I want to unpack how we learn. We are all learning new things everyday and seldom stop to think about how our brain processes new information and how we retain information and convert it to knowledge. Here is a good documentary about Human Brain: How smart can we get.

There are a number of theories about our understanding of smarts, here is what I believe. I believe that we are all malleable i.e we can mould or teach ourselves to get good at anything. What is needed is the commitment to dive into the topic, do deliberate practice and have a feedback loop to get good on the topic. Our schools and education system is not geared towards us getting really good at one specific thing. We dabble with Math, Language, Sciences etc the school system does not teach you how to get good at something it relies on self discovery and the student who makes the connection and gets good at it is determined to be smart or good at school. Our grading system is another malaise, I am not sure how we got to this but I guess when you have a number of students who are exposed to the same material it is understandable that we try to compare their relative understanding of the material. Again, not the best way. As they say democracy is not the best form of government but it is better than all other forms of government.

olafurstefanson3I started thinking about how we can get schools to devote more time and effort to teaching students on how to get good at all the subjects in school. I had a chance meeting with Olafur Stefansson, yes, Oli Stefans the Michael Jordan of Iceland handball, Oli also has a BA in Humanities and diplomas in Literature and Psychology. Oh, it so happens that my brother-in-law Sigfus Sigurdsson who was a handball player, played with Oli for the Icelandic national team. duh! It is Iceland. I went to the 2004 olympics to watch the Icelandic Handball team get decimated in the olympics, they lost 9 of the 12 games, but we as a family enjoyed the olympics and had a great time in Athens, Greece. The icelandic national handball team went on to win the Silver medal in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 under the leadership of Olafur Stefansson. So what has this got to do with learning, getting good at something or how our brain works? hold on, hold on, I am getting there…

Oli, apparently has been thinking about how we learn and translate that to results for a while and he had been building an application that helps anyone using it to get good at something. He introduced it to me 3 years back and I did not get it. We had a pleasant meeting and we went our own ways, a year later, Oli and I met and Oli asked me if I would be his coach in building this Startup. Well, Startups is what I do and I thought maybe the time is right to change how our schools enable our kids to learn. I agreed.

KeyWe is a platform that enables anyone to learn a topic using the web and all the senses that you can activate using the multi-media on the web. KeyWe makes notes taking fun and easily shareable. KeyWe has a concept of what we call a Cube, if you are interested to learn something you create a Cube in KeyWe on the topic and create multiple learning cards to the cube. You can write about your understanding of the topic, you can add videos, pictures and weblink. It is a way to organise information related to the topic in multi-dimension. In addition to aggregation, you can attach icons i.e visual cues to each cube. Keywe copies the brain’s natural anchoring-tendencies which give abstract concepts meaning, thereby enhancing learning and insight.

Memory is a visual function, watch the video above and you will see how memory champions build mental visual castles to store information and they retrieve it by traversing the mental visual castle when needed.

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The visual representation of a cube enhances memory. The platform also enables the user to share their cube with others in the platform. The product is built with collaborative learning in mind. KeyWe bridges the gap between the teacher and student by actually requiring the teacher to collaborate with the student in the development of the Cube. I feel we learn new ways to look at information watching others and their creativity. We do this today by listening to our teachers in the classroom, why don’t we allow our students to become teachers as well. Enable them to create content using simple tools that are available on the web and maybe we will learn how each student views the teaching material that is shared in the classroom. That is exactly what KeyWe enables the students to do. The composition of the cube is in itself a way to learn.

Oli has been working with schools and teachers in Iceland, currently KeyWe is showing good traction. KeyWe is being used in 7 schools and about 1000 students are starting to use KeyWe to do their assignments and capture their thoughts, learnings and ideas. One of the hidden values of KeyWe is that all the work of students and teachers is available, tagged, searchable and they can connect past work to any future assignment, thereby enabling building on previous efforts. It is also a great presentation tool. Because the main role of KeyWe is a notes taking tool, it acts as a preparation platform before the students do their writing assignments. I have been quite impressed with the level of engagement the tool is seeing with students. KeyWe product roadmap is quite long, one of the features that was launched this summer was a game that acts as a feedback loop for the content that was created by the student. A lot of insight about how students learn and where they need help etc can be deciphered with the data from the game and the amount of time the students spend in building their Cubes.