What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

Active Learning: Taking the Step from Apprentice to Master

June 13, 2013, 10:49 AM

There are two forms of learning.  There’s passive learning and active learning.  And passive learning is what we generally do in university.  We read a book and then maybe we write a paper or we take a test.  We’re just simply sponges absorbing information that we kind of get out at the end.  Active learning is actually practicing what you’re learning.  You’re actually hands-on doing it, and involved in the real world. 

When you have a mentor, the tendency is to become passive. This person is a genius and you're going to listen to what he or she has to say and you just follow it.  

The whole idea of mastery is you’re going to eventually become a greater master than you’re mentor.  That’s the job.  That’s the task.  As Da Vinci said, “You’re a poor apprentice if you never surpass your master, your mentor.”  So that’s your goal.  You’re going to become even better than he or she. 

So at some point you want to become active in this relationship.  And you want to start giving some feedback.  And you want to be involving yourself more. And, in fact, you are teaching the mentor some things.  This will happen two or three years down the road, but the idea is you don’t want to stay trapped in the sort of passive mentor-disciple relationship when you’re worshipping somebody and you’re known for developing yourself and you’re never developing your own initiative and you’re afraid to take that step. 

At some point you have to slightly distance yourself, slightly rebel even a little bit and give some back and forth where you’re saying, “Well, I like what you’re doing here but I want to maybe go in another direction.”  I give the example of Glenn Gould, the famous pianist from the 40s and 50s, the greatest pianist of that era.  And he had an incredible mentor.  And this mentor kept giving him music that he felt was right for him.  And finally Glenn Gould said, “I want to do a different kind of music.”  And he basically told him the kind of music that he wanted to start practicing.  And then he was able to go off in a totally new direction.  That’s the spirit and energy that I’m talking about. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy fo Shutterstock


Active Learning: Taking the...

Newsletter: Share: