Posts Tagged ‘Learning’

Reading, exercising, and life

October 30, 2017

I sometimes read some words and pronounce “I read it” even if I didn’t fully understand what I read. Sadly, the goal is to get through the words, with some minimal understanding. The goal is not to thoroughly understand it.

I sometimes do an exercise and pronounce “I did it” even if I didn’t fully feel the movement and the muscles that were used. Sadly, the goal is to get through the exercise, with some minimal sensory feeling. The goal is not to thoroughly feel the movement and the muscles.

The years are passing by quickly. I wonder if, unconsciously, my goal is to get through life, with some minimal awareness. I hope not.

Stages of Learning a Language

July 10, 2017

For the past year, I’ve been learning a modeling language from MIT called Alloy.

It’s been interesting to watch my progress in learning the language. I started with knowing nothing. I did lots of reading. Nothing really seemed to stick in my brain. Then one day I suddenly realized that things were sticking and the language had come together in my brain – I understood the language. But when I sat down to apply the language to a problem, I froze: “Where do I start?” After lots of struggles with applying the language to problems, I started creating models without constantly having to look things up. Someday I hope to be a master.

Here’s a timeline showing the stages I went through in learning the language. I think the stages may apply to other types of languages – natural languages, programming languages, etc.

Reality beyond words

January 21, 2017

That is a tree.

When teaching a child, don’t say “That is.” Instead say “That is called.”

That is called a tree.

When you say “that is” you confuse the word with the reality, which is infinitely deeper.

Don’t let the child slip away at an early age into the conceptual realm, believing exclusively in words.

There comes a time when a child demands to be fed words and concepts: What’s that? At that stage they want concepts, words.

What’s that? asks the child.

That’s a tree responds the adult.

That’s a flower. That’s a car. That’s a table. That’s a …

Don’t say “that is.” Instead, say “that is called.”

If you say “that is” the child will confuse the word with the reality, which is infinitely deeper.

By saying “that is” the child loses touch with the actual, direct experience of reality. And as the child accumulates words, the child begins to believe that when he/she says “this is a tree” that’s all there is to know about the tree. Later, the child might take a biology class and get a few more names to attach to the tree, or the names of different trees. Immediately, the depth of the tree recedes and is replaced by a relatively dead thought form, “tree.” That’s how language deadens aliveness. When you teach a child language, the child should stay in touch with the actual thing. So you should say “It is called” not “It is” and encourage the child to continue to look, to touch, to listen. Look there, touch, listen. Then everything isn’t obscured with words. Stay with the reality. Some of the direct experience remains with the child.

For most of us adults, we have been deadened by words. It is only later in life, after much shaking up that we break out of this and we start living again.

Whenever you teach the child, help him/her to realize there is more beyond the words. There is reality beyond the words.

You are not John. John is the name we have given you. You are not your name. It’s just a name.

Eckhart Tolle

Quote of the day

April 8, 2016

I learn slowly but permanently.

— Unknown

This is why I love to learn

December 28, 2015

I love learning.

Yesterday I got to thinking about that. Why do I love learning? After all, when I die what benefit will all that learning have done for me?

That line of thinking put a damper on my love for learning. A temporary damper, however, since I woke up this morning again eager to learn new things.

Nonetheless, the question remained at the back of my head all day long.

Just now, as I a was reading a marvelous book, I realized the answer. I love learning, not for any particular benefit it might bring me, not because it might advance my career, I love learning because I love the beauty that I uncover while learning. It is this beauty which motivates me, it drives me to want to learn more and more.

I feel confident that a life filled with uncovering beauty is a life well-lived.

 

Three steps to mastering a topic

February 21, 2015

1. Read: read a book on the topic. Not any book. Read a book written by someone who is an expert on the topic and has a genuine gift for explaining things clearly.

2. Implement: write software that implements the topic you are learning, or solve a bunch of problems relevant to the topic, or write a paper on the topic.

3. Teach: create a bunch of Powerpoint slides along with a bunch of lab exercises and then go share your knowledge with some people.

Learn within a meaningful context

May 29, 2014

I am reading a book on a certain technology. The author of the book explains why it is useful to learn the technology: the technology contains many topics that are generally useful. The author lists the topics. Then the author says this, which I found to be profound:

Although each of these [topics] can be studied in isolation, it is educationally more valuable and satisfying to do so in a meaningful context.

Why I teach

January 16, 2014

My purpose in teaching this course,
as in the others I had taught over the
years, was to learn the material myself.

The Mathematical Experience by Philip J. Davis

Active learning and spectator learning

January 11, 2014

We’ve all been told that the best way to learn is through active learning. Don’t be a spectator. Be a participant in the learning process by solving problems, writing code, writing papers, etc. But the following wonderful description points out that it is important to rise up and survey the landscape — be a spectator for a while.

In mathematics teaching, it’s a commonplace
that “Mathematics isn’t a spectator sport.”
You learn by doing, especially doing problems.
Like all truisms, this is half true. Mathematics
education as doing, doing, doing — no thinking,
no conversation — can seem dreary. An artist
isn’t prohibited from occasional art appreciation
— quite the contrary. You can’t learn a practical
skill as a spectator, but you can learn good taste,
among other things.

— The Mathematical Experience

Pure knowledge – no agenda

November 17, 2013

I am reading a book. It has no extraneous words. There are no jokes in it. No lively dialogue. And definitely no agenda or marketing. The book’s purpose is simply to convey a body of knowledge. It is challenging to read. I have to think deeply about every sentence. I am crawling through it at a snail’s pace. But I have come to realize that there is a great beauty in this book and this gradual learning process. And it is refreshing to get away from the incessant marketing machine of our society. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone is selling their product, their point of view. Enough! It is time to bask in pure knowledge.