by Cédric1 min read9th Jan 20223 comments
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3 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:22 PM

A conversation with a friend of mine in the car about him learning React.

This conversation might be interesting to others as rationality techniques were successfully used to persuade someone to act more rationally for their benefit in an everyday life type context.

K: 'When I get home I'm going to keep working on my portfolio website and use that to learn React'

Me: 'How are you going about that?'

K: 'I'm following a YouTube tutorial'

Me: 'I think you should just learn the concepts yourself then apply them to making the website without following a tutorial. When I was following tutorials I could not make projects independently afterwards using what I had just learned in the tutorials'

K: 'Yeah, but I already started, I'm just going to finish this...'

Me: 'That's the lost cause fal...'

K: 'Yes, I know it's a fallacy, but when I start something, I want to finish it'.

Me: 'But your goal is to learn React, your approach is not effective. I mean, you can do whatever you want but I think you're going about it the wrong way'

K: thinking expression for many seconds

Me: 'It's not just for me that the tutorial approach didn't work, I routinely see posts about how people fail to apply anything they learn in tutorials after they complete them. Or posts about people doing tutorials for months and not being able to actually work on anything themselves'

K: More thinking

Me: 'Whacha thinking about?'

K: 'I'm thinking about how I best learned at uni'

Conversation then shifts to what methods of learning we found most effective. Friend has done the rational thing and moved away from the ineffective technique.

If anyone has ideas about how I could have been even more effective, I'd love to hear them!

'I think you should just learn the concepts yourself then apply them to making the website without following a tutorial. When I was following tutorials I could not make projects independently afterwards using what I had just learned in the tutorials'

Feel free to ignore if you don't want to go on an object-level tangent, but my current impression of my own learning style is that structured course -> own project is often the best combination. The structured course gives me a clear starting point and prevents me from feeling lost or overwhelmed. It's true that I will only retain a relatively small fraction of the details, and an even smaller fraction of what I actually need to know IRL, but if the course is any good it will make the self-guided learning of the second phase much easier. 

For example, I'm currently doing a couple of web dev projects, having previously done some 'online bootcamp'-style courses. I'm having to do a heck of a lot of googling, including some embarrassingly basic stuff, but I still feel like the courses did at least a few useful things:

  • demystified the whole process, so that I usually have at least a rough idea what to look for and where;
  • recommended (and gave me some experience with) various useful tools;
  • gave me a sense of which kinds of project are feasible.

If I were smarter or more reliably self-motivated, maybe the courses would have been a waste of time; I certainly could have learned the same material in a purely self-guided way, and perhaps I could have done so much more efficiently. But realistically, I think I would have been much more likely to give up in frustration had I tried to dive straight in.

(I realise your friend was talking about a Youtube tutorial, and I'm talking about courses that are more foundational and less focused on teaching you how to do one specific thing, and that your position on those might be different.)

It's weird how 'figuring it out by yourself' can mean:

doing the research

learning from stuff that's already been written and published/video tutorials

OR

I was trapped in a cave for two years, and while I was there I solved this problem with no textbooks, internet connection, or an eraser, just walls and chalk. (I'm not aware of anyone actually doing this.)