I’ve learned many things through the web and alternative sources. Working at P2PU for the past 2 years gave me some perspective on how I learned informally. Here are some thoughts on informal learning:
In retrospect I realize that many things I’ve done was actually learning. I didn’t look at it as learning at the time, but more as playing, having fun or just messing around. I’m not convinced that any of this would have been better if I was conscious of the learning that happened while doing so.
Most people who think they are stupid, do so because they are listening to someone else’s measure of success. Figure out what success means for you. When learning, don’t listen to the typical “high test scores” type of success. You will end up studying long, meaningless lists only to score test marks.
We easily get distracted by the lure of content. When studying, we ask, “what text book should I use?”, “is there a course on this?” Content tends to be a single view on a much larger topic. Focus on the larger topic, not the single view of it.
I can’t think of times that I learned more than when I was learning while doing something. I love reading things, including theory. But for all the things I’ve read, it is only the things I’ve done that I remember.
This is painful. I’m failing at the moment. And I’ve failed before. But I’ve succeeded as well! And succeeding feels really good. Most of the time failure is a combination of mismatched expectations and giving up too early. Sometimes giving up is fine too, it’s no use spending your life on learning things you’ve figured out you don’t like.
I didn’t reflect much while styding, I didn’t need to since the 4 year path to success was laid out. But when I started working, reflection became one of the very few ways I could use to figure out where I’m at. Reflection is a powerful tool to turn failing into learning.
There are suboptimal ways to learn. If you only reflect and never act on those reflections, you will keep on learning in suboptimal ways. Compliment reflection with action, that will make sure than you fail in new ways and possibly even succeed.
I’ve learned many things on my own.
At some stage we normally want to show what we have learned. If you’ve learned something informally, chances are you don’t have a piece of paper to show for it. Figure out how to demonstrate what you know.