17 Jan 2008

learn by doing

Five years ago, when i first become keen on cars, i took a Ford course named "how vehicles work - an introduction to automotive technology". it was very interesting and i learned a lot about the way cars are built, about their components and how they fit together, about engines and safety systems and design and so on. A very comprehensive course, developed in easy steps: how chemical energy of fuel is turned into rotation of the engine crankshaft, how big isn't necessarily best in terms of power, how an engine is supplied with the necessities of life, how the computer inside works, how the power gets from the crankshaft to the wheels, how automatic gearboxes and other developments work, how vehicles deal with bumps, how suspensions work, how vehicles change direction, how vehicles stop safely and quickly, how vehicles make, store and use electricity, how today's vehicles are built for safety, style and economy and so on. I had watched plenty of accompanying videos as well, so it wasn't plain theory. It was dreamlike for somebody like me, because it turned me from somebody who claimed to be a car lover because i knew designs and brands into somebody who loved brands and designs, but also had pretty much of a clue about how to evaluate what's under the beautiful design as well. I was very enthusiastic about all these things, i loved to talk about them and get as much information as possible. I ended up actually knowing how my car worked, as well as the differences between how my car worked and how the other cars worked.

Some time after, i met this fascinating guy, and at some point the car subject popped up in one of our conversations. It turned out he had been curious about the deep inside of a car as well, for which reason he had bought a second-hand car (a Scorpio, if i remember correctly :) ), and deconstructed it bit by bit, piece by piece. Whenever there was something he did not know or understand, he'd read about it and ask his father or mechanics. And that's how he started building his knowledge.

The difference between us turned to be quite simple: although we were both good at explaining and understanding mechanisms, he was able to identify a problem or replace some piece on the spot, while i needed time and i was completely unsure (as well as pretty much incapable) of replacing anything.

I know that's just a very basic example of learning by doing, but examples tend to have far more power when they come from personal experience. And while i was thinking about this example the other days, i realised yet another basic thing. Reading about interesting things is not enough, no matter how much knowledge i feel to be building. Cause real knowledge and know-how come from a lot of exercises and practice - and that's what building experience is all about. Just like simply knowing Math theorems does not necessarily turn you into a very good problem solver.

And i felt that to be true once again last week. I bought myself the hieroglyphic transcript and translation into English of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. As an Egyptology fan, i had read quite a lot on Egyptian history, hieroglyphs, art, mythology and so on. One of the books i've read was actually entitled "Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture". But having the Book of the Dead transcript in front of my eyes, i must admit i didn't do very well in understanding it. some parts vaguely seemed familiar, but i felt quite far from being able to translate it. Because i've never actually taken the trouble to "learn the language", i've just read about how it was used. So now i've started to actually learn the language from a great course that provides full explanations, as well as exercises. And things are already starting to get clearer and better systematized in my head.

Since it's late and i'm really sleepy, i have no idea whether this post made any sense. But what i was actually trying to say is that my most important resolution this year is to learn many great new things by doing. It's a great challenge for me, as well as a priceless source of insight. Cause, as some friend once told me: "you'll never know how it's like to be drunk, if you've never been drunk" :).


velur said...

I agree. A long post, but you made a very good point. Good luck on your future projects.

McCann Creative Mentorship said...
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