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> Learning: How does it work?, Your experiences, likes, dislikes, loves and hates
AuthorMusician
post Dec 30 2016, 12:51 PM
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During this fifth phase of my lifetime's music study, the best ways to practice are important once again, and that has led me to clips like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3vw53N3phQ

While it's pretty obvious that brains and computers share similarities, putting the concept into context made the observation useful to me. So what are your stories?

How does learning work?

What is your most memorable learning experience?

What do you like, dislike, love or hate about learning new stuff?

How do you approach learning for school, career, hobby, passionate interest, and/or dispassionate requirement?

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Mrs. Pigpen
post Dec 31 2016, 02:33 PM
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Good topic, AM! flowers.gif

How does learning work?
I think, with many things, experience and repetition are best teacher.
You establish a habit pattern and familiarity with something, memory kicks in (which might include muscle memory) and it's easy.
Works for driving stick shift, learning languages, sticking people with IV needles and hanging up med drips, flying an airplane, driving a car and so forth.
Or take typing.
I started out at ad.gif typing about 20 words per minute. I couldn't keep up in the chat room back then....now after thousands of posts I've reached my anatomical limit (not sure how fast that is, but it's a LOT faster). smile.gif

One problem with habit pattern can be when something disturbs the pattern...that's one leading cause of medical error, for instance.

What is your most memorable learning experience?
The majority of my most memorable experiences are from screw-ups, unfortunately. That's probably the case with most people because when you attach an emotion to an action (or situation), you're more likely to remember it and not repeat it. I'll try to think of some specifics, but honestly most I don't like thinking about. Non-specifically, lot of it was the arrogance of youth. I've learned to be cautious when judging first appearances, and I've become a lot more humble about things.

What do you like, dislike, love or hate about learning new stuff?
I hate being bad at anything...new to a job, for instance and having to figure out how everything works and where everything is.
I don't think I like the process of learning at all, but I like knowing things/being educated or skilled at something.
I like having a sense of accomplishment when my knowledge pays off (for instance, if I help someone or run something I'm in charge of successfully)

Gladwell's book 'Blink' offers some interesting insight regarding learning and the importance of experience, which often manifest in intuition (aka "hunches").
One of the examples he used was the story of a (supposed) ancient Greek statue of a youth (Kouros) that came on the art market and was about to be purchased by the Getty Museum in California.
It looked to be a magnificently preserved work, and the asking price was just under $10 million.
So the museum did its homework: All the normal background checks to establish its authenticity. A geologist determined that the marble came from the ancient Cape Vathy quarry on the island of Thasos. It was covered with a thin layer of calcite, a substance that accumulates on statues over hundreds or perhaps thousands of years. After 14 months of investigation, the Getty staff concluded the thing was genuine.

But they sent the thing over to Greece where the art historians are accustomed to seeing a lot of ancient marble statues, and to a person all the experts agreed they thought it was fake. They really couldn't put their finger on exactly why but they instinctively knew. The closest one said is simply didn't look like it had come from the ground. So further investigations were made, and the whole scheme unraveled. The statue had been sculptured by forgers in Rome in the early 1980's. The teams of analysts who did 14 months of research turned out to be wrong. The Greek historians who relied on their initial hunches were right.

This post has been edited by Mrs. Pigpen: Dec 31 2016, 03:29 PM
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AuthorMusician
post Jan 1 2017, 03:45 AM
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QUOTE(Mrs. Pigpen @ Dec 31 2016, 10:33 AM) *
The majority of my most memorable experiences are from screw-ups, unfortunately. That's probably the case with most people because when you attach an emotion to an action (or situation), you're more likely to remember it and not repeat it. I'll try to think of some specifics, but honestly most I don't like thinking about. Non-specifically, lot of it was the arrogance of youth. I've learned to be cautious when judging first appearances, and I've become a lot more humble about things.

Amen to that, sister. One of the most important lessons in life came to me while dealing with the city in a close suburb of Minneapolis, circa 1978. Pulled in front of this car on my motorcycle, jumped in like the clueless dink I was. This swarthy little guy gets out of the car and told me I'd just cut him off, so to speak, and I said that he'd have done the same. And then he said he would not have, a calm voice, dark brown eyes with astonishing depth. I felt like my soul had given notice: One more stunt like that, kid, and we're done.

Entirely humbled, I rolled the scooter (Suzuki RE5, actually) away from the pump and went into the station. The guy paid for his gas and gave me a little nod before taking off. It was way more than I deserved.

