journeys back in the days and we vividly describe events that happened then.
Recently in one of such discussions we traveled back in time to the world cup event of 1994 – US ’94 it was popularly called – and discussed the many euphoric moments. Our country was represented for the first time on the biggest football stage on the planet. We went there as African champions and I vividly remember thinking – rather erroneously with hindsight - that we would be certainly unstoppable after gloriously conquering Africa just some months earlier.
Suddenly it dawned on me that this sports event I was vividly describing was twenty years ago! Where had all the time gone? Twenty years! If this was US ’94 then I am twenty years in the future. The obvious question that arose was, “Was this the future I envisioned?” I refused to answer not because I didn’t know the right answer but because I didn’t want to hear it.
Our lives do not come to us all at once. I remember my father describing fifty-year-old events “as though it were just yesterday.” Our lives come in years, and years in months, and months in weeks, and weeks in days, and days in hours, and hours in minutes and seconds. It stands to reason that what you do with the seconds – the very second you are living through right now – determines what will be the outcome of the results you will produce in the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and ultimately in your life.
If the next twenty years – 2034 – would bring better outcomes I must ask myself the difficult question, “What am I doing with this second?” It is the same with you and your friends and your family. We have all the power to choose what we do with this second but we have no power whatsoever to determine the outcomes we would experience in the next twenty years.

Choose wisely.