1️⃣ Sentence Synopsis
Ahrens presents an overview of Niklas Luhmann’s “Zettlekasten” (Slip Box) methodology and provides cognitive research to support premises as to why this method works to achieve “flow” in academic writing by making it associative, and therefore more self-directed, motivating, and fun.
This book had been recommended over and over again in the world of personal knowledge management. The rather uninspiring title does no justice to this book that I was tempted to highlight in full. If you are interested in how to make novel connections between ideas (and the importance of this based on deep and varied research), this book is time well spent.
🔑 Key Takeaways
- The writing process does not begin with the blank page; rather, it is the work that comes before – copious and associative note-taking, chunking of ideas and sources, that allow for the “writing” of argument to be a matter of piecing together, looking for holes/fallacies, and tightening transitions.
- Attention and short-term memory are limited resources. Writing things down helps alleviate the cognitive load of both.The writing process does not begin with the blank page; rather, it is the work that comes before – copious and associative note-taking, chunking of ideas and sources, that allow for the “writing” of argument to be a matter of piecing together, looking for holes/fallacies, and tightening transitions.
- The biggest threat to creativity is lack of structure and restriction.
💯 Strong Lines
- About Expertise/Knowledge Management: “Experts…have internalized the necessary knowledge so they don’t have to actively remember rules or think consciously about their choices….They have acquired enough experience in various situations to be able to rely on their intuition to know what to do in which kind of situation. Their decisions in complex situations are explicitly not made by long rational-analytical considerations, but rather come from the gut…gut feeling is not a mysterious force, but an incorporated history of experience.”
- When we think we have the solution: “Sometimes it is more important to rediscover the problems for which we already have a solution than to think solely about the problems that are present to us….without intense elaboration on what we already know, we would have trouble seeing its limitations, what is missing or possibly wrong.”
🧠 Brain Tickles
- Handwriting (as opposed to typing) is better for authentic paraphrasing
- Confirmation bias is a (if not the) major problem in academic thinking + writing
- The goal is to write/express oneself in a simplified (not simple) way and this leads to better speaking.
- “Writing for Learning” or “Elaboration Method” is the best researched and most successful learning method.
- Storage Strength (cannot be improved) and is often the focus of education (which makes no sense). Retrieval strength should be the focus (Bjork 2011).
- Learning vs. Understanding (understanding is the goal).>br>
- We like our first ideas best (and are reluctant to let them go!)
- Try working on different manuscripts at once. This way, “flow” can continue even when we run out of thoughts in one space.
- The longer nights of winter offer invitations to explore “liminal spaces” – to sleep more, to reflect more and to thus gain unexpected insight as we, in the dead of night, “repair the fragmented narratives of our days.”
🍎 Ideas & Excerpts for Teaching and Learning
I don’t think there is a single excerpt that would be applicable to the classroom but here are some additional “strong lines” relevant to teaching writing:
- “Writing is, without dispute, the best facilitator for thinking, reading, learning, understanding, and generating ideas we have.”
- “The professor is not there for the student and the student not for the professor. Both are only there for the truth.”
- “Writing a paper involves much more than just typing on the keyboard. It also means reading, understanding, reflecting, getting ideas, making connections, distinguishing terms, finding the right words, structuring, organizing, editing, correcting and rewriting.”
- “Teachers tend to mistake the ability to follow (their) rules with the ability to make the right choices in real situations.” (Hubert and Dreyfus)
- “The key to creativity is being able to switch between a wide-open, playful mind and a narrow analytical frame.” (Dean, 2013, 152)
- “Luhmann states as clearly as possible: it is not possible to think systematically without writing” (Luhmann)
- “Learning, thinking and writing should not be about accumulating knowledge, but about becoming a different person with a different way of thinking.”