Superpower of focus in the internet age

Superpower of focus in the internet age

Aug 19, 2021 08:33 AM
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Aug 23, 2021 06:43 AM
Dominic Zijlstra
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We also talk about how Ryan discovered a repeatable process to succesfully learn anything fast.
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We also talk about how Ryan discovered a repeatable process to succesfully learn anything fast.
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Focus is the new superpower in internet age, focused to do deep work and focus to learn intentionally. In today's knowledge economy it's critical to have a repeatable process, to learn new skills, be able to map out your learning journey and be intentional about learning strategies.
you need to create an environment for yourself and others to facilitate learning.
the best learning happens when we get instant feedback.
a powerful way of getting feedback is by teaching and learning at the same time.
I'm chatting about all of this with Ryan chatter in this video. Enjoy the interview. 📍
Hello, and welcome to a new episode of the super learning professionals podcast. Today I'm joined by Ryan Chadha. Ryan is another one of my, OnDeck course creator fellows. He was one of the first that I met in a live call. To give you a bit of background Ryan has been an educator for the last eight years.
He's founded two schools in Bangalore in India where he's based. And he also co-founded an online school called the crypto university where he's teaching finance. Welcome Ryan.
Thanks, Dom. Always a pleasure to talk to you so glad to be here.
Thank you. Let's talk a bit about your area of expertise. Education and finance. So in those areas why is knowledge management important?
I think I'll talk more for education. Knowledge management it's more about being part of an organization.
So for me, finance currently is just a hobby but in terms of the schools and our knowledge management at school, it is absolutely vital that as educators, we keep up to date with the latest research to do with learning child development, even careers, future work, all that kind of stuff.
And it all comes together. We are constantly urging our team and our colleagues to keep themselves up to date on the latest research in these fields. It's also a source of our competitive advantage. If we can apply some of those learnings for the benefit of the children they're going to be better off in the future and we're going to be happier.
Yeah, it's very admirable how you're trying to teach those children about effective learning techniques, which I personally never learned when I was a child. What was your journey to arrive at this expertise around effective learning techniques?
That's a very good question. So I didn't even think of the word technique actually. This was way back in school when I was around 12, 13 years old. So I used to play a lot of cricket and cricket is a long game.
A game of cricket is seven to eight hours. Plus you've got the time commuting to the ground. And back home. So a full day's cricket is about 11 hours. And I used to play two to three days of matches a week like 30 odd hours of matches.
Plus practicing two or three hours. So I had very little time to study. So that was when I realized that, if I have to do well in my academics at school I'm getting a lot less time to study compared to my classmates.
So the little time that I do have, I need to make the best use of it. That was the first time when I first started thinking, how can learning become efficient? And I never did any research until I started school, but all along with my school and university life, and even my professional life, I always had to do a lot of learning.
Learning new software and new trading systems and stuff like that. The skill that I had started developing when I was a teenager, it just kept getting better and more efficient. And then when I started school, I realized that I have developed a system for myself pretty naturally. My brain is used to doing things a certain way. In comparison to a lot of people, I was able to learn faster. That had been proven multiple times during my school and university days. But it really came to light when I just started my first job in London and we were sitting for these exams called the CFA exams. It's chartered financial analyst, and those exams were being sponsored by the company that I was working at. And the company announced that there are three levels. If you pass each level at the first attempt, they're going to pay you like a 1500 pound bonus.
So I was like, wow, that's awesome. I really want to get that bonus. It just so happened that all of the graduates at the time were doing those exams and the first set of exams was just a few months after we started the job and we only had a couple of months to study for it.
And the CFA recommends that you start six months in advance. So anyway, it was a very short period. So for me, it was a very natural process of, well, I've got all of this stuff to study. How am I gonna create a system for myself. That was vital.
I had to have a system like a repeatable process where before work and after work, I'd sit down and study in small chunks. And it was pretty long, you've worked in FinTech in London as well. It was a pretty long day. It used to be about 10 to 11 hours standard. And sometimes you have to work even longer than that.
So the two things where I realized that clearly there is something I've learned that is useful. I could set myself up on a system very quickly and a system that worked for me and allowed me to learn very quickly. And the second was when, after we did the exams, I was only one out of eight people that passed.
