Posts Tagged ‘Digital History’

Learning something new (Interactive Programming with Python) pt.1

May 6, 2013 2 comments

I am starting Week 3 in my  nine-week Coursera class created by Rice computer science professors, An Introduction to Interactive Programming in PythonI’m enjoying it so far and recommend that anyone interested in learning programming take a look at it.

Learning something new is not really an adult thing to do!  It’s uncomfortable – most of the time we’d rather do the things we’ve done a million times before and are therefore great at.  There’s probably nothing in the world I’m better at than the work tasks I’ve been doing for 20 years, and it’s easy to forget that this is exactly why I’m good at them.

It’s hard to be patient when you feel like a blockhead, trying to pound your head through a new type of task.  Why should it take me all Saturday (with fits and starts) to finish the class project “Guess a Number”?  Answer – it takes as long as it takes, and through not taking shortcuts (or cheating in some way)  I will end up understanding the material better.

I have two advantages that help me to keep plugging through projects like this.

One is that I learned to play my first instrument (diatonic harmonica) as an adult.   I thought it would be relatively easy – it wasn’t!  However I did have a facility for the instrument (within limits) and after a few years of effort became a competent player,  an aficionado of  the great players,  and a fan of the  “Blues genre.”    The return was well worth the effort and time I invested.   The best part is that I remember not being able  to do things with a harp (colloquial American term for harmonica) at all that are now very easy.  I can’t imagine not being able to solo at all, or not having a vibrato – but I remember that it took me about four years to be able to do those things effectively, with maybe an average of 45 minutes per day at my most enthusiastic.  That’s a lot of practice time, and to become very good I’d probably have to double that effort at least (obviously I’m investing that effort in other areas now).

The other thing is that  in my field  (Information Science)  I am continually exploring  new tools (software, tech, etc.) and teaching our faculty how to best use them for their work.  Once all the professors are up to speed with a technology, a new version comes along that requires further training.  So I am continually learning to do new things and helping others learn.

I should also mention that since Christmas (inspired by reading Moonwalking with Einstein) I have successfully added 468 country locations to my long-term memory (sic) through completing a “Countries of the World” course on the Memrise website.   Now know lots non-actionable information – the names and locations of all the island chains in the South Pacific, all the countries in Africa, Central America, etcThe point of mentioning this that I successfully completed a learning project, and reminds me that if I invest effort and time I can learn new things and  develop new skills such as programming.

– Andrew Taylor