Programming is a field where we need to constantly learn lots of stuff. So learning how to learn is a fundamental skill we should have been taught from the beginning. However, we still waste lots of time by reading books or going to courses only to forget most of what we learned within a few days.
There are ways for students to improve memory retention and understanding, like using flash cards apps with spaced repetition algorithms like Anki.
But I think for teachers to set themselves apart and really show that they care about the students, better ways of teaching are not that hard. Instead of just putting up a text-based tutorial, give the programmers exercises with a tiny bit of information and a few pointers on where to learn more. We understand better by doing, not just by reading.
Also, if it’s worth learning, it’s worth remembering much later. Help the programmers by giving them a flash card deck that they can use forever. See if you can somehow incorporate long term retention functionality in your eLearning software.
I gave a lightning talk at RubyKaigi 2013 about using flash cards to improve your Ruby.
You may find it hard to follow along since you can’t hear me talking, but the slides are beautiful to look at. They were designed by my wife, Stina Evjan.
“when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.”
– why the lucky stiff
In my spare time, I tend to read a lot. Also, since I recently discovered the joys of Netflix, I watch a lot of Louie. But the above _why quote, combined with reading and re-reading the highly recommended essay/lecture “Solitude and leadership” by William Deresiewicz, has made me think about what I do with my evenings and weekends.
The people I look up to the most aren’t people who read a lot. They are people who create things. Sure, they might have been avid consumers for all that I know, but they also produced.
I have always seen myself as a creative person trapped in a lazy person’s mind. I don’t want my decently shaped skull and its gooey content to be a slave to other people’s thoughts and actions. I want to explore my own thoughts, listen to my own music, read my own text and use my own apps for a while.
So now I want to conduct yet another little experiment (my life is filled with those): no media consumption for a week. Well, some media is allowed. What I mean is:
- No reading, unless directly related to what I am making. An example might be API documentation.
- No watching movies unless I do it as part of hanging out with my wife, as we do enjoy the occasional quirky comedy. But no Louie when I am on my own. “But he’s so funny and sad, Peter. Watching him suffer makes you feel better about yourself!” my mind tells me now, to which I firmly reply “NO LOUIEEE CEEE KAAAAY FOR A WEEEEEK!!!”.
- Music is fine. I can play the latest Converge or Armin van Buuren albums while I am coding/writing/drawing, since it makes me focus better. No podcasts, however.
It is always easy reaching for Hacker News when I am tired and lazy after a day of coding. But now I can’t, so I’ll be forced to create things instead. Will that mean more blog posts, more drawings, my electronica album finally getting finished or a me making new web framework?
I don’t know yet, but I’ll keep you posted.