Optimize What You Learn – 6 Tips & Tricks

6 Tips and Tricks to Optimize Learning Success

Teaching classes is my single biggest passion in life. I’ve been teaching for 20 years. However, I also love being a student.

I've taken a lot of classes over the past 18 years, studying under some of the most talented and creative artists (read their names by clicking here).

I know that I may not be able to practice what I learn right away, so taking good notes is imperative. Especially as I get busier and older, I can’t remember everything!

Plus, I don't often get to actually try that technique out right after learning it (which enforces the learning success), so I need something that will show me how to do it later.

I'm often asked in class about my tools that help me take expert notes. I'm happy to share them with you and share with you my tips for learning the most you can.

6 Tips & Tricks to Learning Success:

1) Research the technique prior to the class.

I spend a bit of time before the class reading the books in my library and watching videos on the technique. This enables me to think of questions I might have that I can ask the instructor about while they are doing that process.

2) Take notice of their hands, tools used, and setup of the technique.

Often the secret to the technique lies in how they are holding their hands, the angle of the flame, the angle of the tool, the set up of the supporting materials, using the right tool, etc. I remind myself to look at that first and make any mental notes so that I can review that later.

3) Bring a camera that does both video and still photos

I have a great Canon PowerShot camera that is small, has a great battery and takes macro shots. You’ll need an 8GB memory card.

When the samples are passed around, prior to class starting, or at a break, I take a moment to photograph, on my white sketchbook paper, the piece from all angles.

This gives me a reference later. I will also take quick measurements, if applicable, of the sample.

Once the demo begins I try to get video of the process (without being distracting to other students…please don’t ruin their experience). This is great for review later or if you missed a step. You can then review the setup, tool angle, etc again.

My camera quickly switches over to video which is great, with zoom in and out.  Make sure it is charged and the memory card has been emptied so you have plenty of room.

4) With lectures try using a recording device.

If you are anything like me, I often get great ideas during the demo or lecture. I find my mind wandering off and I miss important tips.

So I got this Livescribe pen and notebook. The pen has an infrared light that records your writing as you write (see the tiny lines on the notebook). It also records all sounds.

At the end of the day, you hook it up to your computer, which charges it and also downloads it into your files.

When you get ready to review your notes, it actually shows you the written material, in coordination with the playback of the recording. So it’s as if you are there again.

There is also a way to set up a community to share the notes with other classmates (but get permission from your teacher first that you can share with classmates only -not the general public).

I like that it records my sketches, every stroke, with the lecture as well as my words. Very handy for review!

5) Review your notes within 24 hours.

Jack Canfield, motivational speaker, coach and author of over 115 million books sold, says that if you review what you learned within 24 hours, your retention rate is increased 200%.

That’s quite an incentive to spend just a bit of time reviewing what you spent money and time to learn! I’ve been employing this technique and validate that it works!

6) Focus on the technique and not the end product.

I recommend focusing on learning the technique, the material and the process when I take a class. I’ve seen students get so wrapped up in copying the “masters” piece that they lose sight of the techniques they are learning. By breaking down the learning process into a specific techniques within a project, the retained new skills will increase.

These samples then become my notes and reference for future pieces that I make.

I keep these samples of the techniques taught in class in a sleeve, made for coin collections, in a notebook. I include the number and page of the sketchbook that has the notes from that sample by placing a sticker on the back of the sample.  

Trying to make a beautiful perfect piece is pressure and distraction that is often unwarranted and detrimental to learning.

What other techniques do you use to retain information that could be added to these tips and tricks to optimize your learning experiences?


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