I see the guy's face and hear his voice often when impatience and fear try to take over. He placed this gift before me, I accepted it, and that has made a big difference more times than I can remember. Did he know what he'd done? I'm pretty sure he did.

Maybe the no-pain-no-gain principle is a big part of learning, but I have to add that without knowing where the pain will take you, it's a lot harder to endure. In grade and high schools, it'd take me to the next grade and graduation. Didn't learn how to enjoy learning until college, and that took a couple of years. Something clicked in the junior year that has stuck ever since.

A great love is research, while rote memorization is the greatest hatred. Thought memorization was stupid in a world full of books and especially now with the Internet. I'm also not a fan of lectures longer than 20 minutes, unless the lecturer is also funny in a good way. Laughter must release a strong shot of natural brain drugs.

Repetition, as you've pointed out, is extremely important. Also thinking about what's being learned, whether alone or among people with the same interests.

This is something that musicians experience -- a sudden burst of inspiration during a gig that becomes part of the style, and usually right after screwing up while trying to recover. It hardly ever happens during practice sessions, but new insights do. It's a slower process, for me anyway. Here's where stress can make a big difference.

So pain and stress are parts of learning. I wonder if that's true for everyone or if some people learn as a part of their natures. I do know that some people hate the whole idea of learning new things, your unmotivated student as a prime example. My next older brother was like this, but he knew mechanics and how to have a good time even during very dark days. There always seems to be something.

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Julian
post Jan 3 2017, 03:24 PM
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QUOTE(AuthorMusician @ Dec 30 2016, 12:51 PM) *
During this fifth phase of my lifetime's music study, the best ways to practice are important once again, and that has led me to clips like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3vw53N3phQ

While it's pretty obvious that brains and computers share similarities, putting the concept into context made the observation useful to me. So what are your stories?

How does learning work?

What is your most memorable learning experience?

What do you like, dislike, love or hate about learning new stuff?

How do you approach learning for school, career, hobby, passionate interest, and/or dispassionate requirement?


Well, there are several types of learning. One can learn facts. One can learn lines for a performance (not just acting in a play, but to make a speech or give a lecture or sing a song). One can learn a skill (and there are many types of skill, from carving wood to programming a computer).

And there are also different styles of learning. An age ago, where I was in a job with an employer that believed that offline training was an investment in the business - rather than a needless encumbrance, a simple cost to be minimised or eliminated - I learned (on a course called "Training Techniques") about these different learning styles that different people favour. Most people can, and do, use more than one style, but they tend to favour one above the others, and also tend to gravitate towards things that they can learn most easily using their favoured style. This is a really useful resource Learning Styles

It's very easy to assume that, say, a class of students, all have the same learning style, rather than a whole mix of them. Indeed, when designing a lesson or training session of some kind, the novice mistake is to assume that everyone has the same learning style as you do. (Among other things, this is why good teaching is itself a skill that must be learned, and isn't an innate ability that some people have or don't - teachers have to learn to adapt to different the learning styles of a given mix of students). Poor teaching (and not just from school teachers, but also parents, relatives, peers, workplace trainers etc.) is the main reason that anyone ever comes to think of themselves as 'dumb' or 'stupid' or think they can't do something.

Some subjects lend themselves to particular learning styles more easily than others - it's hard to learn about theoretical physics with just your hands, for instance, and hard to learn about carpentry or pottery without using them.

What is your most memorable learning experience?

An age ago I remember being set a challenge by my then boss which required me to learn a programming language as a tool to complete the challenge. I'm intellectually very competitive, so this was the perfect way to get me to learn the language AND solve a business problem. (Alas, it's a completely defunct language now, or else I'd still be doing it.) I got so good at it I became not just the company's subject matter expert on the programming language (I understood it better than anyone in our IT department, to the point where they would ask me to fix problems that ever arose with it), but the expert in the industry I worked in at that time on the business area I was solving the business problem for. The method I came up with to rank sales of magazines in the UK on a like for like revenue basis (as opposed to simple circulation numbers) is still the industry standard, 12 years after I left the industry.

As you can see, I'm still really proud of that achievement, which arose from a learning experience. And it's my lasting regret that such a professional peak happened 12 years ago and I have yet to match it, or even have any serious idea of what I could do that would. I have an idea for an Android app that would require me to learn how to develop Android apps (probably using Java, which would be a much more useful skill than MDB Express), but the downside of that is that isn't a core part of my day job, so I'd have to do it on my own time. And my own time is now a lot less now that I have a partner and a daughter.

What do you like, dislike, love or hate about learning new stuff?

