The Active Learning Principle; “Talk the Material” and my Channel 2 TV clip


In my last channel 2 show we talked about a few ideas that are in contrast with conventional thinking. The most interesting of which is the ability to learn any material – in business, at university, in school – fast and in depth. This is the first of a series of posts about fast and significant learning. Please ask, comment on this post below or on my facebook page. The root of learning lies in the ability to structure knowledge, to organize and connect it with other things. This way we can remember quickly and without effort. My kids wonder how I remember material from high school. Well, the secret is not to “remember” to structure it right, after it is talked about and properly connected.


Quick and significant learning is my most powerful tool in

creative thinking and new product development. I have to find my way around with various technologies, markets, and especially human aspects. Harnessing and finding allies in organizations that can promote innovative ideas to fruition.


Let’s get back for a moment to school or university – a good student is considered static, sits down, listens, absorbs material and writes it all back in the final exam. What a fundamental misunderstanding of the active learning principle, and of the need to “speak out the material” for full understanding.


So How it is done?


The best thing is to ask the student to “talk the material out”. At the end of each workshop I ask each one of the participants to say what they took out of it in their own words. It doesn’t matter if they all keep repeating each other, or the same motive. What matters is what they said is burned in them – they’ll remember it! The only thing I care about is that they speak it out simply and clearly, that tells me that its theirs already. In order to “talk the material” with kids we need to be proficient in talking material out. Only those who are well versed with active learning can run this type of talk.


See my Channel 2 TV clip that was broadcasted just recently. Watch it, let’s practice fast learning with it. Now when you watch please move from a passive “TV watch” state of mind who lay back on the couch to an active state of mind. When you’re passive it’ll all be erased from your memory in 10 minutes… Now take the two stories – the one about the ox thrown over the wall and the second about JVC who chose to give all of their technology free of charge.


While listening (or reading the captions) – please make it clear to yourself what is the main point here. Especially try to make a connection, to find similarities between the two stories – the medieval and siege and the business competition of the 20th century over the first home video. Did the correlation you’ve found aligns with the third story about the slogan “Not a Word about Technology”?


Fast and in depth learning


“Speaking material out” is a good technique as well as a criterion that you really got it. Speaking is the fastest and most accessible format. One who can talk something out surely understands it fast, and one whose talk is precise and focused got it in depth. Since speaking is so straightforward for everybody it is a great indication for progress. If you are stuck, stutter, or rely on your teacher’s words – you’re not there 🙂


Job Interviews and finding experts for innovation projects 

In professional job interviews the ability to talk about stuff, presenting it simply and clearly is the criterion for being a professional. If you are interviewed – Talk simply about technological developments or important deals you’ve made. If you are interviewing – clarity of thought is inflected in clarity of talk and it’s the right thing to check .


In innovation projects the organization is exposed to external experts and knowledge. Usually there is some knowledge or expertise missing within the company, hence they can not see the full picture and it’s hard to innovate this way. Choosing experts is made by talking about their expertise. Talking clearly and simply about complex developments they have done. Those who can talk clearly can leverage the organization knowledge quicker, and this criterion makes it easy for me to choose my innovation partners.


What can be done tomorrow with your kids?


In any subject learned. Regardless of class and age. Look at their material for a few minutes – preferably directly from their textbook, or from a summary written by the teacher, and not their own summaries, because it might be that they missed a point or misunderstood it.

Gently and sensitively, in good atmosphere ask them to speak the material out. Let them talk the main point. In humanities it makes more sense – for instance in history and literature there are narratives which are easily spoken.


But it’s the same in science and math – when they study two equations with two unknowns – ask them to talk about how they solve it – in words. Without a paper and a pen. No formulas. Only intuition, insight talk. The issue of no  formulas is critical. Even if there is a formula or an equation – let them write it from top of their head (Not copied from their book). For example, in physics, if they want to study Newton’s second law F = M * A; explain it in simple terms. Saying that the force (F) is equal to the product of the mass (M) and the acceleration (A) is true but worthless in terms of in depth learning. Saying that Force is the source of acceleration, and that the larger the mass (M) is, the more Force it takes to accelerates a body – is profound understanding of this formula.


It’s OK to start with the textbook, but profound learning will be evident in speech. A game, a puzzle or any activity can do as well. But let’s start from basics – from speech.


Summary – yes or no?


A summary is a great learning tool if it’s your own, when knowledge is structured. Once a summary is an abbreviated copy of an article written by the teacher or downloaded from the internet it has very little value. It’s not fast and not significant and will not be remembered over time. I plan to dedicate a post on how to write a good summary.

Gideon Gilda