So what does it take to learn something? First, you have to get it, then make sure you don’t forget it. It’s not
about pushing facts into your head. Based on the latest research in cognitive science, neurobiology, and
educational psychology, learning takes a lot more than text on a page. We know what turns your brain on.
Some of the Head First learning principles:
Make it visual. Images are far more memorable than words alone, and make learning much more effective (up to
89% improvement in recall and transfer studies). It also makes things more understandable. Put the words
within or near the graphics they relate to, rather than on the bottom or on another page, and learners will be up
to twice as likely to solve problems related to the content.
Use a conversational and personalized style. In recent studies, students performed up to 40% better on post-
learning tests if the content spoke directly to the reader, using a first-person, conversational style rather than
taking a formal tone. Tell stories instead of lecturing. Use casual language. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Which would you pay more attention to: a stimulating dinner party companion or a lecture?
Get the learner to think more deeply. In other words, unless you actively flex your neurons, nothing much
happens in your head. A reader has to be motivated, engaged, curious, and inspired to solve problems, draw
conclusions, and generate new knowledge. And for that, you need challenges, exercises, and thought-provoking
questions, and activities that involve both sides of the brain and multiple senses.
Get — and keep — the reader’s attention. We’ve all had the “I really want to learn this but I can’t stay awake
past page one” experience. Your brain pays attention to things that are out of the ordinary, interesting, strange,
eye-catching, unexpected. Learning a new, tough, technical topic doesn’t have to be boring. Your brain will learn
much more quickly if it’s not.
Touch their emotions. We now know that your ability to remember something is largely dependent on its
emotional content. You remember what you care about. You remember when you feel something. No, we’re not
talking heart-wrenching stories about a boy and his dog. We’re talking emotions like surprise, curiosity, fun,
“what the...?”, and the feeling of “I Rule!” that comes when you solve a puzzle, learn something everybody else
thinks is hard, or realize you know something that “I’m more technical than thou” Bob from engineering doesn’t.