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How I am Learning How To Learn

Being a lawyer, constant learning is a basic feature of my job, and I also consider learning a hobby, so I never really stopped learning ever since I have hit school many-many years ago.

I have written here about MOOCs already, and I am also planning to write about the courses I have taken yet, but right now I would like to recommend one particular course, that I am taking on Coursera, which is the best MOOC platform out there currently in my opinion.

Up until recently I only took legal courses, that one way or another relate to my profession. A few weeks ago I spotted this course which was just about to start, titled Learning How To Learn. Since I am constantly seeking methods and techniques to polish my skills to be able to be more creative and learn more effectively, I thought this was just for me. The instructors of the course refer to it as a user’s manual to your brain, offering insights into how your brain works and reacts, and how you can get the best out of it while learning. And I am telling you, although I became pretty familiar with the literature about learning over the years, this one was as useful as it could be. I am more convinced than ever that these things should be taught at school prior to anything else.

This post is actually an assignment I am doing for the course, so special greetings to my “MOOC-mates” who came by to peer grade my work. Hope you’ll like it. :)

For the assignment, I will have to share three of the key course topics with all of you. It is hard to choose but three, I would share the whole course with everybody if I could, but I hope this short teaser will get you interested in Learning How To Learn anyway.

  • The first idea I would like to call your attention to is having a planner/journal/notebook. This is something I have been practicing for a long time now, I have a notebook with me all the time to write things in it.  At work actually my notebook is much of an institution, knowing most about my job it is almost more important part of the team than I am. :) First of all, writing things down makes what you learn more permanent. Not just because you can find it later, but many scientists proved that the motion of handwriting itself activates parts of your brain important in learning, that are not actived while typing. Also, if you have a planner or whatever you call it, writing task lists is another great thing to do. Now I am sort of a time management nerd. The thing is I have an intellectually demanding job that I love so much that sometimes I spend time with it even past working hours, but then I have a passion for learning, and a lot of other things I love to do, and fortunately I also have friends for whom I need time, so 24 hours of one day just never seem enough for me. These written task lists are a great help to organize your day and make your work more efficient. It was emphasized in the course that the best we can do, is to write these daily task lists the night before, and again, handwriting is important. This way your brain will start working even without you knowing it while you are asleep.

  • One of the key techniques for more efficient learning is the Pomodoro technique. Again, time management is crucial for me, and this technique is really helpful in preventing procrastination thus keeping you from wasting your own time. It is called the Pomodoro technique after the old fashioned kitchen timer shaped like a “pomodoro” which is Italian for tomato. So the technique is basically setting the timer for 25 minutes and devote those 25 minutes to focusing solely on whatever you have to learn or do. For 25 minutes then you have to shut down every disturbing factor (social media, e-mail notifications, telephone, etc.), and focus on nothing but your work. Focusing on the process instead of the product is important if you want to avoid procrastinating (which you tend to do when you think you have no time to finish anyway). It is also important to reward yourself after every “Pomodoro” - like I am now going to spend 25 minutes writing this assignment, then allow myself to check my Messenger quickly. The 25 minutes can also vary, it can be 22 minutes or 28 for you, more, or less, however you feel like. You can use this technique whether you have to learn something, do an assignment, write something, or sometimes I even use it when doing different chores.

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  • The third thing I think sounds pretty obvious to a lot of us, but I have never used it consciously before in learning. And what a shame really, I could have done much better if I did! Both the focused and diffuse modes of thinking are important part of the learning process. It means that every now and then after a certain period of focused moded learning we should consciously switch into diffuse mode - like meditate, go for a walk, listen to music, or just go to sleep (which is the ultimate diffuse mode). Our brain continues working and we can get great ideas and solve problems while in diffuse mode. The most important lesson out of all this for me is remembering how I wasted my own time a lot of times concentrating even when I was too tired to learn anything. Should I have known it would have been more useful to just let my mind relax, I would have been much better off at exams too. Our attention was especially called to the importance of sleep, because while sleeping our brain works: cleans out the poisonous non-information and builds in the important material learnt before. I have always known that sleeping well enough before an exam is important, just never imagined how much.

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These were some of my favorite topics, to learn more about learning, check out this great TEDx talk of our professor, Barbara Oakley, where she briefly touches some of the main topics of the course.

She also has a great book about learning called A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra). Now believe me, my mind is for everything in the world, except for numbers, and I still love the book very much. The author herself emphasizes, that the book is for everybody, not just learners of math and science.

Last, I would like to share my favorites from the recommended readings of the course. These are some very good articles, I hope you’ll check them out.

So, this is it about Learning How To Learn in brief. I hope I got you all interested. If it is so, the good news is that they already announced the new session in October! Starting October 3, this four-week course is really worth every effort! It surely can change your perspective about learning and make you more effective in it!

