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How To Get Students Addicted To Learning  

Umah Muhammed
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When Mark Myers boasted that you would remember 400% more of computer programming concepts if you read his books, it wasn’t an empty tat. He has thousands of five-star reviews of his books on Amazon. I have read them and retained even the most challenging concepts I had problems with in the past.

Here is what one reviewer on Amazon said about Myers’s book, A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript: ”Mark Myers’ method of getting what can be…difficult information into a format that makes it exponentially easier to consume, truly understand, and synthesize into a real-world application is beyond anything I’ve encountered before.”

“I’ve signed up to a few sites like Udemy, Codecademy, FreeCodeCamp, Lynda, YouTube videos, even searched on Coursera but nothing seemed to work for me. This book takes only 10 minutes each chapter and after that, you can exercise what you’ve just learned right away!”

That is not all. All his books enjoy these accolades. Here is a review of his book on Python:

”I recently purchased ’A Smarter Way to Learn Python’ and I am just flying through it. I got it a few hours ago and I’m already approaching chapter 20. It’s like with each book release the writing gets better, the examples more enjoyable–surprising because his first books are already amazing and well written, the coding exercises encouraging, fun, and progressive–and with the exercises relating to Mark’s newest release, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself to a point where I don’t want to stop learning and practising. I wish all books dealing with a learned skill were like this. His Python book is just amazing, it keeps true to his “read a little, practice more” type of learning which gets the information to stay with you. I already can’t wait for his next book, I wonder what it will be.”

Now I want you to note two things from this review. First, the reader said, “I’m thoroughly enjoying myself to a point where I don’t want to stop learning and practising.” That is a symptom of addiction right there, and any self-respecting teacher would want to hear this from her students.

Two, the reader wrote, “I already can’t wait for his next book, I wonder what it will be.” Now, this is the dream of all writers: having a legion of readers waiting for your next book. How do we write or teach in such an engaging way to keep students salivating before the next class? Continue reading.

But the first step is to recognize that we have a lot to unpack from Mark Myers Way. Like a parent grooming a securely attached baby, he gives his students the secure base needed to explore the world and use the foundation and confidence built to go beyond what Myers teaches. Here’s what one reader said about using Myers’s platform to build his expertise:

“Just to sum up my story, around the summer of 2015, I was a total newbie at web development, struggling with HTML. I didn’t know how to conjure up a simple website at all. Didn’t quite know how to properly use CSS either. I purchased his HTML & CSS book and quickly got sucked into it, soon after, I got his JavaScript book. I’ve completed both of those and most of his jQuery one. I have found online learning sources as well and now I can develop using HTML, CSS, Sass, Bootstrap, JavaScript, TypeScript, jQuery, Angular, NodeJS, PHP, SQL, and I have learned how to apply Git to my projects as well…But it all started with Mark Myers first book.”

How does Mark Myers do it?

The answer lies in two words, one concept and the best learning technique ever invented: retrieval practice. He presents information in three steps: one, simply explain concepts; two, challenge students to force a recall and finally, give them feedback.

In other words, he simplifies coding concepts by providing very short chapters (some chapters are only two pages long) and then nudges the reader into retrieval practice by providing a link for online practice. While doing the online practice, the student receives immediate feedback such as ”well done!” This encourages the student to continue.

Here is what he said himself. In the introduction to his Python book, he wrote:

”If you embrace this method of learning, you’ll get the hang of Python in less time than you might expect. And the knowledge will stick. You’ll catch onto concepts quickly. You’ll be less bored, and might even be excited. You’ll certainly be motivated. You’ll feel confident instead of frustrated. You’ll remember the lessons long after you close the book.

Is all this too much for a book to promise? Yes, it is. Yet I can make these

promises and keep them because this isn’t just a book. It’s a book plus almost a thousand interactive online exercises. You’re going to learn by doing. You’ll read a chapter, then practice with the exercises. That way, the knowledge gets embedded in your memory so you don’t forget it. Instant feedback corrects your mistakes like a one-on-one teacher.

I’ve done my best to write each chapter so it’s easy for anyone to understand, but it’s the exercises that are going to turn you into a real Python coder.”

Is Myers method based on any research?

”Cognitive research shows that reading alone doesn’t buy you much long- term retention, ” Mark Myers continued.

”Even if you read a book a second or even a third time, things won’t improve much, according to research.

And forget highlighting or underlining. Marking up a book gives us the illusion that we’re engaging with the material, but studies show that it’s an exercise in self-deception. It doesn’t matter how much yellow you paint on the pages, or how many times you review the highlighted material. By the time you get to Chapter 50, you’ll have forgotten most of what you highlighted in Chapter 1.  This all changes if you read less and do more—if you read a short passage and then immediately put it into practice. Washington University researchers say that being asked to retrieve information increases long-term retention by four hundred per cent. That may seem implausible, but by the time you finish this book, I think you’ll believe it. Practice also makes learning more interesting.  Trying to absorb long passages of technical material puts you to sleep and kills your motivation. Ten minutes of reading followed by fifteen minutes of challenging practice keeps you awake and spurs you on.

And it keeps you honest.”

Indeed some authors have used the method in combination with technology to make learning fun and get learners addicted to studying. But Mark Myers takes his to the next level.

But even absent of technology, this is a great technique to employ in writing textbooks. The Self-Teaching Guide set of textbooks has employed it to a great effect. For example, you would discover physics can be fun if you read ”Basic Physics: A Self-Teaching Guide” by Carl F. Kuhn where the author provides brief lessons then followed them with quizzes.

Wouldn’t it be a great achievement for mankind if we can fashion a way to get our students hooked to learning the way they do football, computer games and TV? That would be a great day indeed, but that may already be here. We just need to pay attention and use retrieval practice in more creative ways.

This is a chapter from Dr. Ibraheem Dooba’s new book, ”The Secret of Straight-A Students: Have Fun, Study Less, Remember 400% More and be Better than Your Professors.”

Source:Daily Trust Newspaper

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