A New Project: Learning Through Stories
Today I’m inaugurating a new project on the Brilliant Blog: Learning Through Stories. A lot of scientific research—and our own experience—demonstrates that we understand and remember material best when it’s presented to us as a narrative, or when we tell our own story about it. So: Once a week, I’ll be inviting you to share your stories of where and when and how you learned something in particular. And I’ll be asking you to do one additional, perhaps challenging thing that is nevertheless the key to the exercise: to draw out a generalizable lesson from your story that could apply to the learning of other things, and could be used by people other than yourself.
The question this week is: “How did you learn to ride a bike?” Please write your answer below, and try to include as many details about when, where, and how it happened, as well as what lesson you can draw from it. I’ll start:
I learned to ride a bike when I was about six or seven years old, on a heavy blue Schwinn bicycle (bicycles are so much lighter now!), on the quiet streets of my Dad’s hometown in Massillon, Ohio. What I remember best is the scary thrill of being pushed along by my father until he let go, and I was going, flying, riding on my own. (Then I forgot how to brake and tried to stop by dragging my feet on the ground, but that’s another story. Call it “How I Learned To Stop A Bike.”)
The lesson I draw from my experience learning to ride a bike is that it’s really true that we learn best from those we love. Would I have felt as secure, as confident (even though scared) in my ability to ride a bike if it weren’t my father there running along beside me? And there’s a lesson here, too, for teaching: You need to run alongside the learner for a while, but then you need to let go.
OK, your turn! How did you learn to ride a bike?