I didn't pass because I was smarter than the others. They were all really smart. In fact, the only reason that I was able to pass and the others weren't was that there's just so much material. You think of finances, like this broad base, and then you specialize.
This first level of exam was this entire base. It was like a three-year finance degree in one. That's when I really started thinking that, no one really coached me on all this, but I just happened to get lucky. I formed the system for myself.
And then when we started the school when I actually started reading up about these methods and the science that's gone into understanding how we learn better, how we can make learning more efficient. That's when it all clicked. I was like, Whoa, like. I've been doing a lot of that, but I didn't know I was doing it. I didn't know I was doing something that was backed by science . I only knew that it works, but I didn't know that people had done all this research on it.
That's really an awesome journey. I think that people can learn so much from that.
So as you mentioned, in finance, but also in education, there's so much to learn that they cannot keep up with it, even with the most efficient methods. So how are you intentional about your learning? How do you choose what to learn?
Yeah, that's really interesting. So I've just started studying for a degree, that's going to be my first formal degree in education. And that's eight years after I started working in education. So all along my learning has been driven by curiosity.
I have not had someone telling me that I need to study X, Y, and Z . I knew what I wanted to accomplish with the school. When we started the school, I needed to learn a few things and I went and I learned those and then I became good at them.
And then once the school grew a bit, when I was no longer involved in that particular aspect of the school, then I started thinking what else do I need to know in order to take the school to the next level? And then I learned that. It's been very organic. It's been a process that's actually been shaped by my requirements on the job, where I see myself having to do something in the next few months or even in the next few years. And then I map out a learning journey for myself, and then I get stuck in online courses, books. I do a lot of reading, most of my knowledge, whatever I know about education and learning is. I read and then I actually implement it in the classroom. The classroom is my learning lab where I get to use the methods that I've read about. And I also get to see how students are reacting to those methods, how they're enjoying them, how they're getting better. So it's like seeing it live, but at the same time using the methods yourself.
So it's just being driven by my needs.
Nice. So how do you inspire the children you work with and how do you get them to use this systemized way of learning and find a joy of learning that they previously might not have had.
Yeah. So one thing that I must qualify here as the kids at our school are all under 10 years of age, so they're still really young. So I haven't really been able to sort of introduce them to particular methods, but what we've done from the time that they were very young.
So some of these children joined us when we started school eight years ago. So they were two when they joined us. And now they're 10. So the one thing that I'm a big believer of is there's two aspects to learning. One is learning strategies and learning techniques, which is great, which involves metacognition because you first need to realize what you are doing and then take a strategy, which perhaps you haven't used ever. And then try to incorporate that into your learning style.
So that's something that younger children, they're not yet at a level where they can do that. So what we have focused on to a very big degree in the last few years is the environment, what is the environment we're creating for learning.
So we focus very heavily on that. So our biggest focus has been on equipping the classroom environment in a way where it's not only dependent on us, the teachers. Learning is not dependent only on the teachers. Learning is very much driven by the child, so they can just go pick stuff off a shelf, pick books, or pick equipment, pick materials, pick whatever it is that they want.
And in that way, Get into that mode of enjoying learning of, just being curious about something and then saying, Hey, I want to learn about that. And then they go and pick it up. They work with their friends. They might ask for help from the teachers. So that's what I've really focused on the design of the environment.
And now they're obviously growing, so now we can become a bit more intentional about learning strategy, about mindset. And we've started talking to them about that recently, just the whole attitude towards learning. So I don't know if you know, but schools have been online for the entire year . So one thing that we've tried to focus on is, trying to teach them how to utilize the internet in order to learn. That in itself is a very useful skill for children. And now it's pretty amazing when they don't know anything, they know where to go looking for it. So if it's something that involves showing them how to do something, they know YouTube is where they need to go. If it's something about more research based, just finding out facts about something they know, they'll go to Google. So that's super cool.
Yeah. That sounds absolutely great. And I think the internet has a lot of potentials there if used in the right way.
So you already mentioned your CFA exam, but maybe you have another example of when you overcame a learning challenge in your life.
