06 November 2006

Maximize Learning Channels

Man are given a brain and 5 senses. When teaching or learning, we should make use of all the brain and 5 senses to maximize learning, understanding and retention.

Typical form of learning is lecture. Lecturer gives a speech - that is hearing. Sometimes he uses PowerPoint slides (or draw on a white board), that is seeing. If he writes ... that is using our Left-brain. He may draw a diagram, and thereby engaging our Right-brain. He would ask questions so that we have to think of our answers and speak it out - using our mouth. Answering requires us using our brain to do processing and speaking it out engages not only our mouth but our ears to hear what we are speaking. It would be better if the Lecturer could, besides using diagram, convey his thought through action --- some motions of our hands and feet like dancing. Better still, if we could taste and smell. That would create a lasting experience.

Has anyone ever teach with all the sensory and processing channels that we have ? The answer is Yes. He is Jesus. In the Holy Communion, Jesus used the bread to represent His body. He broke the bread to show His body was broken for us. Then he passed the bread for us to touch(feel) and eat (taste). Later he took the cup of wine and told us the wine represented the His blood that was shed for us to cleanse away our sins and to seal the Covenant with us. The wine was passed to us to partake. We could taste and smell the wine, remembering what it stood for. The whole process of watching Jesus and participating in eating and drinking engage our 5 senses, body movement and brain.

Another example could be Baptism through immersion. The full immersion represents the burial and death of our old self and the pulling out of us from the water shows for our resurrection to a new life. When submerged, we can feel the water covering us and cleansing us. We cannot breath in the water and we struggle for breath. It is all an excellent learning experience that last with us for a long long time.

In summary, when we give another lecture, let's try to engage all the channels of inputs....
  1. Tell story (parables) to relate to our Brain. Story always engage our interests and we can remember them well.
  2. Use Picture and Diagrams ... Engages the Eyes and Right Brain.
  3. Use Motion & Actions to engage the body
  4. Have a object where touch/feel can be engaged.
  5. Use Taste and
  6. Smell to increase the impact.
  7. To help memory, we should perhaps have rhythm in our key summary statements so that we can sing along.
As students, we should also
  1. rephrase and write down in our own words (left brain),
  2. draw it our with diagrams (at least a mindmap using right brain),
  3. recite out what we wrote,
  4. act out what we learn, and
  5. see if we could feel,
  6. taste and
  7. smell the things that we learn if not physically, at least in our mind.

01 August 2006

Mind Tools

Our mental model affects how we think. If our mental model is wrong, we will fail to see the thing that we should or make a wrong decision on the inputs we received.

So far, the most effective way to capture our mental model is through a Mindmap. If you are good at programming, you can even capture your mental model as a Prolog program and it can help you make inference and do decision making. For most mortals like me, we can at least take the 1st step to draw out a mindmap.

There are many good free Mindmaping software available.

Here are some of my recommendations and comments.

Mind map based software tools:
  1. Freemind. http://freemind.sourceforge.net & its fork, even better, Freeplane.
  2. Xmind ... able to easily switch presentation forms. e.g. tree to fishbone to spreadsheet etc.
Concept Map based:
  1. Cmaps. http://cmap.ihmc.us/
  2. VUE Concept Map based.
Specialized Model:
  1. Compendium. http://www.compendiuminstitute.org/

For the commercial ones, there are
  1. Mindmanager from Mindjet, Novamind, ... and many others.
  2. Axon: A flexible tools for all occasions even for simulation and ideas generation, graphical computation etc.
  3. Personal Brain  : a unique ideas capturing, organizing and presentation tools.
  4. Even for iphone and Android phones, there are good mindmapping apps like ithought etc
Mindmapping is the easiest and faster to use to relate ideas. In future posting, we will discuss about the types of relationship between ideas. Concept Map, CMaps, is a more rigorous than mindmap. It imposes the requirement of a linking-word between concepts. Compendium is a specialized mapping for IBIS. Mindmap are typical hierarchical or Tree-base and hence easier for automatic drawing. Cmaps, VUE and Compendium are Network based - i.e. a node can have more than one parent. They are more flexible but it takes more time to draw them. However, you gain control on how you want to layout the map.

Axon is an interesting combinations of many things ... a drawing tools for various types of maps, a simulation tools, an idea generator etc. Because of it computational capability, it can be used to draw Influence Diagram ... Excel formulas in Pictorial forms. It can be used for presentation and so forth. If you need processing and diagramming together without much programming needs, then Axon is a good software to use.

Web Based Collaborative Tools

Mindmeister provides not only a good web-based mind mapping tools but also provides it with real time collaborative capability. There is a free version that limit you to 3 mind-maps for you to try out.

See also:  mind extender - the killer apps after office 

updated 26 May 2011 - Lim Liat copyrighted 2006-2011

Mind Extender - The Killer Apps after Office

If you think carefully about Word and PowerPoint, you would realize that they are output presentation tools either on paper or projection on screen. Writing an article requires you to search for information, organize them, analyze them, generating better ideas, reorganize them and only finally put them down in a nicely logically organized and formatted printout or slides.

