Learning Strategies

by Race Bannon on June 3, 2009

What’s the best way to learn something? The answer is that it’s the way that works best for you. And that is the foundation upon which intelligent and successful self education is built. Learning must be tailored to your learning style and other personal preferences.

Over time I’ll present here a number of ways you can gather and analyze information, develop skills and learn about anything whatsoever. You really can learn just about anything in a way that actually works for you, that aligns with your own personal learning style.

Successful learning is often learning that takes places using a variety of approaches. You might do some initial investigations searching for and exploring some websites. Then you notice the website recommends some other sites and you look at those too. One of the sites recommends a great book on the subject, which you buy and read. That leads to find a learning group in your area that meets in a local coffee shop. And so on.

I think you get the idea. In a self-directed education you call the shots. The road to knowledge, skill and insight can have many forks and you get to follow whatever one seems right for you and your learning objectives.

Websites

This one is a no brainer. Without a doubt the internet and the web are the greatest equalizer and democratizer of learning and education to ever come along. Maybe the typeset printed word was the first such milestone, but the internet and web have disseminated knowledge at an exponentially increasing rate to more people on Earth than anyone would have anticipated.

Since you’re on my blog’s website now, I have to put this one first. The web has become the first line of learning explorations for many people as the web’s content becomes increasingly all-encompassing.

Books

Books are still one of the best ways to learn. Available in libraries, bookstores, online libraries, secondhand stores, and loaned from friends, books are still a primary learning method. Always check out all of the references and the bibliography, if there is one. These are often great indicators of materials you can study further if you so desire.

In his article Continue Your Own Learning and Development, Jason Womack suggests a good technique for quickly reading certain types of non-fiction books. He suggests three quick steps in the process. First, read the table of contents, glossary and index to familiarize yourself with the main topics in the book. Second, read titles, subtitles and any text that’s bolded or otherwise emphasized. Finally, read the first sentence of every paragraph to delve a bit deeper into the content. Womack claims that with this technique you can read the average business book, for example, in about an hour.  He also wisely suggests that if you find something particularly interesting in your quick scan, go ahead and read more of that section.

I still think there’s tremendous value in reading a book slowly, reflecting as you proceed on what you’ve read, studying particular sections that prove challenging or inspiring, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with quicker methods of extracting information from a book if that makes sense for what you want to learn.

Learning Files

If there’s something you’d like to learn more about, but can’t devote time to it right now, create a learning file. A learning file is simply a file folder into which you put anything you run across that relates to what you’d like to learn. Toss in magazine articles, business cards of individuals you’d like to chat with or interview, names of books you’d like to read, notes you scribble down on cocktail napkins, and addresses of websites of interest.

At the same time you create your folder file, create a folder on your computer as well. If you ever have something digital such as a movie clip or document, you can store them in that folder. Some people prefer to store all of their learning files digitally. If that works for you, great. Do whatever works to capture all of the ideas and resources that will help you learn the topic when you decide you’re ready to learn about it.

As the time comes around when you do have the time to learn more about the subject, you’re ready with a lot of learning resources and materials to set you on your way immediately.

I’ll write about more learning strategies. Check back soon.

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