Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Lecture vs. Trial

In the past three days, you might have noticed a lot of changes to the layout of this blog. I am fooling around with html and learning it in the process. There are many things I still want to change but I am getting to where I want to be. The trial process and reading of my template has got me wondering. What is a better form of education, being told how to do something or learning by trial and error?

The obvious benefit of a lecture style of learning is security. When you are being told how to do something before you ever try it, you are for less likely to make a mistake and damage something. I am not being advised by anyone as to how I should work with HTML, so if I make a big mistake and somehow republish my site with the mistake, I will be stuck with it. If I am explained something I will hopefully not make the mistake in the first place.
Being taught first also helps to pass on the wisdom of elders and warn you about bad habits. I learnt guitar by myself, without an instructor. Since I learn by trial and error and kind of doing things myself, I developed several bad habits. I do such things as strum away from the strings (which is technically more demanding than strumming with the strings) and I adopted many alternative grips with my left hand. With proper mentorship such mistakes could be avoided and no bad habit would be formed. I learn how to do everything with my habits and I am used to them, and they are very hard to change even though I know they are improper. A lecture approach to learning would allow you to avoid the pitfalls in the first place and do things in a proven way.
The lecture style does not leave any major points without discussion. Since the people who are teaching you already know all the big skill in what you are learning, they can cover all the bases. When I learnt guitar, I did not get big into theory and rhythm. Thankfully to my analytical background I naturally picked up more than enough theory while I learnt everything else. However, I still have troubles with rhythm. If you give me a drum, you will have to wait until a cold day in hell before I make a steady beat.

Trial is my preferred method of learning. I learn programming, video editing, guitar, biking, courting and more through trial and error. Surely the experience has not been without its hazards, but I found it more enjoyable. Like in my previous post I am mentioning where I am coming from to get my bias out there so you can analyze my information to a better degree.
Trial leads to more skill development. When you are being taught something, you are told to assume certain things so that the lecture process can be streamlined. With trial you have to prove everything yourself. The process of proving everything involved to do what you want develops a good learning skill as well as giving you a strong grasp over the information. Through out my education in the United States and Canada I have been dismayed many times by how students might know a certain rule or law but not know how to prove it. Without the knowledge of how the rules they use are proven the students are hampered to using it only in certain cases that have been taught to them and outside of that.
Trial is much better at tailoring to your learning style. Since you are the one responsible for what you try and what you are trying to achieve, you become in full control of your learning. I teacher can do their best to try and tailor a program to you as an individual, but since they never know what you are really thinking they can not do it to the extent you can yourself. This tailoring does not always get you to your final destination faster but it usually makes you a much better learner. I learnt programming and guitar much faster through trial and error and self-teaching than I ever would have if I followed the route of some of my more conservative counterparts.

I try to encompass both trial and lecture in my learning, but I find trial to be a much more advanced form of learning. I find that fewer people have mastery of trial than over lecture. A lot of people just go around asking questions hoping someone will answer them instead of really putting their noggin to work. Asking questions is not a bad thing, but I find using your head more rewarding. In the end, learning styles depend on the individual. Jobs are split among both trial based learners and lecture learners. The lecture students can make good factory workers, doctors, standard lawyers and other jobs that follow certain strict and often repetitive guidelines. They are an essential and biggest part of society. Trial learners are more suited towards innovation and hence fit better in science, corporate management, music, art and other fields that depend on new ideas and ways of doing things. To bring this back to my bias and to summarize in general. Lecture learners are the majority of society and make sure that everything that we have works like it suppose to. Trial learners are the minority and they are the ones that develop new things and move society forwards. I find moving something forwards or making something new more interesting than maintenance and therefore prefer trial learning.



Anonymous Ben Anderman said...

As with "Silly vs. Serious", the answer is pretty much, "the right balance", which changes from person to person. Which I guess is pretty much what you said.

Not going to school, I don't get much of the lecture side of learning. But usually when I learn something on the computer, I find a tutorial for it, and loosely follow the tutorial. Basically I try to get some direction, and figure the rest out myself - with most things.

With HTML in particular, I'd like to suggest a couple concepts to you. You don't have to worry about me trying to actually teach it to you though, because I'm much too lazy for that, even if you wanted it. There's a lot of silliness going on with web development - most web pages aren't even valid HTML. A good example of this silliness is how everyone is switching to XHTML for no good reason (see http://hixie.ch/advocacy/xhtml ). Anyway, I'll probably try to convert you to the not-so-dark side sometime, whether you like it or not :)

4:44 PM  

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