Tag Archives: learning

Random Thoughts about Learning

Reading a blog post this morning, The Great Divide, Part 2 by Yoga Leigh got me thinking about learning in general, and learning for those of “un certain age” in particular.

So it seems to me it’s time to figure something out for the workers who have been left behind.  I’ve seen the opinion we can help their children (presumably by training for tech jobs) but there’s nothing to do for the 40-60 year-olds who have neither jobs nor the skills to move to the technology sector.  Surely in a nation as great as this we can do better than that.

Is the specific paragraph that triggered my pondering.

I do not believe that people in the 40-60 and higher age range cannot learn skills. I know that my 93 year old grandmother learns to use updates to computer programs. She taught herself to use programs for bookkeeping and managing orders after she was 50 and worked using those skills until she was 85. I have learned languages (Japanese, Chinese and I am working on Spanish) and technical skills since I turned 40.

I believe that we all learn all the time. It is just a matter of motivation and willingness to drudge on when things seem tough. My husband, and others in technical fields, are continually updating their knowledge and skills. If people don’t learn new skills it is at least partly about their attitude toward learning. But it may also be about the environment.

For me learning takes many steps to really take hold. Taking in information, trying to use the information, and just being in a place where the information is part of the environment. With language this means just hearing it spoken. With computer skills it means reading technical information where people are using the lingo and talking about how they use the skills. It seems like the information Percolates into me as I use it and watch it used.

I sure don’t think I know the answer to the problem that Leigh discusses, but I wonder if the media could be helpful by creating an environment where people are exposed to the skills they need to move into technology, motivating people to learn the skills, and by promoting the idea that people can learn the skills.

What do you think?

What next?

The weekly photo prompt is Alphabet and the picture I took as a header for the daily prompt about Learning Style (yes, a day late) seems to fit. While my thoughts are a bit off the assigned topic, which was how I learn. The prompt seemed relevant since yesterday,  instead of writing, I was reading a couple of articles that, to me, relate to learning. Specifically about how computers learn.

How will a computer learning change things? Supposedly, Windows 10 is heading in that direction so the future is near, or for those more quick to adopt, here. My computer already creeps me out sometimes, when it pops up ads, the same ones on every web site, like they are stalking me.

Sometimes it can be amusing: One time I was stalked for weeks by adds for a hotel for which I had reservations, made through a real live travel agent. A woman I value most highly, although I rarely use her services. I am glad there are still living travel agents for those times when things are new to me and the inter-web, as my son calls it has SO much information that it overwhelms.

I suppose it is comforting that Big Data, while it knew what I was searching for, didn’t know when I would be where. It would have been even more creepy if I suddenly was getting pop-up ads for restaurants and stores beside the hotel with coupons for those specific dates.

I was looking at area rugs on-line a couple of weeks ago. We bought one at a brick and mortar store and I am still being stalked by e-rugs or somesuch (FYI: I don’t recall the name of the site, and there may actually be an “e-rugs” site, but my use of the term is supposed to be generic and is not either an endorsement or criticism of such a business, if it does exist.)

One article, “The End of Internet Advertising as We’ve Known It” by Doc Searls, was about how many people, like me, are getting tired of being pestered by ads that are tailored based on our search history and are learning to turn the ads off. I haven’t learned to do that yet but will be working on it after I finish this post.

Now that massive amounts of long term data is available, they have realized that very few people click on those tailored ads and even fewer actually make purchases.BTW:  I have a suspicion that a significant number of “clicks” are inadvertent, and wonder how many people get annoyed and turned off by the business. How many times have you accidentally clicked on a pop-up add and been sent somewhere you didn’t want to be?

One idea that they are working on is a way to tell the inter-web (again this is intended to be a generic term) that one is shopping for such and such when you want to see the ads and have them off by default, so that a simple search for information on a topic is not construed as a desire to buy something. This would be better for advertisers than having everyone turn the ads off for good. The article calls the idea “intentcasting”. I like this idea, being able to shop, and get information about products when I need something and not be pestered when I don’t need that sort of information.

Some time ago I wrote a post about how it used to be more fun to search the internet. I wonder if some of that fun would come back if it wasn’t so very important for the top results of any and every search to be advertisements.

The second article, “Kindergarten for Computers” by Will Knight was about artificial intelligence; specifically whether and how they could try to make a computer emulate how a child learns. It sounds good in theory…if you want computers that can think for themselves. Before we head too far down that road I wonder if we should consider a different question: do we want to create machines that think for themselves? for us? The article does seem to be based on the idea that we do.

Never-the-less the article, which is very much about learning is interesting.

On a personal level I learn in a myriad of ways. Sometimes one way and sometimes another, but I learn best when I am interested in something. That results in my seeking information about the topic from many different sources: written, videos, lectures, for broader topics I like to take classes where the material is structured and I can interact with other people interested in the topic. If I am interested I take the time to interact with the material, taking notes, experimenting and finding ways to apply the learning day-to-day. I wonder: will computers will ever be able to do that?

Since we use computers so much in so many ways I would encourage you to take a look at the articles. The more we know the more we will be able to learn how to use our tools and the more we can, maybe, shape how our tools use us.