In my 15+ years of teaching, I have discovered that the students who seem to learn the fastest and get the most out of a week of training are those who have previous exposure to the thing being taught. So I have changed my approach to how I learn and I have found that I now love to learn new things even more than I did before.
This is NOT just some easy way to get out of learning. No, it still requires effort on your part. But it has helped me to get from novice to advanced knowledge on any topic fast. The basic idea is that your brain likes to see the big picture quickly so that it can determine how it will organize those new concepts. It does not like to be kept in the dark, hanging on and waiting for the big surprise at the end when you disconnect from the matrix, and you have somehow magically mastered a new concept.
No, this process is based on the idea of repetition… seeing new concepts several times, and giving your mind the opportunity to remember those concepts. But, you ask… how can your brain remember something that it has not yet learned? Thus the repetition.
Here are the steps…
- Go through the ENTIRE contents of the training material as FAST as possible – do not get sucked into the temptation to stop to do a lab. This is a FAST brain-dump of the course contents. If I am watching video training I will go as fast as double speed (only because most services will not give the option to go faster). Make the video as fast as you can while you can still understand the presenter – this will vary from video to video based on who is recording and how fast they speak at regular speed. If I am reading a book, I skim through it as fast as possible to pick out major concepts without stopping for the specifics (even though this can be very tempting).
- Go through the course contents again. This time I still go fast through the “lectures” but I slow down for areas where I need a little more explanation. I also slow down for demonstrations and this time I follow along with the demonstrations and do them. As I go through this step I have many A-HA moments because I already have a big picture overview of the whole course and I can REMEMBER how individual concepts fit into the bigger whole. I generally do not do end of chapter labs in this round, but I do take some time to start playing around with concepts and code to solidify them in my brain.
- Go through the courses lab exercises. This time I watch only the videos which introduce the lab exercise, and if I get stuck in a lab, I will either turn to the lab solution (if there is one) and/or re-watch the lecture about the concept on which I got stuck. In this round, there are even more A-HA experiences because my brain not only remembers concepts that I have learned (at least twice now) but it can start to see how the big puzzle fits together.
- Find practice tests for an associated certification. As you go through practice certification tests you will quickly find which concepts you understand and with which ones you still struggle. A good practice test will not only tell you which answers you got right, but it will be accompanied by a thorough explanation of why each answer is either right or wrong.
- Do a project – Nothing gets you familiar with a new technology quite like putting it to use in a full-blown project. I like to program a functional website, mobile or desktop application with a new language or framework because it allows me to see how it fits into an entire system. By doing this I can become intimately familiar with its strengths and weaknesses.
The human brain is amazing. It loves to learn, and it loves to remember things. By giving your brain the opportunity to remember things often, through the practice of repetition, I think you will find that you will learn new concepts faster than you have in the past.
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