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Response to: You and Yours’ Learning Special

You and Yours (BBC Radio 4) is currently doing a Boxing Day Special on learning – I agree with a lot of what is being said, but I feel there’s one thing they skipped over: rather than being task focused in learning, it is important to first know why we’re learning… This is what I wrote to them via their website (though they’re not taking listener input this time around – probably a reduced team):

I am self taught in a number of disciplines. Some of these I started with a basic course before taking the rest on myself (programming, guitar), some I bootstrapped my learning using magazines and online articles (photography, cooking, singing, computer administration). I was, academically, not very proficient… at all.

I find that learning only happens properly when you want to answer a question – even if you start out wanting to learn about an entire field of knowledge (mathematics, nutrition, English, an instrument, the intricacies of opera and ballet…), it comes down really to want to answer a specific practical question you are curious about. Using an Internet search engine helps to find more words to ask about, find other connected ideas, and forums allow discussion – even better if you find people to talk to in real life.

And, as with all learning, questions beget questions and soon you’re learning more than you set out to….

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