In this article I provide a glance about my learning environment. This includes my methods (or my behavior) and the tools I use to learn and gather knowledge.
I don’t have a “real” method for learning. Most of the time I rely on my memory to remember “yeah, I’ve heard/read about that and I have an idea how to find it again”. This works kind of good for me, as I’m living in a highly connected world and have the wisdom of the world at my fingertips. Obviously this is slower that remembering everything by heart and also error prone. Nonetheless I’ll list my methods for learning here, ordered by the amount of time I use for them.
1 – Information consumption
As already written, I rely heavily on information consumption and mentally file some of the information. A good example would be an interesting article I read online (or offline). After reading it, I usually remember one or two key pieces of information and the platform where I read it. That enables me to find that article again, if I need to reread the piece.
2 – Training
The good old training of something is obviously also in my tool belt. A classic example is doing a tutorial (currently the phoenix getting started guide). Read the lesson, do the lesson, understand the lesson, rinse repeat. It’s interesting how big the difference is between reading a tutorial and doing it; the impact of really doing it is huge.
3 – Discussion
I like to discuss. (Some would say I like it too much…). I find it very fruitfully to discuss a given information with someone. Especially if that person has more knowledge on that topic (or in general) than me. In a discussion you can learn a lot about a topic, particularly about personal perception on some topics. “Why did that happen in that open source group”, “Why is this better than that” are some good examples of questions which tend not to be answered on “official” articles. Although you have to take discussions with a grain of salt (because the information is probably influenced by personal bias) I like discussions as method of learning.
4 – Information curation
My information consumption is not only passively managed in my head. I curate some of my information sources as well. The goal of curation of a piece of information is to make it easier to find (more important) for other people. An example would be up-voting of answers (and questions) on stackoverflow.com. With every up (or down)-vote of an answer it is more likely someone else is finding these (in my opinion correct) information more easily.
5 – Reflection
Every once in a while I reflect on information publicly. This is then happens here in my blog. I have no idea of someone is reading these articles but they help me to reflect on information. It does wonders if you have to write in complete sentences. Also it helps to focus what part of my solution really solved something (and what only was an try of mine and fixed nothing).
I use several tools to gather information. I try here to compile a more or less complete list of tools I work with and what I use it for.
- Feedly – An online rss reader. Currently I have ~160 rss feed on various topics in my lists, which I try to follow. I curate this list once every other month. I use feedly in my browser as well as my mobile phone.
- Facebook – Actually some information got to me via Facebook faster (or exclusively even) than my rss reader.
- Stackoverflow – An website for solving questions. Mostly programming related. Besides getting the answers to questions I have, I curate questions and answers there by up- and down-voting them.
- My blog – Although way too rare, I write something in this blog. Sometimes I reflect on some information, sometimes I even post solutions to problems, which occurred to me.
- Evernote – My notebook for everything. If I take a note, I take it in evernote. It’s synced between my devices, convenient to use and free. Also its search is very good. I actually retrieve information from my notebooks!
- Logging – I also keep tab on the time I use for learning and various other tasks. It’s always nice to see that you spent x hours last week on learning and self improvements.