Wednesday, July 05, 2006

How to learn...

I'm a self-taught type of person. I have a bachelor's degree that I constructed out of the classes that amused me, I learned coding because my mother taught me "if you do it more than once, code it," and I'm a whiz at legacy systems. Piecing together answers with little training or documentation is my thing.

So why is it that I still believe the answers should be out there, findable and usable without the mess that is divination from scraps left buried in the sands of time?

I have a home network. In a house with approximately 6-7 computers (though not all working at the same time), it's a necessity. We just moved and decided that our new house would not have cables stapled along the walls in this modern time period of wireless and wired houses. All we wanted was that all the computers could talk to each other.

That should have been simple, right? We had the right equipment and everything... I even found step-by-step directions (though not for our equipment). Two days later, we had a semi-functioning system cobbled together with the use of the hosts file, a remnant of archaic networking prior to DNS servers and the like.

At this point, you're wondering what on earth this has to do with learning patterns and the like.

So I'm frustrated, stumped, and tearing my hair out. My oldest son is trying to help but I'd have to explain everything to him. So that's what I did. Explained, walked through, and then said, "The problem is that the hub can't see the gateway."

New search terms. Knowledge is out there, but just like the Oracles at Delphi, you have to ask the right question. This time, I found instructions for our equipment. We put it in that configuration and off we go, everything's working perfectly.

I grew up with a firm belief in education/training as supreme. But we cannot get trained in everything we're going to face. At some point, I need to remember to go back to my strengths, go back to the analysis that brought me into databases, programming, and my general approach to life. Sure, the education is out there, the information is available to anyone who is willing to look. But you've got to do the legwork and understand just what you need to know. Very few people are out there making this easy, and those that are do so as an extension of their own questions. What do you want to bet they had to do something first to discover the right questions?

I guess the bottom line is whether self-taught, a good researcher, schooled, or whatever, no one can give you the knowledge you need. You have to go out and earn it, sometimes with hard work, sometimes with frustration, but whatever the way, the only true failure is to give up.

And if that's not a stray thought-random segue I don't know what is :p.

To continue the learning, how about dropping a note about how you learn the right question to ask. Is it hands-on, talking through something, washing dishes, taking a class, or what?


PJ said...

It's a combination of things. I can read & research, but in the end, I need something physical to make the connections real. I need to see it in the wild, if you know what I mean. If that's not possible, a diagram/picture will have to do, but I have to have something visual.

That's why writing out notecards helps me with my writing, I guess, I have something physical/visual I can move around.



Margaret said...

Makes sense to me. I seem to need to talk it through, but that's usually only after the hands-on delving.

Dad said...

Another way of looking at it is that anything related to computers is magic. Therefore, obviously, you are powerless against it unless you know it's true name. When you - explaining to your son- chanced on the true name of the problem, it had to obey you and give you the information necessary.

Margaret said...

LOL. I think you have been reading too much fantasy of late :). But yeah, computers are often like that.

Mama Rose said...

I'm big on self-teaching, also. I approach any new task with the attitude that I've managed to learn everything I've wanted to up to now, so I can figure out how to do this, too. Then I rely on pure, unadulterated stubborness to get me from here to there. So far, if I really want to learn it, I've succeeded. But if, as with calculus, it's something I just think would be cool to know, I've let it go because I don't have time for "this is cool, but I'll never use it". :)


Margaret said...

LOL. Stubbornness, yeah, that's how I learn a lot too. Not willing to give up. And I have to do a refresher on pre-calc but then I'm going to learn calc if it kills me :).

Zoe said...

I'm very much a self-taught person. When I've taken classes, I've found them an inefficient form of learning, because I'm much better at just finding the information myself. I do a lot of reading, because I relate to things through words - I generally do better with written words than with spoken words or a picture. I also need a lot of time to just turn ideas around in my head and play with them; it's often only after I have that time that new angles on problems occur to me, or that I finally absorb the advice I keep seeing.

Margaret said...

Yeah, I'm with you on the absorb. I do enjoy classes, face to face classes, but that's more for the interaction than for the teaching. Sometimes things make more sense when you hear other people's questions. Which I suppose goes back to my starting point of knowing the questions to ask. Isolation doesn't always give me the questions to ask, so I enjoy the classroom enviroment, but I learn more doing the homework on my own :D.