In these metablog posts I write on my personal experiences in learning styles and technology. The viewpoints and opinions are my own and based on my individual experiences and are corroborated by anecdotes from colleagues, friends, and teammates.
The writing in orange are the added thoughts that constitute Meta Blog Post 2 from 1.
New learning vs. relearning
Learning something completely new versus relearning something comes with different sets of perspectives, outlines, and general management to meet a given goal. When learning something new for the first time, a vast amount of the learning process takes place at the beginning of the project. One must learn the most efficient processes of a tool or operation, and typically it is through trial and error. Traditionally, you must learn the institutional and fundamental knowledge of the task or project to help infer further progress as you proceed. Once these steps are taken, future potential obstacles can be avoided or are dissolved all together, and efficiency becomes greater. Your active learning will lessen thereafter, and the practice of knowledge and experience will take their place as the tools you use to accomplish a task, project, or technology. Moreover, learning something new for the first time gives one advantage in that you may apply your learning lessons more readily to future and imminent obstacles, as you have just experienced how to be flexible and dynamic in your approaches, as you were forced to learn and innovate through your lack of knowledge on the subject.
This points to the dichotomy between learning something new and relearning something. I find when relearning something, I am more likely to be hesitant to take chances or to experiment with different solutions – I find I am likely to be set in my ways. Since I have not freshly experienced the trials and errors of learning the task in front of me, I am somewhat equally uninformed with equally resistant to going back to square one. This tendency towards inflexibility can hinder substantive progress in projects that involve relearning a task, or prevent innovation, as one may be too focused on a narrow mindset of going about a task in the same why they may have before. Nonetheless, relearning a task does have its benefits. Relearning a task operates on utilizing recall and applying previous knowledge to new problems. This type of learning focuses on examining how we learn, rather than the fundamentals of learning how to do something. One way is learning in its purist form, the other is the act of learning from examine how you learn and choosing which ways and what knowledge to apply. These two variances in approaches to a task can both end with the same successful product, but the path to reaching it is tapped through different means from a neurological to physical level, leaving the impression of the purpose of the task or product to be vastly different.
In the future, perhaps taking more chances and allowing the trial and error process to take place may be more conducive when learning something new for the first time. Experience is the best teacher, and whether you practice something incorrectly or correctly, taking those experiences with me will aid in mastering the task or tool. However, as mentioned in the Communities of Practice and Mindsets Disuccsion Post, “Dweck’s argument that “a growth mindset isn’t just about effort” rang true for me in that it directly mirrored a saying I’ve received when I participated in sports growing up: “practice doesn’t make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.” I have heard this from Olympians down to my middle school volleyball coach.
It’s not meant to say you must be perfect to succeed, but that the idea that simply practicing (or in this case, putting in effort) does not equal perfection (success), just as effort does not equal growth. One can practice very hard at something, but if they are practicing incorrectly (and continuously forming poor habits that are ineffective to the end goal/desired skill), or trying only one, dead end solution to achieve their goals, you will not grow or learn. Therefore, the only way that the saying “practice makes perfect” holds water, is if you were theoretically practicing perfect methods with guaranteed success.
Effort is a necessary starting point, or perhaps motivation is the first step, and effort is next, but it takes a great deal more of a dynamic approach to learning in achieving ones goals.”
How do you learn? How do I learn?
People learn in a variety of ways, but two general schools of operation typically arise – learning collaboratively (in-person work, being taught by another or through tutorials) or learning independently (trial and error, recall). I tend to want to learn independently, but find I am more effective when I succumb to collaborative learning. For me, collaborative learning though team work or a tutorial will help me set the ground work for the task I need to accomplish, especially if it is learning something new for the first time. I am one to ask a lot of questions, and I am very analytical, which leads me to capitalize on others opinions, ways of learning, and approaches to work, as I can interweave them into my own operations. After the fundamentals are understood, I am then more effective when I independently learn, such as the case in relearning something. If the ground work has been covered, then I can turn my analytical tendencies towards applying detailed recall in how to efficiently complete a task.
