3 Tips for Turning Passive Learning into Active Learning in Tech

woman actively learning by taking notes on a notepad

Developing tech skills like coding or web development is immersive, project-based training that also requires active learning. It takes hands-on experience, practice, trial and error, and active (rather than passive) learning while listening to lectures, watching videos, and reading lessons.

Passive learning, for example, is low-effort listening or skimming text in which you’re not fully processing information or giving it your full attention. Active learning is fully engaging in the information so that you can learn, understand, absorb, retain, and recall it, while thinking critically and analyzing. Check out these 3 tips on how to achieve active learning provided by Kenzie Academy’s Academic Team:

Take notes

Are you reading an article or lesson? Take notes. Are you watching a video or livestream? Take notes. During live teaching, note-taking is far more helpful than coding along — do that, but do it later.

  • Rule #1: Write your notes in your own words. This dramatically improves “encoding,” which is a core part of the learning process recognized in Learning Science.
  • Rule #2: For every new concept, always include (1) related ideas and (2) the big picture. This way of thinking helps your brain decide where to store the new learning by connecting it to existing concepts that are already in your brain. Making connections between ideas is more important than being precise. Write down every metaphor that comes to your mind. Write down your gut reactions and intuitions. And write down how this new concept fits into the big picture. Answer questions like: What is this for? Why is this useful? How does this connect with the rest of what I’m learning? If this didn’t exist, how would things be different?

Practice the Feynman Technique

The Feynman Technique is based on one simple idea: If you can’t explain something, you probably don’t understand it well. The Feynman Technique turns this idea into a strategy that we can use to improve our understanding:

  1. Pick the concept, process, or skill you want to learn.
  2. Imagine an entire conversation with a 12-year-old who wants to learn the concept too. Your job is to try to explain the concept, process, or skill in a simple way. Imagine every question, confusion, and criticism. Find creative ways to approach the idea.
  3. If you’re brand-new to a concept, process, or skill, another tactic is to use Google to search for frequently asked questions about the concept and try to answer those on your own.
  4. Reflect, prepare, and repeat. How did it go? Which areas of your explanation were the weakest? Did you discover any gaps in your understanding? Do you need to find a better metaphor or a better way to phrase something? Research your weaknesses and gaps. Then come back and try it again. When you can explain the concept well and in depth, you can be confident of your understanding.

This technique is powerful because it:

  • Improves your understanding and skills even when you can’t use a computer or your phone. As long as your brain is free to think, you can practice this learning efficiency strategy.
  • Provides a way to measure your understanding of a concept.
  • Gives you a way to detect gaps in your understanding.
  • Improves your understanding and memory actively.
  • Builds your ability to talk about tech, which is extremely important for job interviews, communicating well on a team, and working with non-technical business people.

Turn reading into multisensory experiences

Reading is valuable and necessary, especially in tech. But it isn’t always easy. Here are 2 tips that can help you focus on the task of reading and get through that lesson you need to read.

  1. Use a text-to-speech reader to read text aloud while you follow along with your eyes. You are not only using your sense of vision, but you are also using your sense of hearing. Install a text-to-speech reader extension in your browser. You may want to experiment with different voices to find one that works best for you.
  2. If you’re in an environment where you can be loud, read the text verbally to make the experience more interactive. Doing this helps your brain engage more in the task. Get animated! Try different voices and have fun with it. Remember: Think about the words, add your own metaphors and questions, and pause often to take notes.

These active learning tips can help you take your learning experiences to the next level, so you’re fully comprehending the material and developing your skills as a Kenzie learner. Also make sure to reach out to your Instructional Team if you have any questions or would like more guidance on how to maximize your learning!

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