The other day I was reading a book (yes – physical paper) about Access 2010 and discovered some new basic things. Most of my learning about computer stuff has been informal – it’s learning by doing – looking up references, etc. – not a formal process. It’s mainly been driven by having a need to do something – as it forces you to really learn (it’s no longer an academic prospect).
When reading this book I realized there still is a value in formal learning – instead of just figuring it out. I read about some basic debugging techniques that I didn’t know about – simple stuff – that could help me do my job. This surprised me and made me wonder if I’m having the right balance of formal learning – of taking the time to learn instead of just do. I still believe highly in learning through doing – as it forces us to make mistakes – which teach us so much more.
I think this is relevant though – as our world is changing -where formal learning is not as valued as it used to be. I wonder when it’s cost effective and when it isn’t – as frankly some formal learning is pretty weak – not a lot of depth. I’m thinking this is when formal learning is effective:
- It’s a totally new concept – as this helps you get a leg up.
- What you are doing isn’t working – you need to think better about what you are doing.
- The web doesn’t have quite what you need (yes – it’s possible).
- When you know a lot – but need to fill in the gaps (like I’m doing with Access)
- When it’s not really technical – but a general learning concept (like coding patterns independent of language and implementation)
That said – I don’t recommend just reading a book without doing anything – as it’s just academic now. Some process needs to go along with it – write some code, discuss with someone, write a blog post about it, etc. One of the frustrating things about learning to me is when it just goes away – it’s in my head but never reinforced. That’s why I really enjoyed the Dale Carnegie classes – as they made application a part of the class – not just spoon-feeding information (and they are over a long time span to get a chance for it to stick).