How to Use an iPhone to Leverage Your Brain and Uplift Humanity

When I finally gave up my Palm Pilot phone after five or six years of use, a colleague asked, “Are you going to donate that to the Smithsonian Museum?”   It was a  matter of pride for me.   I had held on to what used to be considered a cutting edge smartphone, proud of myself for not adding to the landfill of abandoned electronics.    Most programs had stopped working on the phone and at one point the phone mysteriously erased all data.   A good tax refund sealed the deal and I became yet another iPhone owner.

Though I was annoyed by how small the phone was and was frustrated by its navigation system (where are all the buttons?), I have settled into having an iPhone.   Having an iPhone (I guess one of ’em Robots, er androids might be good, too) has allowed me to fill in little cracks of time with studying opportunities.

Like Steve Chandler writes, there is a lot of power in the small moments.   French, for example, may seem impossible.   But can’t you learn one word or have fun listening to one French song rather than giving up on your dream?   I can’t really speak Japanese yet but I can read pages of Japanese self-help books.   It’s all a result of taking advantage of little moments (with a walloping help from SRS review systems).

[Whoa, I think I might just inspiring myself. (or it’s the coffee talking)  I just realized I could apply this idea of a small moments.  I renewed my membership to, a guitar learning website, in December.  Because of school, parenting, writing, studying Japanese, and a slight psoriasis problem on my fingers–I had stopped using it.  I just log on after a four month hiatus.   Baby steps.  Don’t let go of your dream.  Might not become Jimi Hendrix, but I’ve put a little bookmark on a skill that I want to have.]

The smart phone is just another tool that makes it easier to take advantage of little moments.   When I am waiting in line for my (third) cup of coffee, I can do a little quick review on the different flashcard websites and programs that I use:   iKnow, anki,, or   When I am away from “the network”  I use apps:  Midori to look up words an make flashcards or Skybook to read open source books in Japanese.  Or, I read a page from 幸せな経済自由人の60の習慣  (The 60 Habits of Happy, Financially Independent People.)   If I have time (like on a long subway ride), I stop at the edge of when I get bored and just listen to Japanese music, and just veg out to the sounds, flipping to the next tune I like if I have energy.  No pressure.  Just fun, daily forward movement.

There might be a cognitive advantage to these little reviews as well.  Even if I “fail” a vocabulary or fact, that fact is planted a little bit more in the brain.   To mix my metaphors even more, instead of having a weekly bonfire of huge study sessions, I light little fires throughout the day and keep the fire burning.   Bonfires lead to “burn out”–little fires to a steady heat.

Furuichi Yukio  writes about something similar in his book「1日30分」を続けなさい!人性勝利の勉強法55 Learn to Win or “Keep Going Thirty Minutes Every Day—55 Studying Techniques to Win in Life.”  He warns against becoming a “three day monk”  (三日坊主).   This is when someone finally decides to get “serious” about studying and holes themselves up for three days, doing nothing but studying.  This sets up a negative feedback loop, where studying something becomes a negative act.   Furthermore, concentrated periods of study doesn’t allow you to take advantage of frequent repetitions spaced throughout the week.

Furthermore, having an iPhone means that I now pay more for the “unlimited data package.”  If I am paying an extra lump sum of money for a phone, I try to make sure that I’ve used that puppy to my advantage.  iCheap. iLearn.

I’d love to hear more about how people have “leveraged” their smart phones to learn, especially since I am just focused on my own Japanese learning needs.  iLook forward to hearing from you.