I like knowing stuff, or knowing how to do stuff. Learning it is, for me, simply the route of how to get to the goal. I don't usually have any problems following written instructions (unless it's the usual translated-poorly-from-Chinese instructions you get with self-assembly furniture) and I tend to prefer to learn alone. I get a kick out of fixing minor things on a car or domestic appliance (I changed a thermostat on a tumble drier and got another year's use out of what appeared to be a useless hunk of metal).

I used to learn musical instruments (mostly brass, though a little woodwind) as a child but I was lacking the patience and discipline required to do very well at it. Plus my embochure was too big to play anything except the big tuba-type instruments and, to be honest, I found the plodding oom-pah-pah lines of most of the arrangements I came across to be much too dull to be worth spending a lot of time learning the technique. I found the same thing about singing - at school, they were only really interested in selecting kids for the school choir, and as my voice was already breaking when I was 10 or 11 I was graded at C and left alone for most of the time. As an adult I've done more singing (some on stage, but mostly singing along on my own on long car journeys!) and my vocal skills have improved to the point where I wonder sometimes if singing lessons would be worthwhile. Alas, I've never got further than wondering.

I hate being closely supervised - the sense of having someone looking over your shoulder - at the best of times, but if I'm trying to learn a new skill I find it quite stressful.

It's been too long since I painted or drew so I think I'll try to do more of that if I can find any time for it. And for a while now, I've been thinking about writing a stage play, so will have a proper go at that too. A couple of my friends have done that, with some success, and I reckon I'd be able to do a better job, so my competitive instinct is urging me to get moving on that. Learning Java/Android programming I've already mentioned.

Longer time, I've always wanted to learn to play guitar and/or piano.
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AuthorMusician
post Jan 5 2017, 08:55 PM
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QUOTE(Julian @ Jan 3 2017, 11:24 AM) *
As you can see, I'm still really proud of that achievement, which arose from a learning experience. And it's my lasting regret that such a professional peak happened 12 years ago and I have yet to match it, or even have any serious idea of what I could do that would. I have an idea for an Android app that would require me to learn how to develop Android apps (probably using Java, which would be a much more useful skill than MDB Express), but the downside of that is that isn't a core part of my day job, so I'd have to do it on my own time. And my own time is now a lot less now that I have a partner and a daughter.

Sounds like you had a pretty wise boss/mentor, someone who knew you better than you knew yourself at the time. So I'll riff on that idea:

I often think of learning as a journey into a new land or into a new part of a known field. It's certainly not an original take on learning, pretty ancient actually, but being a kind of adventurer, it works very well for me. And on that journey, I expect to meet helpers and adversaries, just like in real life. Er, maybe because learning is real life.

There was Patty B. who let me use one of her guitars, a nice classical, when she figured out that music needed to be a bigger part of me -- helper. From there, I bought my own classical guitar, a Yamaha for 75 1972 USD. The cardboard case was free. My next older brother, the fun-loving mechanic, told me that I'd wasted a lot of money with that purchase, and who the hell did I think I was anyway, a rock star like Elvis!? Adversary.

On that guitar, actually quite inexpensive for the sound quality, I worked up country, country blues, and folk tunes. Even started to explore bottleneck slide. Patty B. helped with guidance from time to time, also other guitarists I met in college. It was a long learning journey that has continued into my twilight days.

Both my older brothers became adversaries to the point that I don't speak to them at all, but one is dead. Makes it only half as difficult. Which brings me to resentment of those who try to be better off than they are and actually make it, not once but almost every day. While I understand that anyone from my home town doing this gets, or once got, treated like dirt, it's especially crappy when it's family. I should have worked in the open pit iron mines and died fat and stupid like everyone else, or so it felt. As it turns out, not that fat or stupid, and die everyone must.

Basically, music and college showed me that there's a lot more to life than the weekends, and it didn't hurt to go on that three-week motorcycle jam in 1971 across Canada to Vancouver, down the coast and into Sacramento, across to Lake Tahoe and The Four Corners, up to Yellowstone and The Black Hills, then back to that ittsy bittsy little home village. It had become too irritating and far too small.

I'd like to say that I never looked back, but that'd be a big fat lie. Lots of homesickness became a reoccurring struggle, but I didn't go back because that would have meant missing out on the vastness that'd drawn me away in the first place.

So with learning can come danger from one perspective, freedom/adventure from another. Now that the old body isn't doing so well, the freedom/adventure is pretty much within. Still, the guitar hands are coming back despite the nerve damage that happened from lots of IV insertions all over the arms and into the neck. And even though chops have to be relearned and basics revisited, I can see the horizon growing like crossing Manitoba to the Canadian Rockies. Are those clouds or mountains?

