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Autodidact Followup

by trs80 (Priest)
on Oct 07, 2002 at 04:04 UTC ( #203247=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

In April I posted Autodidact as a meditation. I wanted to allow for plenty of time of my mind to think about that post and its replies before responding, I think ~6 months is long enough.

While most responses were from people with an autodidact mind set there were a few that were not and I wanted to clarify my own stance on non-autodidact personalities.

It is not bad or good to be an autodidact it is simply a part of your personality. Autodidact's can go to school and get a formal education, but the ability to process and learn on ones own accord is a valuable asset for programmers.

For people that are not autodidact in nature then formal education offers them the ability to grow beyond themselves and create associations that on their own they might not make. This however does not make them any more or less valuable then an autodidact individual it is simply who they are.

There are tasks that require each particular mindset in established fields, but only autodidacts can create fields. That is, an autodidact is always responsible for an emerging technology or combination of existing ones in a unique manner. Curriculum is the formalization of processes developed by autodidacts. Often times the formalization is done by someone other then the originator as well since as pointed out by one of the replies to my original node, autodidacts have sloppy teachers. This is one aspect of my own thought process that I struggle with, where in I don't formalize what I have taught myself and find that I am often relearning a task that I should have made notes on or more thoroughly researched for the more learned way to do it.

So what I am curious about now from other monks is:
  1. What do you feel you are hampered or limited by, either artificially or legitimately.
  2. Do you align yourself more with being an autodidact or non-autodidact.
  3. How has that alignment effected you professionally.
  4. Did you at some point (semi)realign yourself for personal/financial improvement?
  5. If you did realign yourself was it worth the effort and in what way?

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Autodidact Followup
by rinceWind (Monsignor) on Oct 07, 2002 at 09:58 UTC
    1. What do you feel you are hampered or limited by, either artificially or legitimately.
      I find that I have a particular approach to problem solving and development which is not always welcome. Having grown up with green screen applications, I feel comfortable with server and back-end technology. The Microsoft boys and the Java-ites both eye me with suspicion, and have little or no idea what I do - unless I get to work on a collaborative project, typically client/server.
    2. Do you align yourself more with being an autodidact or non-autodidact.
      Depends. I did a Computer Science degree many moons ago. I have also done the occasional employer sponsored CBT and training course. However, I do see myself more as an autodidact. I taught myself C, Perl, HTML, and several other languages that I have needed.
    3. How has that alignment effected you professionally.
      This depends on what the job requirement is. What is more important to me is the ability to adapt to a new programming team, standards and ways of working.
    4. Did you at some point (semi)realign yourself for personal/financial improvement?
      I believe, certainly for me, probably for most of us, this is a continuous process. Unless you adapt and learn new skills, you are dead in the job market. Whether these are autodidact or non-autodidact depends on the programming language. I am working on a Java CBT, and I may well be doing a Java certification later this year - all in the name of career progress and flexibility. For Perl, I recommend the autodidactic approach, supported by suitable books (Lama, Camel) and forums like Perlmonks.
    5. If you did realign yourself was it worth the effort and in what way?
      I see it more as adaptation than realignment. In my case the autodidactic approach has earned me more than one job, contract and assignment, and has boosted my reputation. In future I may well need some formal certification to keep pace with the competition.
Re: Autodidact Followup
by cowens (Beadle) on Oct 07, 2002 at 11:24 UTC
    1. What do you feel you are hampered or limited by, either artificially or legitimately.
    2. I have great fear about the unknown. Whenever I have an idea I worry that someone else has already had it and proven that it won't work. Consequently I spend a lot of time researching my field and try to convince myself that my ideas are good.
    3. Do you align yourself more with being an autodidact or non-autodidact.
    4. Autodidact without a doubt. I dropped out of college to work in the industry.
    5. How has that alignment effected you professionally.
    6. It is mixed. On the one hand I am (to use the new buzz word) agile when it comes to tools, methods, and ideas. On the other I don't have the benefit of the thousands of developers who went before me so I am likely to stumble into the same mistakes they made. Not having a degree has also hurt me since the market down turn. More and more places want a degree and are not willing to settle for experience.
    7. Did you at some point (semi)realign yourself for personal/financial improvement?
    8. I haven't had to yet, and I don't see having to in the future. I do plan on going back to college, but that won't (I hope) affect my nature.
      "On the one hand I am (to use the new buzz word) agile when it comes to tools, methods, and ideas. On the other I don't have the benefit of the thousands of developers who went before me so I am likely to stumble into the same mistakes they made."

