Meet Ocho – The OctoLearner

Say hello to OchoThe Octo-learner. Today’s article is dedicated to Ocho, an octopus learning how to paint. For this article, we will assume that Ocho is a female, in her 20s and struggling with her learning goals. 

To begin with, let’s look at a typical day Ocho spends learning how to paint:

  • Ocho stares at her painting canvas in the morning for 20 minutes before her instructor starts the Ooom class. She is checking her learning dashboard for any assignments or reading materials before the class. 
  • After the instructor begin the class, Ocho is engaged in painting a portrait of a vase. Ten minutes into the class, she gets a notification for her math class assignment. Her painting class ends with an assignment – Paint your favorite object. 
  • Without taking a break, Ocho is hoping to get done with her assignment for the next day.
  • She doesn’t know what to paint and steps away from the canvas to spend time with her family.
  • It’s almost midnight and Ocho has not completed her assignment yet. She panics and emails her instructor for a one-day extension. 

We are all Ocho – the octo-learner, trying to learn without understanding how to learn.

In this blog, we will dive into why Ocho was struggling and what would help her paint better. 

Back to Ocho, there are three factors that led to her struggle:

1. Readiness

Confidence in learning builds momentum. Ocho’s last-minute checks for assignments and reading materials keep her learning momentum in low gear. What does that mean? She is only doing what is expected of her, in the last few moments. Her lack of readiness is reducing her ability to be better prepared for learning. 

2. Distractions

Multitasking in learning is like using both your hands to write different emails on two laptops. It leads to complications and distractions, also grammatical errors and frustration. Ocho’s notifications put her on high alert for multiple sources of information, diluting her focus. Her attention is fragmented leading to exhaustion. 

3. Relaxation

The best ideas and solutions arise after spouts of relaxation and free time. Ocho’s confidence that she can get the assignment done right after class is ignoring the brain’s need for space and time to absorb the previous information. 

Ocho resembles our attention span drifting towards eight directions. How can Ocho take a step back and manage her learning better:

1. Learning needs a context fix and not a context switch

Any context switch during learning breaks the process and requires the brain to take multiple steps to return to the original context. 

2. Unlearning the need for urgency

Urgency without intent has side effects. Ocho’s urgency to finish the assignment is similar to our need to finish courses for certification. Learning without application is challenging for retention and recall. I learned French in high school without any immersion or conversation practice in class. While I passed the exam, I forgot the content in less than 2 months. 

3. Learning to frame

Framing is key in learning. A framing mindset is preparing the mind and body for learning and letting go. Think of framing as a box that you sit in when you learn and jump out of when you take a break. You don’t carry the box around when you read a book. Framing helps to build boundaries and manage your boundaries respectfully. For framing to be successful, remember that your learning time and relaxation time are equally important. 

Unlearning Thought

Where does your framing box travel with you?