One of the ways I try to inculcate the habit of reading among my learners is to choose a book that is highly relevant for their career or education in the present and read it along with them. We do this by participating in 15 to 20-minute telephonic discussions on a chapter or a section of a chapter where we share our takeaways as well as raise questions.
‘Stop Talking, Start Influencing’ wasn’t my first choice for this learner who works at a prominent social media company as a small & medium business account manager. I had heard about Jonas Berger’s ‘Contagious: Why Things Catch on’; hence went to my local library to borrow, but, unfortunately, found out it was ‘on loan’ for the next 10 days. So, I unwisely decided to go to the section this book is usually placed in to sift through the rows of books in the desperate desire to find an alternative.
To my credit, I did manage to cherry pick a book, but now that I sit and write this post you would realise it has very little to do with social media account management, which means the said learner never read this book. Coincidentally, the learner, while window shopping at a downtown mall, came across a book fair and found the book recommended to her, months ago, by one of her friends. What luck!
As they say, ‘No knowledge is a waste.’, and because I was curious I did end up borrowing Horvath’s STSI. Boy, am I glad I did! To express the extent of my gladness, I think this book is going to become one of the main features of our future teacher development programs. Yes, you read that right; this book is for teachers (among others).
What is astonishing to me now is that the book does exactly what it says, ‘start influencing’, right from the moment you lay your eyes on it. Let me share how it unconsciously influenced my decision in singling it out.
*I don’t usually sift through rows of books by analysing their spines rather I go through their front covers.
Here are my top THREE reasons that make this book an influential read, especially, if you are a teacher
1. ‘…you experience the book.’ – Dr. Todd Rose
In every chapter, the author backs up his insight not just through science but also by demonstrating it through different activities. If the book cover wasn’t a good enough example, try this.
- Plug in your earphones and listen to any podcast episode you haven’t before
- Either continue reading this post or pick up a book and start reading a page you haven’t before
- Your goal is to simultaneously understand both the words coming from the podcast speaker and the text you are reading.
It is humanly impossible to do both. You could do the same experiment by listening to a presenter and reading a presentation slide with dense text. Sorry, but you will have to let go of one to understand the other. This is because there is only one passageway (the Broca/Wernicke network – don’t I sound like a neuroscientist? 🤓) and it can allow only one stream of information pass through it at any one point of time. However, like me, if you push back by stating, ‘but I can listen to music and read simultaneously or listen to a podcast and read a text message?’. Well, all I would say is ‘Read the book.’
By the end of the book, the author makes you experience Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve theory and effectiveness of retrieval practice.
2. Accessible language and simplified concepts
This reminds me of Einstein’s quote, ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’ Horvath’s use of easy-to-understand language with relevant images and practical examples makes this book accessible to teachers. You don’t need to have any prior knowledge or a science background to comprehend the concepts presented in the book. To illustrate my point, in chapter 11 ‘Stress’, Horvath dexterously demystifies the neural activity between the Hippocampus and Amygdala and its physical as well mental impact when we experience stress by creating an analogous story using characters we all know and understand i.e. a dense forest, a castle, seeds, etc. Wish, science was this interesting at school. 😞
3. Explains the why and the how of learning
I bet, if you are a teacher, you have experienced this. A learner is valiantly trying to recall a word recently learnt but isn’t able to and just when you provide a clue specific to the context that word was learnt in and voilà! Well, my friend, let me put my neuroscientist glasses on and tell you, this is called the PPA (parahippocampal place area) processing. The PPA, a small area located at the base of the hippocampus, constantly encodes and embeds all the information associated with the information being processed. Hence, in this case, everything associated with the word being recalled, was processed by the PPA when the word was first encountered by the learner.
Thanks to the book I now understand the science behind some of the lesson planning stages and techniques I learnt during my CELTA (activate schema, elicit prior knowledge, vary tasks, delay or spot error correct, etc.).
You could dig deeper into the concepts, if you like, by reading through some of the listed references in the book.
Stop Talking, Start Learning by Jared Cooney Horvath