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Re: On differing learning styles, and learning programming through perl

by jhourcle (Prior)
on Dec 08, 2006 at 15:46 UTC ( #588616=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to On differing learning styles, and learning programming through perl

I think that some of the issues that you're seeing aren't necessarily related to 'learning style', per se, but in that you don't have the necessary context to make sense of the information that's being presented.

For instance, to learn a complex concept, you typically need to have at least a peripheral understanding of the basic concepts from which it is derived. At the very least, you need to understand the language in which the instructions are being given. Does it do us any good to go to a lecture about 'associative arrays' or 'tuples', when we've only heard the term 'hash' used to describe the concept (okay, they're not exactly the same thing, but that's part of the problem with terminology).

The even bigger problem is when different communities have the same terms (words), but they have describe different context -- telling someone to 'go into the other room and strip' has absolutely nothing to do with removing clothing if you're in the printing industry. (the example comes from Axley's 1984 article, "Blow up the communications pipeline", which discusses problems with people thinking they understand the message, but actually didn't). Even Heinlein touched on the issue of language in learning in 1961, in Stranger in a Strange Land -- teleportation made perfect sense to Mike, but he had to teach people the Martian language because the terms just didn't translate into English -- once they knew Martian, the concept was easy.

Trying to place knowledge into documentation is a particularly difficult process, as you have to write for the person who is going to be reading the documentation -- if you have disparate groups of readers, it's sometimes more efficient to write two or more seperate sets of documentation, if it's for a system that's not going to be changing much. (if it is going to be changing, then you have to maintain all the docs, so it may be easier to maintain modular documentation, some of which are just to set the necessary context to understand the other parts):

I think your points are valid, and I'd also like to add

  1. It's difficult to learn a completely novel concept; you must build upon concepts you already know.
  2. You must write documentation and training materials with an understanding of the intended audience, and avoid (or define) jargon or concepts that they may not be expected to know.
  • Comment on Re: On differing learning styles, and learning programming through perl

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Re^2: On differing learning styles, and learning programming through perl
by wjw (Priest) on Dec 12, 2006 at 05:28 UTC
    Good points, one and all. I would add that:
    • e. At the point in time when one can clearly state, either verbally or in writing, what one has done, one has reached a basic understanding of what one has done.
      • Having recently assisted my wife with her masters program in mathematics education made this point very clear to me.

        Also, getting to know a language of any kind is a never ending process, the damn things change! And I for one am a strong believer in differnt learning styles. Finding one that works for me is probably the toughest task I have ever taken on.

        ...the majority is always wrong, and always the last to know about it...

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