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The Learning Curve

I know what you're thinking. "Great, another post about education. Didn't we just do one last week? Jeez, Ritvik, come up with something new!". But I won't, because it's my blog and I get to decide what I write about, so there.

This post isn't so much about education (rejoice!) as about how we - or rather I, because I'm not the entire human race - learn. Recently there's been this whole thing that video and audio are the best ways to learn anything under the sun. Personally, I don't entirely agree. However, I also don't exactly disagree.

A few weeks ago, I was working at an orphanage (for free, because I'm such a good person, aren't I?) and was helping the kids learn to read English. The trouble was, the kids weren't exactly what you'd call fast readers, and the lady who ran the orphanage - a wonderful person by the name of Roopa Mahajan - wanted them to be. Not that there's anything wrong with being a fast reader, of course. The problem arises when children who can't really read that well are made to try to read quickly. This particular bunch came up with a solution. They would read the book slowly at first and memorize as much of it as they could, and then recite it from memory, using the first letter of each word as a prompt. This would have worked fine but for the fact that words like 'that' and 'this' begin with the same letter. Basically, this lead the kids to be able to read books they'd read before fairly well, only messing up words which began with the same letter, but hardly being able to read a new book at all. The way they were being taught seemed to suggest that that was how they were supposed to read, because they would have the same page read out to them 10-11 times, making it easy for them to memorize it.

It took a while for me to figure out that that was the way they were doing it - at first it just seemed to me that they were messing up very strange words. At some point, though, it became pretty obvious. After that, whenever they messed up a word, I stopped telling them what the correct word was but simply asked them to read it again. When I read with them, I'd read it in a funny voice, so it would help them remember to actually read rather than just quote from memory. This seemed to work pretty well and seems to suggest that learning by listening and watching works best.

However, there is also a an argument in favour of just learning by reading about whatever you want to learn about. You see, I program apps, and that requires me to do a fair bit of reading about whatever it may be that I'm trying to program. YouTube actually has a pretty large collection of programming-related videos, and at first, I tried learning through those. The trouble was, learning through the videos was extremely inefficient - I had to watch some guy type out and explain all the code first and then go implement it myself so that it would work for the scenario I wanted to use it in. All that takes a lot of time. What turned out to be far more efficient was to simply do a Google search and read about it. I understood the same amount, but in half the time. Videos may tend to be better in terms of learning for school exams and whatnot, but as long as it's not something you have to remember word-for-word and can refer to again when the need arises, I think it makes more sense for me to read.Whether one is better than the other isn't really for me to say - in my opinion, it really just depends on how you intend to use it.

And now to you, O all-powerful reader. Every article I've ever read about blogging suggests that you should interact with your readers, so I'm going to make a poll. You'll need to tell me whether you prefer to learn by reading or by watching videos or by reading. Yippee! Polls! Also, please comment and share this. Seriously. Share it. Go on, do it now. If you don't share it, I'm going to look at you strangely. JUST SHARE IT ALREADY! Sheesh...


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