Since I am significantly invested in lifelong learning, I am always looking for ways to learn better and easier. I was pleasantly surprised when I read Jeff Cobb’s book, 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner*. While it is not a very long book, 102 pages, it does provide 10 great ways to being a better learner. Wow, that should be the title.
Cobb’s work is presented across 10 chapters, each focusing on a specific theme. The first chapter sets the tone by discussing what it is to be a lifelong learner. He stresses that lifelong learning is essential, and we need to get better at it. “Learning is the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes” (Cobb, 2012, location 74). Because the world is changing rapidly, we must continuously look for opportunities to learn. These are sentiments that I agree with. Cobb also encourages daily reflection so that you can learn from your mistakes and successes.
Cobb goes on to talk about the need for developing networks to help provide a stream of new information. I enjoyed the discussion about curators because I feel I fit into that role. As Cobb explains, a curator collects, organizes, repurposes, and makes available information for the benefit of others.
One of the key lessons that I took away while reading this book was the need to take notes. We need to take notes not only in formal classes or workshops but during other periods of time, because writing things down helps with the learning process. I believe that you also need to be able to easily retrieve what you write down. I personally use Evernote to capture everything I write. This helps to not only build a learning resource, but I also turn different notes into actionable items. If you feel you must actually put pen to paper, you might want to consider using the Evernote and Moleskine combination.
Cobb also takes time to discuss goal setting. While he did not specifically mention it, he alludes to SMART goals for setting a path for lifelong learning. Cobb outlines reasons why people do not meet their goals as well as tactics to overcoming these barriers.
According to Cobb, you must not only have conduits to information, take notes and set goals, but you must also be accountable for your learning. He suggests that learners validate sources of information and not just accept everything, develop methods for assessing learning, and when possible teach others what they know. In order to be at the top of your game, Cobb stresses the need for deliberate practice. “Deliberate practice is, well, deliberate – it involves not only repetition, but also feedback, reflection, and an intense focus on continuous improvement” (Cobb, 2012, location 434). You must practice to be a good learner.
One of the basic tips Cobb provides is the need for proper diet, adequate sleep, and proper exercise. Personally, I need to place more attention in this area. Specifically, I need to devote more time to ensuring I eat properly and get more exercise. Cobb includes a number of studies highlighting the importance of attending to proper body maintenance.
Finally, Cobb touts the use of technology to help make you a better learner. He lists a number of software applications and their specific uses as they support learning. I was pleased to see that I was already using a number of these applications such as blogs, Twitter, social bookmarking, and RSS feeds. These types of tools help learners follow and collect information, assess and organize it, and repurpose it for others.
For a short quick read, 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner provided a lot of great tips for being a better learner. I was not disappointed and gleaned a full set of notes in Zotero. If you are looking for a quick read on lifelong learning, I am confident you will benefit from this book.
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