More Ways to Learn with Trickle

Phil Von Heydebreck
20 Aug 2020

Drips are just the beginning

When you first begin learning with Trickle, the natural place to start is reading drips in streams that interest you. It’s tempting to focus on learning via drips because Trickle authors usually do such a great job of distilling the most important information into easily-digestible packages. But if you’re only reading drips, you’re not getting the most out of Trickle, and you’re also short-changing yourself when it comes to learning. We’d go so far as to discourage you from learning in this way. Sure, reading drips a great way to discover all kinds of new and exciting things. Unfortunately, you’ll probably forget most of what you learned. The problem is that reading drips is a bit too easy. Yes, you read that correctly. Because the author has boiled the topic down to its essential elements, reading drips can lead to a sense of easy understanding. Learning scientists refer to this as a feeling of fluency — it’s when you’re thinking, “yeah, I get this,” when in truth, you probably won’t remember much of it in a few hours. 

Forgetting is the enemy of effective learning

I don’t blame you if you’re feeling alarmed. Maybe you’re thinking: “What’s the point of all this learning if I’m going to forget it later?” Forgetting plays a vital role in how the human brain functions. We are exposed to an abundance of information and stimuli. We need to filter out what is important from the noise. Otherwise, we’d quickly become overwhelmed by unimportant details. The brain uses several rules for deciding what to keep in long-term storage, like the emotional salience of the experience, the effort to acquire the information, and how frequently it’s been repeated. The good news is that once we know these rules, we can use them to improve learning outcomes. We can do this by increasing repetition and introducing desirable difficulties (e.g. testing, spacing, variation), making the learning process more challenging, but the content more likely to be remembered. 

The trick to enhancing learning and getting the most from Trickle is to use sources and actively create rather than passively absorb. 

Use the sources! 

You’ve almost certainly noticed that each drip has several sources attached. They are not there for decoration. The author has curated a list of great learning content for you to explore and deepen your knowledge. You’ll often find a TED talk, podcast, or article by one of the leading experts in the field. Engaging with sources is a great way to improve your retention of new knowledge. They usually present the concepts summarized in the drip from a different angle and often in more detail. By engaging with sources, you’re increasing repetition and increasing variation. You’ll end up diving deeper into the topic, thus increasing the effort you’ve put into learning. All this is likely to increase your ability to retain the new knowledge. 

Don’t forget that you can save a source for later if you don’t have time to view it right away. Click the Save + button and you’ll find it at the top of your sources list on your My Trickle page.

Actively create instead of passively absorbing

The best strategies for effective learning are active strategies that involve actively thinking,  recalling information, organizing, and elaborating ideas. So it’s unfortunate that so many people rely so heavily on passive strategies like reading, highlighting, underlining, and memorizing. Trickle provides many ways to learn actively. You can begin by collecting great sources while doing independent research on the web. Organize the sources into key ideas and themes by putting them into streams. Formulate the key insights into your own words by summarizing them into drips. Share the streams with your friends and determine the best ways to communicate those ideas. Teaching is one the most powerful ways to reinforce learning, so consider publishing your stream to the community. The goal here is to go beyond passive learning strategies and achieve deeper learning through analysis, application, and creation.

There’s more to come from Trickle

We’re always improving the ways that Trickle supports lifelong learners in their quest to acquire and retain knowledge and skills. Major feature improvements we are working on include testing and spaced repetition. There is ample evidence that these learning strategies are among the most effective, so we want to make them available to our users very soon.

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