ADD for learning

August 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve never been a great learn-by-reading person. My preferred mode of learning has always been discussion, but every now and then I have sat down and read a tome of knowledge, whether if be industrial statistics or vehicle software safety (hopefully that all makes me sound very technical;-). The worst place for me to read such a body of work has always been where I have had related articles and information close at hand. A book or article will always refer to a variety of related topics that are seemingly important to look at, just try to find some academic work titled “An introduction to xyz” and you’ll quickly find out what I mean.

Counterintuitive though it may seem, having so much information close at hand has often been to the detriment of my own learning. Well that is a bit of an over simplification – I have learnt a little about a lot of things while processing information in this way, but it is a recipe for not learning about a particular subject in depth. What happens is that I follow potential side threads, kind of in the fashion that the old game of broken telephone works. I never end up at the starting point, which in this case is the subject I started reading about.

Looking up information on the Net just facilitates this type of learning for me. Look up any technical (software) thing and you will find a plethora of related articles and blog entries about the question or subject, together with a summary article on Wikipedia that can lead you off into many many directions, and some nice answers on Stackoverflow which links to even more artciles that didn’t show up on Google’s first page. The question at the end still remains: have I found the answers I was looking for, or have I found the answers to questions that are interesting but not exactly relevant.

I guess I can call this my ADD for learning through reading. Which has the potential to derail my goal of learning more about Java servlets. So I’m trying an experiment where I try not to follow the variety of tempting paths the author throws at me, and I’ll just try to read the book sequentially. I’ll see how it goes – maybe I won’t make it all the way through, but it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

Maybe you don’t have this problem, or maybe you get less distracted than I do, maybe you’re more disciplined, maybe you just read more interesting stuph, or maybe you’ve figured out that information overload doesn’t exist. In any case I’d love to hear what you think about this.


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