Foothills. Then the mountains.

Still can't stand rote memorization. The good news is that I don't have to do it, according to the video linked to in the initial post. Brain games.

Yeah brain, you think you're so clever. Well, I can trick you into doing what I want!

Wait a minute . . . who is that talking to the brain?
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Julian
post Jan 6 2017, 02:35 PM
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QUOTE(AuthorMusician @ Jan 5 2017, 08:55 PM) *
QUOTE(Julian @ Jan 3 2017, 11:24 AM) *
As you can see, I'm still really proud of that achievement, which arose from a learning experience. And it's my lasting regret that such a professional peak happened 12 years ago and I have yet to match it, or even have any serious idea of what I could do that would. I have an idea for an Android app that would require me to learn how to develop Android apps (probably using Java, which would be a much more useful skill than MDB Express), but the downside of that is that isn't a core part of my day job, so I'd have to do it on my own time. And my own time is now a lot less now that I have a partner and a daughter.

Sounds like you had a pretty wise boss/mentor, someone who knew you better than you knew yourself at the time. So I'll riff on that idea:


Yes indeed. He left the company 20 years ago, and I left it 15 years ago, and I still look back in fondness/amazement that the three best managers I ever worked for, and all the best managers I ever worked with, were all at that company.

It's with sadness and resignation (and not a little frustration) that the quality of management in the UK is so poor that I've never come across anyone in any organisation in the past 15 years who was anything like as good as a man manager as the people I worked with (and, hopefully, became) at that one organisation. It wasn't an accident, they had a deliberate and comprehensive management training programme - in any given year in my own time there, I had at least two working weeks on training courses at their own in-house training centre (since sold off, so I doubt it's as good these days).

Which brings me to another type of learning, one which we often don't even notice. We learn from the cultures we are part of*. Be that a family, a geography, or a social or commercial grouping, we absorb skills and methods (for good or ill!), jargon, ways of thinking and doing, from those around us.

*We are all a part of more than one culture, even if we only consciously identify with one.
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AuthorMusician
post Jan 7 2017, 08:36 PM
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QUOTE(Julian @ Jan 6 2017, 10:35 AM) *
Which brings me to another type of learning, one which we often don't even notice. We learn from the cultures we are part of*. Be that a family, a geography, or a social or commercial grouping, we absorb skills and methods (for good or ill!), jargon, ways of thinking and doing, from those around us.

*We are all a part of more than one culture, even if we only consciously identify with one.

Excellent observation Julian, especially the one about being a part of more than one culture. It explains several WTF situations in my life, such as being the "smart one" in the family. I took to reading/writing like a duckling to water, and that led to friendships among truly smart kids around my age, maybe a Mensa type or two. I'm fairly certain that was because I could understand what they were talking about, if not being able to think on equal terms. For example, I didn't get an appreciation for classical music until the late 20s, right around when the human brain becomes fully developed, as opposed to grade school for my brainy chums.

Mine was a working-class family of iron miners with very little emphasis on education, as in grade/high/higher school. The attitude obtained by osmosis was to get good enough grades to pass, since the jobs in the mines did not require much brain power.

I was even warned not to get too smart along the way because that'd make it more difficult to land jobs. It's a good thing that one never took hold. Seemed pretty self-destructive.

On the other hand, maybe it was just being a good listener. That could be attributed to being the youngest in a house full of, ah, expressive parents and siblings. It was simply safer to keep the trap shut, still waters running deep being the illusion.

Let's see, cultures include American (motor head, rock 'n roll, burgers 'n pizza), Minnesotan (so nice until the knives and guns come out), college educated (expanded horizons, independent studies), music (ain't no money in it, leads to early graves -- but can't quit it), 'puter jock (like motor head without the black grease under fingernails), scribbler (scratching the itch), and sort of family guy without Stewie. And now a terminal Coloradan, the culture being a cross of hippie dippie and redneck crude. This state contains Boulder (hippie) and Colorado Springs (redneck) with Denver (hipneck) sandwiched between, for example. Then there's nature and all she infuses, no matter the physical location.

It's an interesting meditation on what has had influences along the way. And as you alluded, it's likely that the entire field can't be identified because the subconscious minds pick up lots of things the conscious mind never realizes or is surprised when realization happens. Ergo, flashes of inspiration and maybe deja vu, going by "instinct" and making astonishingly good guesses. Or disastrously bad ones. Judgment is usually done after the fact, so it seems.

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