      This is where being autodidact hurts me as well. I have taught myself (with the aid of folks when I get stuck) just about everything I know about CS. I do not have a problem learning new syntactic structures, new pragma, etc. What I find I miss out on is algorithms. One of the things I feel I missed out on by not going for that CS degree is algorithm design. Sure I can cobble things together, but they are usually slow/inefficent. I often goggle at some of the things that the better educated monks put together, and oftimes am so amazed at the solution I can barely begin to understand how/why it was done that way.

      This is where being self taught has hurt me. I can only learn up to a certain point of complexity, then the teacher begins to fail the student- because I do make mistakes and noone is there correct me.

      Well, that's the way it was until I stumbled onto this place. - Thank my lucky stars.

        Well then that's easy to fix - start learning algorithms. I started with Knuth's TAoCP vol1 Fundamental Algorithms but that's too dense. I did rather like volumn 2 Sorting and Searching. From there I'm going through the Red Dragon book _Compilers__Tools,_Techniques_and_somethings_. In general if you need algorithms - just go learn it. The books are out there. I'm considering picking up an Addison-Wesley book on data mining next. My point here is that if you learn what the /good/ books are then just go learn from them.

        __SIG__ printf "You are here %08x\n", unpack "L!", unpack "P4", pack "L!", B:: +svref_2object(sub{})->OUTSIDE
Re: Autodidact Followup
by chromatic (Archbishop) on Oct 07, 2002 at 05:12 UTC
    There are tasks that require each particular mindset in established fields, but only autodidacts can create fields. That is, an autodidact is always responsible for an emerging technology or combination of existing ones in a unique manner.

    Why?

      Presumably (from what the author has said), a non-autodidact could only learn from an established field, from a teacher. There would be no teacher in this new field, thus you would need to teach your self. This is, of course, my interpretation of his writing, as I have no outside information on autodidacts and so forth.
Re: Autodidact Followup
by Anonymous Monk on Oct 07, 2002 at 13:07 UTC
    "Autodidact"? Why not just "a self-taught person"?
    Eschew obfuscatory pedagogy, my friend! It is ironic that those most often guilty of pedantry are those in the ivory tower (decidedly "non-auto-didact-a-tory")

    I doubt any among us are purely "autodidactical or non-autodidactical".

    Learn from yourself, but don't discount those around you, and their role in such "self-teaching." Does a lesson taken from someone who does not hold the formal position of "teacher" count as a mark for or against auto-didact-ism? What about the things we all learn here, where we read the conversations and thoughts of others willing to share? Even if we do so at a computer in a room by ourselves -- "on our own", are we really "teaching ourselves"?

    I believe it's an artifical distinction.

    n.b. one connotation of the word "didactic" is being a judge of morality.

      > "Autodidact"? Why not just "a self-taught person"?

      God forbid someone should have a vocabulary larger than what's used on the Home Shopping Network. As a three time college dropout, it didn't take me long to figure out how to search Websters. I'm sure our brother and sister Monks can do the same.

      Good language skills are not only for those in ivory towers, but anyone who wants to express the true depth of their ideas.

      Recommended reading:

      1. 1984
      2. William Safire's Sunday New York Times column.
      ()-()
       \"/
        `                                                     
      

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