Outstanding Learning Resources

As you know, the world is changing quickly. And, one of the things that needs to change is the way we learn. Many people go to school and assume that traditional school is the only way to learn.  I have written in the past about the shortcomings of a traditional education.

Image courtesy Tulane

Today’s post is about new and better ways to learn. I have been doing that programming stuff for a long time, and it is interesting to see how changes in technology make it easier to learn. eBooks and online videos are a great complement to the old printed book.

Here’s some resources that I recommend for learning anything online:

Recently I wrote about the power of online communities in learning a programming language. I found 2 web sites, Project Euler and Stack Overflow, that represent a new paradigm in learning. I think that this is a method that is far superior than going to school or to reading those boring programming books.

Here’s the next step in the evolution of advanced learning strategies: using your brain in the most effective way possible. Have you ever noticed how boring a lecture is? One of the biggest problems with traditional education is that it is boring. Lecturing is the way people were taught 2,000 years ago. Don’t you think it is time for an improvement?

A similar problem has evolved with books on programming. I have found that nearly all books that are supposed to teach you a programming language fall into one of two groups. The first is a reference guide that you turn to when you have a specific question about how to use a certain keyword or function.

The second kind of book is a step by step guide that tells you what to do. It says, “Click this menu button. Now, type this line.” The problem with this kind of book is that it takes dozens of actions to actually create anything. By the time we are finished doing something, we have completely forgotten the steps that we took to do it. That information will not be available to us in the future when we need it.

The solution to this problem is using what we know about how the brain works to design a learning system that engages us. This new learning systems makes the process both fun and interesting. The best example that I have found so far is the Head First series by O’Reilly. They design the books to engage our curiosity and intellect.

The result is that we can learn at a much faster pace. And, we can remember what we learned. Instead of a long list of boring steps, the process is interactive. It allows us to integrate what we learn so that we can use it in the future.

Now I am reading (enjoying) Head First C#, which is a great example of everything I have been talking about. You can download the first 3 chapters for free. (This is a 31 MB PDF file, so it will take a little while to download.) The publisher has been kind enough to provide these free chapters so that you can see the cool process they have developed. I think you will enjoy going through them.

One really cool thing about the Head First series is that the entire set of books is available on Safari Online. And there are a lot of books in the Head First series. You can learn anything from Java to Algebra. Each month you can read and learn the contents of 10 books for only $23 per month. How awesome is that?

Well, that’s the new learning strategies for today. I hope you enjoyed the info and that you can use it!