How do we Learn to Learn, Especially in the Ed-Tech Environment?

There is a lot of interest in psychology of learning – we as yet do not know how we learn! Lot of ed-tech companies have analytics about on-line eLearning courses with millions of clicks (interactive tools) that can be monitored at the back end – but do these clicks really mean that learning has occurred? Most ed-tech researchers and companies are scratching their brains with learning analytics to answer this; one of the the main purposes of setting up free on-line MOOCs seems to be just this – how are people able to learn; there are almost 98 videos of TED website with the theme: How We Learn.

How can we answer this question? How can we monitor and say that a learning has occurred a 100% of the time?

This is a question that has intrigued many. Let me see if I can answer this question, it is difficult, but I will try…………….from my experiences in teaching and learning science. Any learning is an interplay between nature and nurture!

Step 1: Indoctrination (inspiration, hook)

To learn anything, one has to be indoctrinated into multiple intelligences.


But how does one get indoctrinated or inspired? Inspiration for a particular learning quest can come from family, friends, teachers, some nice lecture/video that triggers an interest in a certain field, a movie, some exhibitions, books – this is the hook. One gets hooked into a new learning direction.

You must have heard this phrase – ……… got hooked to………… (from old English anglers)

Step 2: Motivation (focus, stimulation and perseverance)

That inner urge to surge in the chosen direction – requires focus, and even incentives (incentives in terms of intellectual stimulation and financial stimulation – have you ever wondered why there is a successful Silicon Valley?). High motivation can also create a persevering quality that keeps one rooted in a particular learning quest. There is no substitute for hard work.

It is said that Thomas Alva Edison failed a 1000 times before he made a bulb design that actually worked!

You must have heard this phrase -………..never give up…………. (Winston Churchill)

Step 3: Social Interaction (team effort)

Because of the advent of the internet, and eLearning, a lot of EdTech companies have realized the importance of social learning. The social cognitive learning theory was first discussed by Albert Bandura in 1977.

(From Wikipedia- Social learning is learning that takes place at a wider scale than individual or group learning, up to a societal scale, through social interaction between peers.)

The explosion to social media and access to content via mobile devices, this kind of learning has gained high importance these days.

social media cartoon

This team effort or team work is the key to reaching any goals – and in our case – the learning objectives or goals. Working effectively as a team creates momentum, improves morale, and almost anything that is decided can be achieved.

You must have heard this phrase -……….. Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much (Hellen Keller)

Step 4: Experience (and results)

Remember that any learning – means change in cognitive behaviour or attitudes – if behaviour/attitude change has not happened, then the learning has NOT occurred!  The more experience you take in the direction of learning (exams, assessment, results, feedback, discussions, apply, analyze, hands-on work) the more you will learn thoroughly! It is more enduring, and results are sort of permanently lodged in your brain. When you assess your learning (formative) and get a feedback from someone (say on a social platform or a teacher or a guru) you will learn better.

You must have heard this phrase – experience is the best teacher………. (Benjamin Franklin)

And finally………….if you have mastered what you have learnt, you will be able to evaluate your understanding, critique someone else’s work and go on to innovate and create something new, to your utmost joy (any new learning can be real fun!)


In conclusion: we can say that learning has occurred if we can monitor a change in behaviour and attitude. This can be done by assessing thoroughly – may be by creating rubrics and measuring the ‘learning’.

Aside: When I was little, I always used to think of placing my books under my pillow before going off to sleep, hoping against hope that all the content from the books would automatically get transferred into my brain!

Role Models

Role models are important in all our lives. They help us become the person we want to be and inspire us to make a difference.

(From Wikipedia: A role model is a person whose behaviour, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. The term “role model” is credited to sociologist Robert K. Merton, who coined the phrase during his career.)


I do not have a role model right now, but there are many people from whom I have learnt a lot and do look-up to them. Given below are some of the people I’d like to mention, who have made a positive impact on my life.

My family members: My grandfather and my parents influenced me a lot when I was young; I always wanted emulate them. In that sense they were my role models. My grandfather was very meticulous and organized; I have taken up some of that quality from him. My mother was a highly creative person, whatever she touched, she excelled. She was super at cooking, knitting, stitching, embroidering, and what have you! She had great language skills (Marathi, Sanskrit, and Bengali), published 8 books, composed songs, and wrote poetry: the list is endless! And although I am not that prolific, I have picked up at least some of her enthusiasm for being a creative person. On the other hand, my father was a quiet engineer, a voracious reader (was encyclopaedic!), played golf, and bridge. He was a level headed and a very rational person. In many tough situations, I try to think like him, and say to myself, “Hmm…, what would Baba have done?”

People whom I have not met: Many may say that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, etc. are their role models. I will not say that because I have not met them.

Here is my list of Indians who should definitely be role models:

  • Sachin Tendulkar for achieving what he has! It definitely requires tremendous mental strength, concentration and discipline to get that kind of score!
  • Film stars and public persona, especially women, who have great talents, such as Madhuri Dixit, Mary Kom, Sania Mirza. As a woman I can understand what grit and determination it must have taken them to reach where they are.
  • Narasimha Rao, and others responsible for liberalizing India, Narayan Murthy, APJ Abdul Kalam, Azim Premji, for creating opportunities and making a generation of self-believers and entrepreneurs in India.

People whom I know: There are people who have touched my life and I admire them for that.  And feel that I should pick up some of their qualities at least.

  • UG: a CEO of a company. She has boundless energy and enthusiasm for her work; her patient and perseverance is truly amazing!
  • SJ: a person having his own start-up. Very calm and cool headed, treats all his employees with so much gentle care, and respect, it is worthy of appreciation.
  • P-bai: my housekeeper. Every day she comes to my house with a smile on her face, and does her work with complete honesty, integrity and abundant energy. Her attitude and dedication towards her work is exemplary!
  • Some of my teachers: Their sincerity and boundless energy for teaching, and even bettering themselves every day, is way ahead at the top. Some of their mental agility and quickness in thinking is inspiring!