How we learn

I vaguely remember being explained the concept of a “two-wheel” and “four-wheel” drive in the past. And if I were to be totally honest, probably had it explained to me more than once even. But it was not until recently that I understood this highly simple concept in a way which will let it stay understood for the rest of my life.

Being a person with little to no interest in automobiles, any information about cars and their functioning is something I would readily ignore. So is the case with all the previous instances of explanation regarding the difference between a two and four wheeled drive. What remained in my memory was only the vague familiarity of the terms. Until recently.

This conversation with my father began while on a drive when a Jeep car passed us by on the road and I randomly questioned as to what made this car so unique and expensive. It would help to quote his exact response here:

Dad: The Jeep is a Four Wheel drive while most other cars running on city roads are Two Wheel drives.

Me: Hmmmm. That sounds familiar. What exactly does that mean?

Dad: Well a four wheel drive is where all four wheels of the vehicle are engine powered. While a two wheel drive only has the front 2 wheels being powered by the engine. The rear wheels are pulled by the front ones through a wheel and axle.

Me: Hey! We had read about the wheel and axle in simple machines in school!

Dad: Yeah. Well that’s what drives our car right now. The Jeep on the other hand is much better for rough terrain roads. A Jeep would never have its back tyres rolling in slush like ours did in our last visit to the ghats in Chikkamagalur.

Though his explanation ended right there, it opened up so many answers, clarifications and inferences in my mind.

For starters, I realized for the first time that despite my lack of interest in this particular subject of study, I wasn’t all that bad at understanding a concept that is explained to me on practical terms.

I was able to link the wheel and axle studied in Class 6 Physics to the very familiar problem of driving on a slushy patch of road. In the process, I would never forget the concept of a two and four wheel ride either. Familiarity therefore enhanced my learning.

The concept discussed was a highly simple one. One which most people would pass off as common sense. But also the one which I had never retained in my mind. A concept is therefore not classified as simple or complex by the way others perceive it. It purely depends on how well we are able to learn it.

Seemingly complex or dis-interesting ideas can become simple and interesting ones based on how we learn it.

By linking concepts to one another, I was able to recall things much better. Trying to retain information in isolation makes it difficult to retrieve at a later time.

Learning can therefore be affected by a multitude of factors. These factors have the power to both complicate as well as simplify the learning process in equal measure. Conscious awareness of this is what enables the mind to learn to its best capacity.


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