Word offer little help in the earlier and more critical part of writing - search, generating and organizing your thoughts.

The ideal software to help us think and write should look something like the mindmap shown below. I call it Mind-Extender.

You don't find this software now,but you can build it using freely available software.

1. Capture. The first piece of the software is the information capture or data collection. If we have in mind certain types of information that we are interested in, we can use the subscription service software to collect those information. We have the Feedreaders, eMail subscriptions, etc. Sometimes we attend Seminars and learn new things. Those new information should be captured and stored as well for future writing need.

2. Classification. The next thing to do is classification. The easiest is not to classify as all and rely on index search engine like Google Desktop (or yahoo or microsoft equivalent) to retrieve them when needed. But more effective search can be made in future is you spend some time classifying your captured information. Some use key words, tags, or even a mindmap software or a Zoot folder software. Categorizing information is learning as well.

3. Storage. Where do you want to store your captured information. In the past, we have to put them in our PC or laptop. With the high speed network availability and large free storage available, we can put them on the network so that we can access them anyway we want. Google 2GB mail storage is a good option to stored them. You can put them in your thumb drive (1-4G) or pocket drive (80G). The choice is the convenience of access and retrieval ease.

4. Retrieval. The methods of indexing and classification affect retrieval. There are many ways to it... free text search, key word search, thesaurus supported search, mind map/directory type, and semi-structured attribute or dimension search etc.

5. Application. We make presentation or write report. We can also used the stored information as templates to help us make decisions or solve problems. When we learn new things or new methods, we can put them back into the knowledge base for future reuse.

6. Collaboration. We can works with others to share information, create new ones and jointly solve problems or brain storm. What is the best way to collaborate ? At present, the Mind Mapping methods seem to be most effective to me. We also need to implement our ideas, track progress, and made changes if needed.

By taking an overview of how knowledge worker work - collecting, making sense, generating ideas, making plan, tracking progress, making decisions, solve problem and persuade others, we realize that we don't have an integrated tools to help us. We will have to make do with what we have and perhaps work on creating a more effective and integrated suite for extending our mind.

For some recommended mind mapping software tools, see mind tools.

Lim Liat copyrighted 2006-2011 

31 July 2006

Out of Box Thinking - Where is the Box?

Most people want us to "Think Out of the Box". It would help us greatly if we can describe our box that boxes us in. If we don't know what and where is the box, how are we going to break free ? It is almost an impossible task for us to break free from our biases and presumptions because we are not aware of them in the first place! The Bible put it as the log in our eyes that we don't see. Luke 6:41 "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

The first step in 'Out of Box Thinking' is to know the Box.
What are the hidden assumptions, false perceptions and the tracks of our 'one-track-mindset' in our mind that bind us? There is good news though. We don't have to spend time defining the boundaries of our box before we can break free and be creative. We just need to break down one wall or dig a hole in the wall to breakout into the new free world of ideas.

Systematic Methods to Break Free.
There is better good news. There are methods worked out by the geniuses that we can systematically apply to break free. One of such methods is TRIZ and its various derivatives such as SIT, ASIT. See Roni Horowitz's article on "Using ASIT to Develop New Products" or buy his books. ASIT are simple to use. For those more motivated and technical, try TRIZ after ASIT.

28 July 2006

Sources of Ideas

Where can we get new ideas ?

1. let our staff tell us ... suggestion schemes.
2. let our customers tell us... customer interview, enhancement request submission, ...
3. let our suppliers tell us... join suppliers' program....
4. let out competitors tell us... this is painful but needful
5. let the industry tell us... join the association ...
6. let our consultants tell us... engage them ...
7. let the media tell us...
8. look across industry and see....
9. extend the above sources further, customers' customers, suppliers' supplier, staff family, going further upstream or going further downstream, ...

But, where will Break Through idea comes from ?
Can customers tell you products that do not exist at all?
How can we be truly innovative and have break through reuslt... attracting new customers... and with today's technology.... no bleeding-edge pains....

Here are some other good sources...

1. Job Completion Theory
from Clayton M. Christensen's, "Theories of Innovations" in "See What's Next". Create a product that enables the Task to be completed more effectively, easier and less costly. The value is in the saving and effectiveness and efficiency obtained in applying the new product to the task.

2. Value Innovation or Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim, Renée Mauborgne. Highly recommended for innovation in business.

3. TRIZ, SIT, ASIT. TRIZ is effective but quite complicated for beginners. Suggest ASIT and SIT. They have distilled the meat of TRIZ into 1-2 principles and 5 (for SIT) and 6 (for ASIT) tools.

4. Think Like a Genius...A collection of 31 thinking metaphorm(or patterns) to stimulate creative ideas... Connect+Discover+Invent+Apply four steps for innovation. It is a bit too many for a person to fully grasp all and apply them effectively. Perhaps can be tried after the methods 1-3 still does not yield any result.

I will cover the topics above in greater details in subsequent postings.