When considering learning styles (such as hands-on, verbally, visually, etc.), I am in the school of thought that learning styles shouldn’t be upheld as much as the form in which the technology exsist. In this I mean, if you are learning a sport, playing the sport will be the best way to learn it – even if you can gain insight and ability from watching footage or drawing out football plays. These forms are useful, but are no comparison to actually playing the game to understanding the fundamentals all the way to technical aspects of a sport. From my Learning Styles Discussion Post, “I think my learning styles are completely fluid, and definitely based around the material I am trying to understand. Ideally, I would like to work in a collaborative and experimental capacity with lots of visuals and a tangible deliverable. Additionally, I tend to take a lot of notes and write down ideas often, but having conversations and using verbal learning can also be very beneficial. I think compartmentalizing and staying strict on one style can be limiting and narrow your scope of understanding.
Owning only one style of learning can create a fallacy that you are incapable of understanding different subjects through different lenses and within different capacities. I have often seen the idea of only learning through one specific style as a crutch or scapegoat when approaching new subjects that may be hard to initially understand.” I myself am guilty of this as I learn (saying I can’t do X because I’m a “visual learner”, or I can’t do Y because I “don’t like reading”, both hypotheticals, but are examples). Being open to different learning styles allows for new ideas and innovation to occur.
How to prevent and circumvent obstacles
Obstacles when learning can derail a project and deflate one’s motivation, leading to wasted time and a sense of defeat. For my learning style, I do best when multiple tasks can be attended to and progress can still be made regardless of an obstacles existence, rather than having to complete the task in front of me before I can move on. To accommodate this preference, I try to work within an Agile project management style rather than a Waterfall project management style. Agile gives flexibility to which tasks can be completed when and in what ways, a quality I need to ensure success and prevent frustration or burnout. For me, Waterfall (or for example its physical manifestation – computer coding) is not conducive when learning or even relearning a task or technology. For me, I am not motivated by the complexity of a problem and its absolute need to be solved in a specific way, but rather I am motivated through discovery of efficiency and connecting seemingly unrelated pieces to create a innovated final outcome, regardless of how I came to that outcome. Of course there are successful projects that are created through Waterfall project management styles, they are just projects that I would not operate at my full potential within.
So far within the course, I have attempted to both relearn a technology and learn something brand new, QGIS and creating a website, respectively. As I have expressed above, the project where I learned something new got a slower start and still has a lot of potential to build on upon past this course, as I was and am still learning fundamental components and obstacles that a semi-experienced person would resolve quickly. However, it has kept me more engaged, as well as innovative. As I expressed, learning something new entails being flexible and dynamic, and what’s more is you don’t know the most efficient or proper way to do something, so you try everything, and it fosters creativity. For the project in which I attempted to relearn a software, QGIS, I found myself quick to get to the meat of what I wanted to accomplish, but felt stuck trying to get past hurdles in the final steps. Sifting through what tools and knowledge I would need to get past these final hurdles felt difficult, as more nuanced techniques were needed, and I was inherently less likely to try new methods. Nevertheless, both projects have served as great reflections on how I learn, what I value in learning, and how to predict my habits to help capitalize on skills or circumvent obstacles in future projects.
What constitutes technology? and approaches to learning different technologies.
My first notions of the definition of technology as a child was its existence physically – stone tools, the wheel, the lever and pulley system, etc. Essentially, I understood it as something humans could build and present physically, and especially as something that set us apart from other animals (although I now understand some animals create technology themselves as well, such as chimps using hammerstones to open fruit, or using sticks fashioned as tools to pry apart bark from trees to get to the bugs easier). As I aged and as the United States grew into the “Age of Information” with access to the internet, smart phones, and the like, I found myself associating the term technology within purely digital connotations. The idea of digital and physical technology was bridged through hardware – TV monitors, processing chips, digital cameras, and printers, for example. Nonetheless, I still found myself separating the two forms as opposites of one another, one as contemporary and the other as classic.
These two mediums are of course inextricably linked (at least the digital to the physical) and each constitute technology in their own right, but what does it look like to approach digital technology versus physical?
I have found I still approach the mediums in the same matter, as it primarily depends on if the technology is new to me or not. I typically follow the methods I previously mentioned on new learning vs relearning. What is different, though, is the understanding gained by the end of the project. For me, with physical technology, I am understanding fundamentals I hope to apply across the board with other physical technologies; such as, fixing a bike = chaining a tire = building a bed. With digital technology, I find I am narrow on my abilities once I am done with the project. While I can of course apply broad stroke knowledge to several different technologies (WordPress functions xyz way, so Canvas is likely functions xyz way – or Word works like this so QGIS may function like this), I find it is usability that I take away, rather than an ability to build, create, or innovate anew.