Learning Technologies; Informal Learning, the brain

Dave’s post reminded me of a  really interesting conversation with someone (a professor at a London University, sorry I didn’t catch her name) at the recent learning technologies conference in London who made some suggestions on how to keep brain connections re-forming & combat the decline as we get older.

She suggested having a 5 year plan in which a new skill was learnt and mastered each year. She suggested year 1; learn a language, year 2; rollerblading, year 3; learn a musical instrument, year 4; study at university, year 5;something else completely new. She also suggested drinking lots of water. (after the rollerblading!) She talked about the importance of a variety of new skills to challenge ourselves and to encourage new connections.

So… I wonder what our 5 new skills would be?


6 thoughts on “Learning Technologies; Informal Learning, the brain

  1. As I recall, Bob Mager of criterion-referenced instruction fame sets himself some goal like these each year. One year, and he may have been close to 70 at the time, it was learning to ride a unicycle.

    My own experiences with language this past year — I’ve been using French a lot more — suggest to me that you can pursue new skills in what seems like the same area. For example, reading and writing a language involve related skills. You can push those — read a wider variety, try writing on different topics. I’d say listening and speaking involve mostly different sets of skills — crucial among those is rate.

    It might be helpful to have some outside measure for certain skills — not so much for a grade as for an assessment. How’m I doing?

    Five skills I’d like to work on: French (like fluency with the conditional); learning to sail a small boat; chef-like use of a knife; basic level of comfort with some programming language; learning the bagpipes.

  2. Kia Ora Lynn.

    Does it really matter what our 5 new skills are? Surely the point that the Prof is making is that the brain needs new things to work on regularly to keep it in trim. As with any body part, the brain is subject to atrophy if not used regularly.

    In a recent article in the New Scientist (cited) suggests that “people who lead more intellectually stimulating lives are somehow protected from mental decline”.

    The article goes on to explain “one theory is that the brains of people with higher levels of ‘cognitive reserve’ are. . . . . .able to increase the efficiency of their existing brain networks.” Cognitive activities, like doing a crossword puzzle, are seemingly champion activities for creating new neural networks within the brain.

    I have just turned 61. I must finish this comment now, for I haven’t completed the crossword puzzle yet!

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth

  3. Dave the chef-like use of a knife and the bagpipes sound good. Maybe you’ll have to visit Scotland for the bagpipes!

  4. Hi Ken,
    Yes I think the important thing is the 5 different skills as opposed to specifically what they are, but it’s interesting to consider what those skills would be isn’t it?

    Hope you finished that crossword. Do you do sudoko too?

  5. Lynn, there’s a lot of piping this side of the water as well; you can hardly throw a Braemar stone without hitting a Scottish festival somewhere in North America.

    I’ve read a few things suggesting that brain exercise depends not only on activity in general, but on a certain amount of effort as well. In other words, if you’re good at crossword puzzles, doing them can be an enjoyable activity but doesn’t necessarily add to learning (though obviously you’re working some of the connections).

    Discussion like this one regularly appear at the Sharp Brains blog. Their related site has a number of “brain fitness” resources.

  6. @Lynn – I did finish it, and yes I do.

    Bagpipes? I can’t hear any bagpipes. I think they are simply a pipe-dream 🙂
    Brought on with romantic nostalgia.

    But listen. There’s a band playing – believe it if you like 😉

    I’m on to the cryptic crossy now. Don’t disturb me.

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