How I Learn

I am taking the free “Blogging 101” course offered on line by WordPress. I am supposed to write a post about the way I learn–what kind of learner am I.

It’s almost easier to say what kind of learner I am not. I do not learn strictly from books. I do not learn by memorization. I need to see the way things work, the relevance of it, how it is derived. I was a mediocre math student until I took Plane Geometry. When we had to write proofs for basic theorems (I’m not sure I have the terminology right here), I could do it, I could remember all the various steps to get there (i.e. “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line”), and I enjoyed the puzzle-like nature of it. The next year, in Algebra 2, we were learning how to use the Quadratic Equation. Basically, you were expected to memorize what letters stood for what and then plug in the numbers and solve. I had no idea how to do it and really struggled. Two years later I took another year of math. This time we derived the Quadratic Equation. Whenever I needed to use it/apply it, I would just derive it; then I knew which numbers went where, and hopefully I would get the calculations right.

I am a very visual learner and I also learn better if I write things down. Things I compose on the computer are on the computer and not in my head. When I kept a paper calendar, I knew what I had going on every week, let alone every day. Now I keep my calendar on my computer and smart phone and I have to check almost every hour–it just does not get into my head–unless I write it down on a list or in my journal, which I keep by hand.

Where I learn best is through direct, repeated observation. I have an on-going art installation called the Moon Project. Every day I look for the moon and when I see it, I chart it in my journal. Every few years I compile the information into charts, graphs, drawings, and even sheet music. I now know a lot about the phases and movements of the moon and I know when and where to look for it. If I’ve lost track for a few days, I can think it out based on my last observations.

Everything I’m learning about the moon is known. Everything could be looked up on the internet. But what I’d learn then is how to look things up on the internet. I would not have nearly the same knowledge and relationship with the moon. And this practice has taught me to observe other things more closely and to trust my observations.

I feed the birds in my yard and I can now distinguish many species. But I also can see changes in their behavior through the year, as well. I have learned to teach myself to learn.

So I learn by doing better than any other way. I’m a good listener, good notetaker–tell me something interesting and I’ll remember it–IF it pertains to a question I have in my mind, that relates to what I’m working on. I guess it’s the “use it or lose it” principle.

And I like learning when it feels like a game, a puzzle, a challenge. How do you learn?


About sallie wolf

I am a full-time artist, writer, and avid journal keeper. I am happily married to Chuck Wolf and we have two sons, now grown. I was born in Virginia, have spend as much time as possible in New Hampshire at my family's summer house, and have lived in the Chicago area for most of my adult life.
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One Response to How I Learn

  1. launchings5 says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog on your learning style. I also wrote on the topic yesterday. You can find it at launchings5.wordpress.

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