My school of one – In pursuit of long term progress

Self learning is becoming pretty accessible thanks to an ever growing pool of online teaching resources and special interest communities. Curious minds can happily delve into new disciplines without the need for formal instruction.

But just because it’s accessible doesn’t mean it’s easy!

I’m a developer/designer by training but I want to delve further into fine arts and visual communication. I often find myself trawling through you tube tutorials, online courses, blogs and forums for hours on end. Usually this just results in my brain melting into a defeated puddle of goo that wants to do nothing more than vegetate over something trashy.

I could happily chew through a mountain of information but then after a day or so not much of that information seems particularly important anymore. Okay, so I got some good conversation starters out of it and I did feel more up to date and connected with the world for a short time but what if I want a greater sense of long term progress?

At this point, I’d like to poll for suggestions! Do you suffer from similar hang ups or have you figured out a system that works for you?

I can think of more than a few bad habits I’d like to change in my own approach to learning and so have started a list of self prescribed suggestions. *Sheepish laugh*

Learning Pickles – I am exploring these pickles one at a time.



4 thoughts on “My school of one – In pursuit of long term progress

  1. I can definitely relate to the hangups you encounter when learning, particularly a week into full house-husbandry 😛 I think Paul Graham says it best in his excellent piece on a slight tangent –

    To be happy I think you have to be doing something you not only enjoy, but admire. You have to be able to say, at the end, wow, that’s pretty cool. This doesn’t mean you have to make something. If you learn how to hang glide, or to speak a foreign language fluently, that will be enough to make you say, for a while at least, wow, that’s pretty cool. What there has to be is a test.

    So one thing that falls just short of the standard, I think, is reading books. Except for some books in math and the hard sciences, there’s no test of how well you’ve read a book, and that’s why merely reading books doesn’t quite feel like work. You have to do something with what you’ve read to feel productive.

    It’s not just books, but youtube videos, online tutorials, inspirational articles or anything else where you are only consuming. I find I often stop at “Wow, that was great” instead of going on with “Wow, that was great, let me do something awesome with it”, and promptly forget about most of it.

    The only way I’ve found so far that does work to do this is when I have to do something non trivial with it, that is actually appreciated by someone whose opinion I value, in general or about the piece of work I am working on. Which is one of the reasons I think the poison blog ring is a good idea…. 🙂

    • The hardest part is probably finding a good non-trivial thing to do with it. I definitely spend too much time trying to devise a good project to tie everything together. It’s a surprisingly fine line between too ambitious and kind of boring.
      Thanks for the quote. Being able to look back and admire is a neat way to sum up progress.

  2. I agree that because these online courses etc are now so easily accessible it doesn’t make it easy! Says the person who has enrolled in several courses and yet to fully complete one from end to end.

    Maybe it’s coming from a developer’s point of view, but I feel simply absorbing information isn’t quite enough – if possible I try my best to actually apply the knowledge and do something with it. It helps with the learning and understanding of the content.

    I find what helps me a lot is to have a small goal or project tied to the thing you want to learn. The hard part is to make that project small enough and exciting enough that you’ll get to the end of it. With a goal it means your learning is more concrete and slightly less open-ended which (in my mind at least) makes it less daunting 🙂

    The other thing that I find helps a lot is to tell people what you are doing. You should be excited enough about the project/whatever you’re learning to want to tell people about it. Hopefully they’ll be interested (or maybe even excited) which will then make you feel more motivated to keep going at it even if you might be going through a boring stage of the project/learning process.

    ps. Just started a coursera course on Social Psychology, anyone interested?

    • Just absorbing information isn’t enough. I’m with you on that one. I like the idea of telling people what you’re doing. That’s something online courses are quite good for (although the people might not be as constructively critical as those in professional communities).

      Damn you distracting Coursera courses! From the trailer the material looks pretty good.
      I might have a poke around or I might just wait for you to blog about it XD

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