Start Learning like a Genius
Written by Oklahoma DaVinci scholar, Director of Launch Academy, and University Guest Speaker
Ever notice how that “one kid” always seems to do well on tests without studying, yet you worked your gluteus to the maximus to get your B?
Well, the rocket scientists at Launch Academy found that “one kid,” made him spill his secrets, and then put them all here in this concise blog.
IT’S CALLED HOLISTIC LEARNING.
Now, bear in mind, if you google this, you’ll come up with some weird stuff about “being one with nature” and phrases like that. What we are talking about is looking at the big picture in relation to your learning. If you’d like to read an in-depth review about it, check out Scott Young’s concise eBook about it or keep on reading if you want to learn the 3 main essentials of the theory. (and for all the professionals reading, I’ve attached references to scholarly research backing these techniques)
Holistic learning is the opposite of memorizing. 
Memorization feeds on the foundation that “the more we do something, the better we get at doing it.” This is true, but mainly for mechanical purposes – you simply push a series of buttons and out pops your answer like magic. This is a very neat, compartmentalized method of learning but there’s a bit of a problem with that – your brain is not neat and compartmentalized. While yes, there are certain areas that more or less govern a part of the body, everybody’s brain is different. The brain is a web of connections (neurons and synapses, if you’re a science guy/girl) and the brain understands things through these interwoven relations or connections. This neural superhighway of connections to concepts, in turn, help you achieve the ultimate goal of your learning, which is…
When learning anything, your goal is to learn “why something works” not “how something works.” 
In Scott’s ebook, he uses the analogy of building a house. If you were given a pile of bricks, it would simply be a pile of unsightly bricks. Place those bricks on top of each other, and you have a house. Now, if I took a brick away from the pile, would you be able to tell where I took that brick from? Yes, maybe for 10 or 20 bricks, but probably not for a pile over a hundred. If a took a single brick away from the house though, you’d immediately spot where the space was. Just like a constructed house doesn’t need all it’s bricks to stand, if you organize the concepts you learn into a “construct” or “model” to work from, you can figure out the holes you don’t know much more easily. In math, these constructs and models are often times made available to use through real-world applications. If you want to see what an entire school would look like based on constructed applications, check out Hi-Tech High in California. This “why-learning” is only possible when there is a model or construct present to base your learning around. Once you do this, then…
You learn the “why”by making a web of connections. 
These rich connections are formed through three steps – visceralization, metaphors, and exploration.
Visceralization is like “visualization” except you create experiences around your learning through not only images, but also sounds, textures, and emotions. In my own personal time as a college student, I remember countless times when my friends and I would create ridiculous stories to remember difficult math concepts. Was it the stories that created the learning or the experience of creating those stories? Perhaps a little of both. You can create your own stories or visceralizations too. What would a polynomial look like as a person? Would they have a personality? What would DNA sound like if it was a rock band? Ridiculous?Absolutely. But it’s a model and doesn’t need to be perfect. That’s the beauty of it.
Metaphors is a literary term for relating two things that aren’t necessarily related – “It was raining cats and dogs outside.” Metaphors are used to relate abstract concepts we may be unfamiliar with to settings or experiences we are familiar with. It is much easier to change an existing blueprint than to reconstruct a whole new one. A way to create metaphors is to simply ask “This reminds me of…” and then write a list of possible ideas. As you develop more and more metaphors, you begin to see connections between concepts and grow an even richer connection of your constructs and models.
Exploration is essentially validating the models you have created for your learning. This can easily be done by simply trying a few homework problems or going over the notes from class and seeing if they make more sense. If you find yourself having to do several problems to understand it, chances are that you can probably polish up some of your metaphors and connections. Learning is a process and, like any process, we get more efficient at it with practice.
This method works for highly conceptual, systematic subjects (like math or computer science), but not for random information (like history) or skills (like sports). While Launch Academy already incorporates these research-based techniques in its tutoring program,I’m sure you would find it helpful to try these out on your own.
Remember, work smarter AND harder! If you do those two things, you’ll rise to the top of your learning.