Reading Time: 5 minutes
I have been teaching for 5 years and I always thought that I was fast learner. In July last year, I thought that within 6 months, I would be the Brad Pitt of Web Development… But I struggled miserably.
I studied the same way that I studied for every major exam: I read the books, watched the videos, took the notes, did the quizzes but I still struggled to align a paragraph let alone build a webpage.
I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong but then I came across a book called ‘The Slight Edge’ (click to see my review) and that changed my whole learning system.
I had to relearn how to learn.
As embarrassing as it was, the model that I got from a £10 book helped me more than the thousands that I spent on my teaching qualifications!
The Study, Do, Model Cycle
The model is very simple and I will show you how I adapted this model to help me learn to code so far.
Almost all of us who have been to school know this method really well: we read the books and take notes but for me this didn’t work. How times have you read a page from a book & forget all the content a minute later?
You must become an active learner.
Don’t just read the books but especially with the with coding, go to author’s website & do the projects that go with the book, read blogs & comment, listen to podcasts etc. You want your brain to be hit by as many different sensory inputs as possible: visually, auditorily & kinaesthetically and will make it more likely to stick in your brain!
Reading and even watching the online videos is not enough, you must do it. Common sense right? But here’s the problem with most online resources: You will get a code challenge or task to do. You will pass it but you will never do it again. That’s not how we learn. We must repeatedly do similar tasks again and again for it to go from our short-term memory to our long-term memory. Repeatedly going over the same skill until you’ve mastered it is known as deliberate practice and this is what separates amateurs from masters. Productivity blogger James Clear describes deliberate practice as working “on a skill that requires one to 3 practice sessions to master”. In other words, the first time you pass that code challenge won’t make it stick a memory, kid.
You must create a deliberate system where deliberate practice is done regularly.
For me, this is done in two ways:
- After I learn the skill, I try where I can, to apply it to a personal project to see how it would work in real life.
- Create a physical flashcard and test myself regularly. Currently I’m using electronic version called ‘Anki’ (I’ll write a post on that later)
Constant repetitions make you become ‘fluent’ in your coding language, making it 2nd nature & leaving your brain to think creatively and able to deal with any challenges on the project.
You can learn to code from a book or even watching a video but nothing will ever compare with learning from a real life human being, period. Human beings are social animals and the way that we learn by observing & mimicking other humans. This has been hardwired into our brains & is our default setting, sorry folks.
But it goes deeper. Models give you critical feedback about your approach and how to improve your skill that can save you hours of frustrating online searches & mistakes. Andre 3000 had a great anecdote where he compared mentoring to playing a computer game with his teenage son. Andre said:
If you played that video game for the last two years and you’re proficient at it and I just jump on the game, you’re quickly going to say: ‘Hey, Dad, the trap is right there. When you get over there, you have to go, hop hop hop hop hop.’ Now, if you didn’t say that, it might take me a year to figure that out…So a mentor is: I’ve done this, so I’m helping you get past that place.“
Finding models in the coding arena doesn’t have to be a scary thing. The code community is very friendly and very open and have very active communities all around the globe. Just look up ‘code meet ups’ and put your area in Google. If you are in the London/south east area, one place that’s helped me immensely is codebar – they run coding workshops for aspiring coders is especially from underrepresented communities. having a friendly face look over my code and help me has not only helped my code improve but been very motivating & encouraging.
If I were to weigh it, I would say that I do you weighting for each part should be a third overall. Of course there will be times where you might do one part more then the other but try to invest in all the other areas.
Think of the Study/Do/Model method like a tyre on the car: for the wheel to roll smoothly on the road of learning, each part must be filled. You can still drive with a 1/3 of air in the tyre but it will be a bumpy ride & you will be stopped by the police & fined!
Thank you for reading & leave some comments in my blog page and/or tweet me!