thoughts on learning while fiddling

search closed

new search bar – closed

I spent all yesterday afternoon and yesterday evening fiddling with adding a search bar to my website. I was pretty tired, but I still wanted to try and change it up. I’ve gone through many phases. In the beginning, all I wanted was to have a relatively static site that I could control all aspects of. That’s why I went with Joomla. Then I discovered WordPress and decided that I would go with that as a CMS because it was so aesthetically pleasing and easy to use.

new search bar - open

new search bar – open

I hopped on the Tumblr bandwagon, but never fully embraced it because it was not feature-rich enough for me. If my website was to be my face on the web, I wanted it to be something I was proud of and could control. WordPress hit all those spots for me. I had a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS, but not PHP. Still, I went for it and jumped. I’ve been self-taught all my life and that’s how I like discover the world around me. I find that as a hands-on learner, doing things and jumping right in helps me understand the fundamentals and gets me hooked. After a few tries I usually show massive improvement.

All I really did was use Google and find out what people were doing with search bars. I had a basic understanding of how WordPress functions and so I wanted to have a search bar on my homepage. After an evening of frustrations and fiddling with code little by little, everything fell into place. I was able to put it exactly where I wanted it and for it to do exactly what I wanted it to do. What more can I ask for? Along the way, I learned about PHP and JQuery, two very foreign things to me. It’s spiked an interest in me and I want to experiment a little more with them. As things arise, I know I’ll be down for the challenge. Heck, I might even start taking some classes and start with the basics.

The whole night of fiddling got me thinking about education, learning, persistence, patience, and doing. A lot of people point out differences between book smarts and street smarts. I’m inclined to agree that there are definitely differences, which parallel a novice versus an expert, both of which I’ll get into. I clearly remember writing an essay on people who are novices versus those who are experts or advanced in a certain craft.

I believe in the cumulative learning process, involving both factual knowledge and performance factors.

There’s something to be said about book learning versus hands-on learning. This isn’t to say that one is better than the other or that one can take the place of the other. I think I’m a bit of a synergist when it comes to most things. I believe in the cumulative learning process, involving both factual knowledge and performance factors. I can’t, and I don’t think anyone can, convincingly argue that one without the other is beneficial. That’s why I believe in both – this way, they can enhance and complement each other.

Most educators have studied this and know it to be true. With the rise of Montessori and alternative schools as well as new research into education, learning, and education psychology, we’re really starting to deconstruct and understand how our minds work when we learn. We’re all aware of different learning styles, but sometimes we fail to see the bigger picture and how important teaching the PROCESS of learning is. A lot of problems arise from flawed or very specific testing processes, which are often incorrectly assumed as accurate assessments. How do we go about testing for understanding, documenting that, and then constructively reinforcing that knowledge? I believe that in the next 10 years, we’ll see a radical shift in the way we teach, learn, educate, and grow our knowledge, in part due to rising education technologies. One key piece of the puzzle is this distinction between street smarts and book smarts.

Book smarts, hard facts, and fundamental knowledge about any topic is always good. However, that may not be enough. Being an encyclopedia of knowledge rarely helps if you cannot access it and apply it to problems or in any other area of life. For instance, you can read up on picking locks, riding bikes, and building confidence all you want, but that does not mean you will be successful in those endeavors. What separates experts from novices are the practical factors – the ability to pick and choose the pieces of relevant information and then apply them. To get to this point, you need to be patient and persistent. Then there’s doing.

Doing consists of muscle memory, familiarization, and the psychology of learning. You have to try things out for yourself – that’s doing. You need to make those fundamental errors and be conditioned to not make those mistakes again. You have to feel like crap or else you won’t learn.

That’s what I thought about while putting the search bar up, so please, go search for something.