Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mini review of "Brain Rules" by John Medina

I am not sure how I came across the book "Brain Rules" by John Medina, but I had put it on my Christmas wish list and got it as a gift. My hopes before starting reading it was that I was going to pick up a few tips and be inspired to change my ways of doing things in a more brain friendly way.

The book chapters are sectioned in what Medina calles "brain rules" or principles of how the brain is working. The chapter titles are exercise, survival, wiring, attention, short-term memory, long-term memory, sleep, stress, sensory integration, vision, gender and exploration. The actual brain rules for each topic can be found on medinas site: http://www.brainrules.net/. The videos on the site are quite good for catching the essence of each rule too and for repetition as well.

Each chapter usually uses plenty of examples of how the brain is working, usually experienced by the author himself. The examples are coupled to brain research and brain anathomy in a humorous way. At the end of each chapter Medina has a few ideas on how the brain rules can be put to practical use.

Many chapters are quite captivating and I found myself fascinated on how complex the brain actually is. The most important points I picked from the book are:

  • Learning is better done while exercising. Try to combine the two if possible.
  • Create strong pictures when you really want to remember things.
  • Teach and learn in periods of about 10 minutes at a time. The brain loses attention and gets bored after this time.
  • Recreate the environment of where you learned something when you want to recollect it.
  • Understand every word in a sentence that you want to understand.
  • In a presentation: Catch the audience's attention at an early moment.
  • Use plenty of examples when you want to explain something.
  • Multitasking is a waste of time.
  • Learn by doing. The brain is an expert at adapting to new tasks.
  • The best way of really learning something: Repeat every 10 minutes for three times and then repeat the most important things every 3-4 days.
  • Get sufficient sleep.
  • Avoid long term stress. Ask the question "am I in control?" if you are not sure if you are stressed.
  • Strengthen learning by using many senses at a time.
  • Your learn much by watching pictures in combination with relevant text, but more with narration and videos.
  • Reduce the amount of text in powerpoints - The brain is lazy and avoids reading text.
  • Vision is the most powerful sense and actually uses half of the brain's processing power.
  • Women capture the emotional details while men see the gist when experiencing acute stress.
So was the book worth reading? I think it was ok reading the book, but I think Medina got a little to detailed for my taste. I never wanted to be a brain scientist. I got what I wanted in the end: some great techniques for improving learning backed up with science. I will put it to practise - no doubt about it.