Ed Boyden from MIT’s Media Lab had an interesting post way back in 2007 titled How to Think: Managing brain resources in an age of complexity. He lists 9 great insights that relates to structuring a personal self-managed learning environment. The following is my edited personal version:
- Synthesize new ideas constantly. Never read passively. Annotate, model, think, and synthesize while you read (or receive input).
- Learn how to learn and prototype ideas (rapidly). ?
- Work backward from your goal. Make contingency maps. Find out which things depend on other things. Identify things that are not dependent on anything but have the most dependents, and finish them first.
- Always have a long-term plan, even if you change it every day. Use logarithmic time planning; events that are close at hand are scheduled with finer resolution than events that are far off.
- Make mistakes quickly, then move on. As Shakespeare put it, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
- Develop personal best-practices protocols and make them routine.
- Document everything obsessively and watch carefully for surprise and insight. (Ed’s e.g. Compose conversation summaries on a notepad. At the end of the conversation, digitally photograph the paper and uploaded to a computer for keyword tagging and archiving.)
- Keep or make it simple, even if that is hard work.
It’s #2 where I have the most questions concerning how. But really, everything else relates to #2. I see 3 main thrusts in this list:
- #1 and #5 are about expansive thinking, opening up the possibility of new ideas.
- #3, 4 and 6 – 9 are about achieving focus. Thought is focused by imposing constraints.
- Also important is linking thinking and acting. This is done through #3, 4, 5 and 6.
#7 is also a core thought. Work routines (along with a collaboration platform) are an important part of a personal learning environment infrastructure. It’s some of the ways we can create our own resources.