Genius is simplicity!

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photo credits to http://lifehacker.com/the-feynman-technique-helps-you-study-faster-and-retain-1790501936

 

Procrastination is not the only obstacle students face while their studies. You can be not ready for your classes even if you spent the whole night reading what you were given. Nobody deserves to be in stuck after reading comprehensive information. However, this happens frequently. “If you cannot explain it simply, then you do not understand it well enough” or in other words “If you cannot explain it to a six-year-old, you do not understand it yourself” is the claim of Albert Einstein who was awarded the Noble Prize in physics. Whereas another physicist Richard Feynman who is also the Noble Prize winner proclaims a way (method) to do so. Feynman Technique is a very simple but very effective method that you can use while learning something new, trying to remember a theme, or preparing for exams.

There are two types of information (knowledge) and we often focus on the wrong type of information. The first type of knowledge is based on knowing the name of something, the second type of knowledge is based on knowing that thing. Of course, they are not the same things. One of the greatest factors behind the success of Richard Feynman in understanding the difference between knowing something and knowing the name of something. Feynman tells this distinction in this striking anecdote:

Can you see that bird? It is a brown-throated thrush bird which is called “halzenfugel” in Germany and “chung ling” in China, even if you know all the names given to it, you still do not know anything about this bird. The only thing you have learned is about people, how they call it. Now, this bird is singing, teaching her cubs to fly, and flying from the one end of the country to another for miles, and nobody knows how it finds its way.

As you can see here, knowing the name of a thing does not mean that you understand it. Do you really understand an idea or you know the definition of this idea, there is a way to test it. It is called Feynman Technique.

The Feynman Technique can be considered,

  1. To understand the issues/ideas you really do not understand
  2.  To remember the issues/ideas you understood but forget during exams
  3.  You can use it as an effective method of study before the exam. By using this method, you will be able to grasp deeply in a theme in a short period of time so that an idea will not be out of your mind for many years.

Let’s take a look at Feynman Technique now:

Step 1: Identify the Concept
Get a sheet of paper. Write the title of the topic you want to learn on the top of the paper.

Step 2: Explain it (to yourself in front of the mirror) as to someone who does not know the subject
Write down what you learned by avoiding using as many complicated expressions as possible to tell someone who is unfamiliar with the topic of the paper. If you use a language that is simple enough for a child to understand, it will also make you force yourself to understand at a deeper level and simplify the connections and relations within a topic. It will be much more effective to pronounce what you write concurrently.

Step 3: If you become struggled at any point, go back to your sources
When you find out that there are places you do not remember or are difficult to understand in step 2, go back to the resources you were working on. Read and study again until you are able to transfer what you learn to paper. Say, you have written about biology, and you have difficulty explaining evolution process in simple words. Open your biology book and re-read the part about evolution. Now close the book and write on a new blank sheet what you have learned about evolution. If you keep this stage running smoothly, you can keep working with your actual working paper.

Step 4: Simplify and Establish Similarities
Now we can look through the paper. Einstein’s “If you cannot explain it to a six-year-old, then you do not understand it yourself,” provokes simplifying your language and building similarities which will make it easier to understand instead of using a complicated jargon and making confusing explanations. Optionally: Find a six-year-old (or a person who has the intelligence like a six-year-old) and try to explain to them what you have learned. If it works then you have understood the topic.

This wonderful method not only makes it easier to learn and remember, it also allows us to rebuild ideas from the ground up by opening windows to different ways of thinking. It makes easier to understand ideas and topics more deeply. It is important that they approach the problems in such a way that we can understand what is the topic about.

References:

Damar, E.(2016, November 15) Öğrenmeyi ve Hatırlamayı Kolaylaştıran Yöntem: Feynman Tekniği [The best way to learn anything: The Feynman technique]. Retrieved from http://www.garajimdakiejder.com/2016/12/ogrenmeyi-ve-hatirlamayi-kolaylastiran.html

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6 thoughts on “Genius is simplicity!

  1. Super post, Uaxi! (5/5) I am impressed with the level of development in this piece, as well as the way you effectively guide your reader through your discussion of the ideas.

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  2. Thank you for your great post! I have never heard about Feynman technique. But i would say that it is really an effective method of learning. I used to read and reread texts. I like the idea of going back to the source and to transfer the new material on a paper. It will not only enhance reading skills but also writing skills. I will try to use it in practice… Do you use this technique?

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  3. I find the blog really useful for learners, thank you for sharing such a wonderful method of learning. I definitely agree many people tend to remember only the names, so called important terms, rather than undertand their meaning. Thus, this method is likely to deserve to be promoted in the education system. I suppose if someone uses this method in order to understand particular concept or theme he/she will probably remember the information for a long period of time. So, it may lead to gaining qualitative knowledge. However, here I am wondering if the method is beneficial to remember detailed facts (eg. years in the history).

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  4. Thank you for raising this topic! I remember from the very fall semester how our instructors told us to be simple and precise in our ideas. This could hep our readers and listeners follow the main ideas easily. Also, being at the poster presentations today, I listened to diverse speeches, everyone had different styles of presenting their thoughts. However, what I noticed is that I was amazed by the speeches where the language was simple. I remember the information from these presentations comparing to others. This technique is great to adapt in order to move the knowledge that we get into the long-term memory package.

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  5. Dear Uaxi, thanks for sharing the beneficial technique for learning a new thing for the sake of ‘knowing the thing’ rather than ‘knowing the name’! I agree with Ayana that, during the poster presentation, the most interesting illustrations were those who explained and described in very simple words and expressions. We were very engaed in knowing the unusual features and stories about various ethnic people in other parts of the world. Rrecently, I personally have shifted from memorizing ‘sophistticated and comvoluted expressions’ to articulate in my own words even the later one makes me look not so ‘professional’. However, it turns to be that more simple and clear explanation needs more deeper knowing and understanding since we jettison the ‘memorizing’ the prepared sentences and try to make our own explanations and expressions; although this requires more wokd and research, the result merits the efforts and lasts for life-long.

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