A long time ago, I read that the best way to learn something is to read or experience it as though you have to teach it to someone else. At the time, I understood the concept but I didn’t really “get” it. A few years later I found myself working as a freelancer for a software company where my job was to learn how to use the latest version of various programs and then turn around and teach it to a room full of adults. Sometimes I would get a new software package just a day or two before the class was to meet so I had to do some big time cramming in order to be the “expert” on this new application. From the moment I loaded the program on my laptop I was thinking about how best to explain the various features and functions of the software. I had no idea how this way of learning would benefit me 10 years into the future.
I remember at one point I had to learn levels 1, 2 & 3 of Microsoft Excel (from Office 197 at the time) in about two days. To add to this picture, my first child was only about 2-3 months old so I had no choice but to learn things right the first time because my “learning time” at home was very limited. I also didn’t get paid to study – only to teach. ;) I went through the student workbook only once for each level and did my best to grasp every single concept as it was laid out. It was not an easy task and I was usually pretty stressed the first couple of times I taught a class, but no one seemed to notice that my level of expertise didn’t come from being a power user and I always got high marks on the teacher evaluation sheets.
It dawned on me the other day at a friend’s place that I had retained all of this computer knowledge. My friend opened up a program and immediately had a question on how to change a preference. I looked up at the screen and without thinking, I rattled off the menu name and where she should click to change the setting. (Geek note: The program itself had been updated numerous times, but the basic function was still under the same menu.) She then commented that I must use the program a lot and I admitted I hadn’t touched it for about 10 years. She was surprised and so was I.
In retrospect, I use some of that crammed-in computer knowledge on a daily basis. I can turn MS Excel inside out or revamp a layout on Quark not because I am an uber-computer geek (I know some of you will comment and say otherwise), but because I learned these programs in a highly effective manner. At the time, I learned that way out of necessity (I wanted to keep my job ) but what if I applied this technique to EVERYTHING I want to learn? Books I read, sports, games or musical compositions….
My piano teacher probably wishes I had grasped this concept back in high school :)) and so do I. It might have saved me hours of redundant study time. #-o