Sunday Smack

Happy Sunday, everybody! This is the first post ever that I am writing on a train, can you tell? Actually, I am pre-writing it on Saturday, and when you are reading it on Sunday, I am on a boat - a Danube cruise trip (still on my mission to catch-up on this rapidly passing summer). Hope your are all having a great time too!

Take a look at what happened this past week, through the lense of my favorite bloggers.

Russia’s convoy to East Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross

This convoy which turned out not to be a trojan horse after all raised a lot of questions not just in Ukraine.

 

Is Israel’s Use of Force in Gaza Covered by the Jus Ad Bellum?

Indeed, is it? Great analysis of the Gaza conflict in light of the provisions of the UN Charter.

 

How Conflict in Ukraine Could Shake Global Food Prices

It could shake European food prices, the Russian embargo already having its impact on Hungarian farmers’ perspectives for the sale of their products. To what degree can the Russian economy bare its effects though, is yet another question.

Spies Like Us: Germany Spies on Allies, Too

Well, the thing is, every country with even the minimum level of intelligence does it. And I am also sure that they all know it about each-other too – that’s the whole point of spying after all… They probably expect each-other to do it well enough to be kept secret, though.

theweekmagazine:

How a Palestinian turned airstrikes into art

A young artist chooses to see hope amid the ongoing crisis between Gaza and Israel

statedept:

Today, August 19, is World Humanitarian Day. Last year alone, 155 aid workers were killed, 134 were kidnapped and over 170 were seriously wounded. World Humanitarian Day commemorates the aid workers who have lost their lives helping others in need – and recognizes the commitment to the life-saving work humanitarians carry out around the world every day.

World Humanitarian Day is a time to recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others. The day was designated by the General Assembly to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq.
                        
Click the logo to become a Messenger of Humanity because the world needs more Humanitarian Heroes.

statedept:

Today, August 19, is World Humanitarian Day. Last year alone, 155 aid workers were killed, 134 were kidnapped and over 170 were seriously wounded. World Humanitarian Day commemorates the aid workers who have lost their lives helping others in need – and recognizes the commitment to the life-saving work humanitarians carry out around the world every day.

World Humanitarian Day is a time to recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others. The day was designated by the General Assembly to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq.

                        World Humanitarian Day logo

Click the logo to become a Messenger of Humanity because the world needs more Humanitarian Heroes.

500 days left to reach the Millenium Development Goals

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Action now will save lives, build a solid foundation for sustainable development far beyond 2015 and help lay the groundwork for lasting peace and human dignity.

We have 500 days to accelerate MDG action.  Let’s make every day count.

/Secretary General Ban Ki-moon/


 

There is only 500 days left to reach the Millenium Development Goals. 500 Days of Action, that is. 

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations celebrated the momentum along with 500 young people including Malala Yousafzai.


 

Check the link clicking the picture to learn more about the MDGs, what’s left for these 500 days of action, and what the Secretary General and Malala had to say about it.

Sunday Smack

Hey Everybody!

Hope all your weekends are going fine and you can take a few minutes to check out this week’s posts.

With Maliki Gone, Can Iraq’s New Prime Minister Put His Country Back Together?

That we’re going to have to wait and see.

What You Need to Know about the UN Human Rights Council’s Gaza Investigation

Sadly, it is probably true that the investigation will be no use in improving the situation. I have to insert one of my favorite quotes from Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy here. He writes that fact-finding missions are “the standard device for diplomats signaling that inaction is the desired outcome”, as "such commissions take time to assemble, to undertake studies, and to reach a consensus - by which point, with luck, the problem might even have gone away". Now, no-one in their right minds would think that this problem is to go away anytime soon, but any success the commission would be able to bring about is highly questionable. Also, on a side note here, let me just say how unfair I found that Amal Alamuddin has been forced out of her position in the commission. Well, of course I have no way to know, probably she really is too busy and/or has other valid reasons not to take on this role. But: she is a well known international lawyer with all the needed competencies, and accusing her of only being appointed for bringing the fame of her husband-to-be is plain malignity.

UN’s Schabas digs deeper hole, won’t say if he’ll investigate Hamas or if it’s a terror group

Well, I don’t usually share these kinds of comments here, but speaking of incompetency… you should take a look at this one. 

Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Nirvana Fallacy

Critics may be right in many ways, but I firmly believe that there are no what ifs in history. There is no way telling what would happen if another decision have been made, we will just never know. If we did, there would be no bad decisions ever, right?

August 12 is International Youth Day

migrant worker

The theme of International Youth Day 2014 is “Youth and Mental Health”.

  The mental health of young women and men is important for the health of society as a whole.     

Irina Bokova
UNESCO Director-General
International Youth Day 2014

The 2014 observance of International Youth Day will raise awareness on this important topic, as well as highlight the experiences of brave, young individuals who have chosen to speak out about these issues with the objective of overcoming stigma and discrimination to ensure that young people with mental health conditions can lead full and healthy lives free from isolation and unnecessary shame, and openly seek the services and support they need.

