'We have a 100 billion brain cells, how about learning to use them?'

Bhavya Dore, Hindustan Times

Mumbai, November 10, 2011

"We have a 100 billion brain cells, how about learning how to use them?" asked Terry Small a Canadian speaker, educator and self-described "brain guy" while holding a ceramic replica of a human brain in his palm on Wednesday. Small is in the city to speak to students and staff of Oberoi.

International School in Goregaon about how they can better use their brains, study more efficiently and exploit their full capacities. "The brain's number one job is to keep us alive, that is its default setting," said Small. "We've developed comfortable ways of looking at the world, which are not necessarily the best ways."

His own brain is teeming with little tips and tricks for students, and much of his work involves lecturing at schools. "My number one study tip is this: make Memory and Mastery cards," said Small, as he flashed an array of flash cards. "Shuffle those cards around, keep the brain in a higher state of alertness."

His compendium of study tips includes, standing up and studying, building "future report cards" with projected grades to work towards and not just reading your notes, but actually asking yourself questions.

Small started out as a teacher but for the past 30 years has been distilling the research and work on neuroscience into principles for better and more efficient learning.

"Rote learning is more in some countries than in others," said Small, who has lectured in 15 different countries. "You need the information but you also need to know how to use it, how to see patterns."

It's all quite simple really. "The art of being a student is the art of being awake," said Small. "We spend too much time future-ising and past-erising. The brain is not good at being in the moment."