Being an Autodidact

I’VE HAD CONSIDERABLE opportunity to observe myself learning things. Though I know better than to generalize from my singular experience, I can’t help wondering how universal it might be nonetheless.

For example, I say often that I learn best and fastest by breaking something and then fixing it. The urgency of needing to get a system or object back into working order has some bearing on this, I’m sure, as does the “muscle memory” of having done something — even only once — as opposed to merely reading about it. And then I read how many really smart and inventive people got their start exploring the universe by taking things apart as a kid. My mental metaphor is that of an alarm clock: fairly large-scale, relatively simple, albeit incredibly sophisticated, and filled with lessons on mechanics, materials, and the rest. And filled with myriad tiny parts which, when spread out across a working surface (and thus subject to loss and disturbance of ad hoc order), can provide a motivating spur similar to having a long suffering mother waiting for you to put her oven back together so she can fix dinner.

Which all makes this quite interesting. I’ve always had more trouble learning from online texts than from printed ones, although I’ve put it down to the scattered, unfocused, and nonlinear aspects of hypertext more than anything. Maybe there’s another cause — a difference in comprehension.

Hmm. Have to watch that and see where it leads.

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