Click to learn more.

Sunday Smack

Happy Sunday, everybody!

This is a pre-scheduled post from Friday, so I hope nothing has happened during the weekend that could make it inappropriate.

While you are reading I am probably somewhere out there trying to catch up with this summer I almost missed altogether.

We are having an incredibly boring down time in my workplace recently (usual August in the public sector I guess), I am constantly joking that if I did not have all  these writing and learning to do, I would probably have started looking for a new job already.

But seriously. Summer is my favorite season, but I can’t wait for things to shake up a bit.

How about you all?

Why of course there is no down time in world affairs, that’s for sure. There are plenty of things going on for world affairs bloggers to post about as you can see below.

The Case Against the Prosecution

Chances are ever greater that Palestine will join the Rome Statute and thus create ground for the ICC to prosecute in cases emerged in the Gaza conflict. How will Israel and a more important global player, the USA like that is another question.

The Unusual but Dangerous Connection Between Gaza and Ebola

Sounds surprising at first, but think about it for a moment. 

With crises in Ukraine, Iraq and Gaza still raging, why should Europeans care about Libya?

I picked this one to share for the same reason that the title suggests. Amongst all the important issues there are things that just can’t make it to global news cycles, but perhaps they are equally serious.

Towards a New Global Treaty on Crimes Against Humanity

Unfortunately the nature of wars and the weapons (not just physical but theoretical) used are evolving so rapidly that no doubt a new treaty is needed.

Since 1995, August 9 is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Who are they? There is no concurrent definition of the term, but indigenous peoples are ethnic groups practicing unique traditions, retaining social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Check out this great UN fact sheet for more.

This year’s theme is “Bridging the gap: implementing the rights of indigenous peoples”.

The theme aims to highlight the importance of implementing the rights of indigenous peoples through policies and programmes at both the national and international level working together towards this common goal with Governments, the United Nations system, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders.

Click the link in the title the learn more.

newyorker:

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John Cassidy examines President Obama’s decision to launch targeted airstrikes in Iraq: http://nyr.kr/1r05ZVT

“Once the U.S. bombing starts, when will it stop? That is one of the many tough questions that Obama and his colleagues will have to answer. Are the sole goals of the mission to…

huffpostworld:

If it looks like a war crime and feels like a war crime, is it a war crime?
Sunday Smack

#happy #August

Happy August, everybody! I can’t help repeating myself, but how can it be August already? It means 2/3 of this summer went by almost unnoticed by me. I need to speed up on doing all my favorite summer things before it’s really over.

By the way, may I now call your attention to an interesting quotation from Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices? On one of the first pages she cites advices she received from former US Secretaries of State when she got appointed. One of those is from Warren Christopher: "Don’t plan vacations in August because something always seems to happen that month".

With that, I’ll leave you to this weeks’s posts on current issues.

Joint declaration on Israel’s Gaza offensive by international law scholars

Prestigious international law scholars penned and released this declaration to protest against this new wave of war in the Gaza strip.

With Confirmation of Captured Israeli Soldier’s Death Hope of a Cease-fire Fades

Cease fire for a longer term or a peace agreement are nowhere in sight yet, and even these truce agreements often prove to be pointless. The last one did not last but a few hours.

US-Africa Leaders Summit: What to Expect

This is unquestionably a huge event with important topics on the table from security to economic ties. One serious issue that is missing from the list though is health, most importantly the current ebola epidemic that’s even holding some African leaders back from attending the summit.

In a speech on Saturday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary said his country was done with liberal democracy. Mr. Orban cited Russia, Turkey and China as “successful” examples of the kind of “illiberal new state based on national foundations” that he wants Hungary to be.

The same old problem might require new approaches to be solved for once. Yet again, the UN and its Security Council face the same old challenges to solve it. Why would something work this time that failed countless times before?

Sunday Smack

Happy last weekend of July, people!

Can you believe it is almost August already? I sure can’t.

It is still these two sad stories that set the agenda of world news. There were quite a few great blog posts about them this week.

Hamas and Israel: why a paradigm shift is needed

It indeed seems like the same script is being played out again and again. Something really does need to change if we want a different ending for once.

This is Not the First Time an UNWRA School Has Been Attacked

UNWRA is the number one NGO on the field there to provide humanitarian aid and assistance, now says it communicated the coordinates of the school to Israel, so this sort of thing would not happen.

NGO urges UN to condemn ‘global epidemic’ of anti-Semitic incidents

How sad that people who has nothing to do with the whole thing and just want to live in peace as any one of us are blamed and attacked for this war.

Dutch Push for International Protection Force to Secure Flight  MH17 Crash Scene

The investigation probably has already been tampered with, and there is nothing to do about it. Those responsible for the abusing of human remains and their belongings should be held accountable.

The Downing of MH17 and the Potential Involvement of International Courts

Indeed it is very likely that the case will end up in one of the international courts. The question is which one.