Learning tech the best way: by applying

by Ashvini on May 16, 2012 · 12 comments

in General

As an entrepreneur, your survival depends on flexibility. If your business model needs change or complete overhaul, that often means learning new things and adopting them to your business. One does not have to learn one thing completely before start applying.

Technology

That brings us to question, what is the best way to learn anything new? One way is to first dive into books and learn about the subject. Then you probably start trying out examples in the book. However soon you will reach a stage where probably you know many things but do not know how to connect everything together.

In my opinion, there is a limit to how productive one can be with learning new things. There is a part of the brain that is ready to accept and imbibe new information. However with time you will hit a wall, where you probably do not remember much of things that you learned previously.

I have seen a lot of non-techie entrepreneurs facing the problem when they want to enter the fascinating world of technology (especially bloggers learning PHP/CSS or a business owner trying to learn HTML). Trust me there are plenty of non tech people who would want to learn the nuances of technology because it may help them a lot in managing their business.

Coming from a tech background, I feel here is how someone non-techie needs to proceed to learn new language.

Develop a project of your own

In my opinion, the best way to learn anything tech is to start a project. It can be really small project that achieves certain objective. Once you know the basics, you  just dive in trying to make it work. Of course it will not work first time. There will be huge bottlenecks and you will be stuck. It will make you search on internet for solutions. Often you will solutions that will open your mind to new possibilities. You will also see ingenious ways of solving problems which are probably not mentioned in books or tutorials. If you cannot solve your question there are plenty of forums where you can ask really silly questions ( no question is silly actually) and no one would mind answering.

Add features to your   project

Once you have a small project under your belt, you can always start adding more features to it. That way you not only get to know new things but also learn how different aspects of a technology work together. For example if you have a blog which needs new widgets, try to add them one by one slowly. If you get stuck, go back and start over.

Always comment your code well

The best way to forget what you started is not to put comments at the right place. Always add comments to something that you wrote and which worked well. Write comment along as you write code.

Create video of the things you have learned

If you have found something useful, you may create a screen recording of it. That may help you if you get stuck with the same problem in future and you cannot recall the solution. You can also share this video with others to help them out.

The best way to learn a new technology is to learn it quickly and start applying it as soon as possible.

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About The Author

{ 12 comments }

Aswani May 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Hi Ashvini..this is a very useful writeup. I am myself a lover of technology and I just wished I could do more with the same. I had a great desire to be a programer but sadly I couldn’t do well with it. I tried a lot but I had to give up in the end. But it didn’t demotivate at any point of time. I still could explore and learn a lot in other related areas and I have doing it well till date. I know I cannot master everything but there are few things where I can do very well. Learning by doing is the best way to deal with such situations and surely starting off with self projects is the best way to go..!

Ashvini Kumar Saxena May 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Hi Aswani,

I enjoy working with code and also writing here on business ;).
The best way to learn a programming language is by applying it. One may learn theory for many days but without application nothing will ever make any sense until its application.

Glad that you liked the post. :)

Leora May 22, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Ashvini,

Glad to meet you via Carolyn!

I’m mostly self-taught in tech stuff, though I did have formal training in computer programming in the 1980’s. One of the great things about the web is that I’ve learned that I love to code.

And you are so right about recording what we’ve learned – I’m trying to do that via blog posts, but I don’t keep up with my own ideas so well.

Look forward to learning more from you.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena May 23, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Hi Leora,

I too am very glad to see you on my site.
Its very good to hear that you are self taught and that too from 1980’s. Wow. That is something. My first computer program was coded by me in 1992. Since then technology has really moved forward. It would be totally different from 80s though.
I am happy to hear from you and that you liked my post. Thanks for your comment :)

JanB May 22, 2012 at 1:23 am

Being a programmer I know from experience that ‘diving in, head first’ usually works best. There is just not enough time to go through all the books first.
On word though. If you don’t learn by ‘the book’ there is a chance you will start a project the wrong way and stick with it, not knowing you’re doing things the wrong way… Just putting in my two cents worth, or due to the devaluation of money nowadays I should say dime? ;)
Good and useful post!
// Jan

Ashvini Kumar Saxena May 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Hi Jan,

Head first always works for me. Since I have been in tech field right from the start, I know that most languages are structurally same , only semantically different. Its important to learn the underlying idea ( for example what are functions, object oriented stuff etc) and we are set.

I agree with the second part too. I had to junk my projects many times because they could have been done better. However with a new language they were too small to worry about ;).

I put in my ever depreciating Rupee ;) LOL

Adrienne May 21, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Well you would know Ashvini exactly what steps we all should take when trying to learn something new regarding technology. Especially we non-techie types and I’m talking code.

That would be the smartest way to go about this I must admit. Start your own project and then go learn how to implement what you need to know. From there, test test test…

I should be taking your advice on this but I usually just dive in and then hit a wall when I get to a place that I’m stuck. Oh wait, I’ll just call you! :-)

Okay, maybe I’ll call you and ask you where can I find out how to do what I want. Maybe you can point me in the right direction.

By the way, fabulous job on Carolyn’s blog. Ya done good my friend. I love the new look and I know you had a big hand in making that happen. We appreciate you so much.

Now, enjoy your week.

~Adrienne

Ashvini Kumar Saxena May 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Hey Adrienne,

You have the best strategy set for you. Call a person you know when you are stuck. It is the best way to solve the problem and probably you will learn something in the process.
As always, you can put a hotline call to me :).
Carolyn’s blog is looking great and she did all the artwork. I was just behind the stage guy holding the lights ;). Thanks for your appreciation.

Harleena Singh@Freelance Writer May 21, 2012 at 10:25 am

Absolutely Ashvini!

Congratulations on the wonderful job you’ve done at Carolyn’s blog, and I just knew I had to come over and get connected.

You are so right about doing things yourself if you really want to learn something, which is what my husband is good at and always keeps doing things on a hit and trail, and eventually with time and patience – even though it does take time, you are able to get results. I somehow never had the technical inclination and run far away where I see codes or these CSS and all such things and hand over things to him – perhaps because I know he has some idea and would manage things.

I guess when it falls on my head someday I would reach out to you, because Carolyn did mention you are a great teacher , and to learn something new, you do need a good teacher – isn’t it?

Thanks for sharing and it’s great to connect here. :)

Ashvini Kumar Saxena May 21, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Hi Harleena,

I am very excited to see you here :).

It was really fun to work with Carolyn and we both enjoyed setting up her blog. Since I come from technical background it is often comparatively easy for me to learn tech things. However since technology(such as various languages) is very logical in structure and any one with inclination can grab the concepts faster.
The best way is to start slowly and after learning something, do a very small project. That will help you learn things in a more integrated way.
Of course I am always there to help you. Just drop me a mail when you do need some help :)
See you soon on your blog :).

Carolyn | Wonder of Tech May 20, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Hi Ashvini, You’re a great teacher. Your ideas of helping you to remember what you did with coding are brilliant. I like the idea of taking notes and doing a screen video. Screen caps would help too.

Too often I rush ahead, make changes and get myself into a bind. I suppose enough mistakes and I will learn to take things more slowly. I will definitely implement your suggestions when I embark on my next project!

Ashvini Kumar Saxena May 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Hi Carolyn,

Thank you for kind words. It was fun setting up your blog and I hope both of us learned something new. I am glad that you liked my ideas. When I learn something new, I often start with small project and I learn a lot when I look for solutions to specific problems.
One may stumble on the way but that is way to learn and hence your methods are right. :)

Thanks for the comment. I appreciate them always :).

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