Sarah Drasner on Learning to Learn

This is one of those articles that I’m linking 50% for its substance (which I regard as good but too brief) and 50% for covering and important topic. Specifically, how to manage and think about self-education. A lot, probably most, web developers I know and readers of WPShout I’ve talked to are self-educated in the web development field. Maybe you got college degrees, but few of those were “computer science.” Even if you did, Computer Science Degree often covers very little about web development. So most of us are just learning as we go.

What I really valued in the piece was Sarah’s transparency about the fact that she’s still learning (even while writing in a vaunted space like CSS-Tricks), and that she lays out specifically how she thinks about doing it:

If there’s an API I’m trying to learn, I’ll go to the main documentation page (if there is one), and list each of the things I’m trying to learn. Then I’ll divide the sections into what I think are manageable chunks, and spread the sections over my schedule, usually shooting for about a half hour a day. I do this with the understanding that some days I won’t find the time, and others, I’ll dig in for longer. Typically I aim for at least 2.5 hours of learning a week, because that pace seems reasonable to me.

This is so concrete, and quite different from the way I’ve ever thought about learning. (I’m much more “learn as needing by doing projects.”) But her success speaks for itself. It’s not easy to manage the continuous learning that computer-professionals require. But even you dismiss the specific schedule, Sarah covers also some great things about how to think about learning–how to practice, cognitive load theory–that’ll entertain and inform you as well.


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