I guess one thing that I struggled with when I started the school was so we, at the preschool level, we are a Montessori, so we utilize the Montessori method.
The Montessori method is very thorough and very specific. It's not the kind of thing where you can just watch a few videos and then go and implement it. You really need to practice it so that it becomes part of your being and then you go and implement it in the classroom.
So one thing that I realized was that because I didn't have a formal education in education. I had to scramble around and do a lot of my reading. Most Montessori teachers, they go do their Montessori diploma and then they join the school. And while they're doing the diploma, they're getting all this practice of how to utilize the equipment, the philosophy, et cetera.
And then when they joined the school, they're ready to go. I didn't have that. And I didn't have access to any quality learning materials, that's a big gap in the market. There's no very good online resource for Montessori. So what I ended up doing was I went and bought every book that Dr. Maria Montessori had written and I read them from cover to cover. This was eight years ago. There wasn't even that much on YouTube at the time. I must have watched every single YouTube video there was, and then I practiced in the classroom and it was really cool because while I was internalizing how to use these methods, I was actively working with the children as well.
So while I was learning, I was practicing getting instant feedback from the children and then reforming my knowledge and what I knew. That was a huge breakthrough for me, which was that yes, learning is fine, but learning and teaching simultaneously is just so powerful. Like you, you can't go wrong with that because when you're doing learning and teaching your brain is working as a learner and then you're also being forced to think like a teacher and then somewhere in between, magic starts happening and you just get this crazy new way of looking at things and just a different perspective. That was like the coolest realization I've had ever since I became an adult.
Yes, definitely. It sounds like you were forced to do the Feynman technique where you teach in order to learn.
Yeah, exactly. And now it's something we do. It's become a part of school culture. So children are always doing that. The teachers are encouraging the children to do that. And it's just super cool to see.
That's so great. So you talked a bit about how the internet can be helpful. In general, what do you think is needed in the future of education to keep benefiting from all the research and all the knowledge that we accumulate about effective learning?
So recently I've been getting very interested in mental models.
And I think as the internet grows there's going to be two key things that we need to be teaching children and maybe even adults for that matter.
The first is how can you stay focused despite the internet? I think that's going to be a massive skill. Just being able to switch distractions or switching off WhatsApp and social media and just getting work done and not letting like pings distract you and all of that.
Everyone talks about it. Everyone realizes the importance of it, but I think, as the internet grows and as our technologies keep evolving, that's going to become a superpower, like just that ability to focus.
And the second is, as you mentioned, like, you know,the amount of knowledge that human beings have is just growing at a rate that is much, much, much faster than what we can keep up with.
The only way to cope with that is, to have some sort of a mental model for whatever you encounter to quickly ascertain well, okay, what's the best way for me to make use of this information. I see it as a two time decision. First is should I focus on this? And if the answer is yes, then you need to have access to something that can help you condense all of that stuff. Make sense of it quickly so that, you know, okay, which rabbit hole do I want to go down now? And you keep doing that like constantly, and the more you do it, the better you'll get at figuring out what you need to do and what you don't need to do.
Yeah. That sounds like two very important things that I hope we will see much more of both online and in the classroom as well. This has been a great chat about effective learning and you're embodying it in the classroom, applying it in practice, which is absolutely great.
So who do you think, should I interview next in this series about super learning professionals?
Good question. I actually have a recommendation. You haven't met him yet, but a super cool guy. So he's actually a parent at our school and he teaches data science, so I'm sure you'll have lots to talk with him.
His name is, so I'll introduce you to him on Twitter and then you can set up a time with him. He's definitely a super learner. He's always just been learning about so many different things, so I'm sure you'll have a fun chat with him.
Thanks. That sounds awesome.
All right. So Ryan, I want to thank you for this interview and I'm sure we'll see much more of each other on the OnDeck fellowship and probably even longer since we are going to cooperate in this super learning professionals course.
Yeah, absolutely. I'm so excited about that. I think it's going to be awesome.
So yeah, if, if you're watching this, please look out for the course that Dom and I are putting together, it will be Epic that we can assure you. And yeah. Dom, thanks so much for having me here. It's been so good talking to you.
Thank you, Ryan.

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