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Juan F Gonzalez
Juan F Gonzalez

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Tackling a new tech with no fear

Welcome back!

In this post, we're gonna talk about learning a new language/tech in a much more effective way than the traditional one.

These are some practical things you can start doing to improve your process and get more bang for your learning buck.

You may already know some of those but sometimes I even found things that I know about but haven't been putting into practice.

It's not until I read about these from someone else that gives me a different meaning and makes it much clearer to start thinking about them in a different way.

So, let's get into it!

Find what learning style is more natural to you.

We all have a different combination of our learning styles. One could be the one we've grown up with and another could be developed along the way.

There are 3 major ones we've probably used before.

  • Visual
  • Auditive
  • Kinesthetic

Visual learners are... well, you know, visual. They normally are highly attuned to seeing how things work and how they unfold before they try to do it themselves.

Watching tutorials and seeing other people "do the thing" is most useful when it comes to learning something new.

Auditive learners are akin to hearing things from other sources, whether it be recordings, audiobooks, podcasts, somebody talking about a subject.

They usually forgo other senses to pay attention to what they're hearing.

Kinesthetic learners are all about movement. They are the ones who like doing things with a more "hands-on" approach.

They get into the fray and start doing things even if they haven't done them before or even if they don't know what they are doing just yet.

No idea what I'm doing

For instance, when you're learning some technical material, things get easier when:

  1. Someone explains the ideas to you.
  2. You visualize things and see the whole picture.
  3. You try out something to get a feel for the ideas.

You're not sure whether a word should be spelled "seperate" or "separate". Do you:

  1. See the word in your mind and choose the one that looks best.
  2. Say it out loud.
  3. Write down both versions and compare them.

The game you much rather be playing is:

  1. Pictionary.
  2. Charades.
  3. 20 questions.

Once you have your answers to those questions, you can be more aware of what type of learning comes more naturally to you.
And for the record, the answers to the questions are:

First question.

  1. Auditive
  2. Visual
  3. Kinesthetic

Second and third questions.

  1. Visual
  2. Auditive
  3. Kinesthetic

Develop a curiosity for a particular area

When you are curious about some language or an area of development (e.g. frontend, mobile, cloud, etc), you can follow that curiosity to find more about the subject and have an easier time at learning it.

You will find resources that are more useful for your particular case besides what's often recommended as the "best" way to learn.

Your curiosity can become a very good way to guide your own learning. You no longer would have to sit through "important" material that you only find 20% of it useful.

If, for instance, everyone is recommending 'X' book to learn about a language but you find code written across several pages boring and going back and forth between chapters to understand something more of a chore than a fun hobby, drop that thing and move on.

Long are the days where the only way to acquire knowledge about a topic was by locking ourselves in a library.

When reading or watching stuff related to your interests, you're working with your biology and not against it. That way, you'll be able to sustain motivation for longer and do things you wouldn't otherwise do.

Not only that, but your curiosity will have you find different ways to approach the topic and ask better questions, which will lead to better answers and have the material be more present in your mind.

Use the material that others have organized for you

Like I mentioned earlier, no longer are the days where to learn about a subject very well, one would have to find someone who was very good at it and ask them to teach it or have them as a mentor.

College teachers are no longer the "gatekeepers" of an area of knowledge. And we're now able to do our own research and learn about something without having to go the "traditional route".

That said when we don't know what we don't know about a subject, it's difficult to determine whether some material is going to be beneficial for our learning or a waste of time.

Fortunately, the internet solves that to a degree. You could go online and find in different places how people are structuring and teaching python (if that's what you want to learn).

You can find multiple sources from multiple instructors and see what are the topics that appear the most and would be the most essential, and others that don't show up that much.

You could take the "going through multiple courses" route or the "learn from free sites" (like FreeCodeCamp) or even the "design your own curriculum" route with free resources out there.

The important part here is to not just go randomly through things you're interested in without any sort of logical order or trying to accomplish a defined objective.

Find out what is that you want to learn, what is that you want to be able to do with those skills, and choose a path that will get you there.

Have periods of dedicated time to do the learning

It goes without saying that once you identified what you're going to learn and what you're interested in. You have to make time to actually do the thing.

This is preferably a consistent amount of time at a consistent time in the day. That doesn't mean that if you're not able to do 1 hour of learning every day at 6 am is going to be the end of your progress.

Try to stick to a regular schedule, replacing a low-value activity (like watching TV or scrolling through social media), and use that time for your learning session.

This will make it much easier for you to start building the habit and it will allow your brain to be better prepared for the task of picking up new knowledge.

Also, if you use these sessions to review what you're learning as well, it'll help to keep the concepts fresh in your mind and stave off the effects of the Forgetting Curve

The forgetting curve

Follow the learn/practice/feedback loop

One of the most effective ways to develop a new skill or get "good" at something, is to be biased towards action. Taking something that you read/saw/heard and do something with it.

By looking for ways in which you can apply the newly acquired knowledge, you take a more active role in learning and are able to progress much faster.

Learning about coding is a great example of this. Say you're reading an article about JavaScript array methods and you come across the reduce function.

You can read the entire article and have a general knowledge of what it is for and in which cases it would be used.

Still, 4-5 hours from the time you finished reading it you wouldn't be able to use it in a different context because you really didn't interact with the concept.

Even if the author did a great job at explaining it with examples and visuals, you can read how it works, open a new browser console tab, and start trying it with an array of numbers you just made up.

The console will tell you if made any mistakes or have any syntax errors and if the result that it shows doesn't make sense, you can go back to the article and reread any part that you're missing or you misunderstood and fill in the gaps.

By following this learn-practice-feedback loop, you are way ahead of the person that grabs a "Python Programming" or "Eloquent JavaScript" book and just reads a couple of pages in every session.

Conclusion

This is one of the ways you can use to get a headstart when learning a new language/framework/tool for your work or for building something by yourself.

The process is simple although is certainly not easy when getting started. I hope that by using this as a reference point, you're now much better prepared at tackling a topic that looks hard and intimidating to learn.

It's not just about "learning to code", it's about being purposeful with what you want to learn, why are you learning it, and how you'll go about doing it.

Remember that practicing for the sake of practicing doesn't get you very far. What's important is to do what Anders Ericsson calls "Deliberate Practice". The gold standard for developing skills and being really good at using them.

Thanks for reading so far. I hope this was useful and gave you some lights about what to do and how to do it.

Keep practicing, keep making progress, and keep being awesome.

Goodbye


Cover Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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