Friday, 12 June 2009

Learning in the Right Order

Everything is easy to learn when you learn it in the right order.

The is what I realised last night. I was about to jump into O'Reilly's DNS & BIND Cookbook, in preparation for a major MedWorm migration (yes a shiny new server is on its way that will resolve all or its performance issues!) when I read in the preface 'This book expressly doesn't concentrate on DNS theory. For that, I'd (not surprisingly) recommend DNS and BIND. Without an understanding of the theory behind DNS, you're like the Southeast Asian Scrabble players who memorize the spelling -- but not the meaning or pronunciation -- of tens of thousands of English words: all syntax, no semantics.'

Now usually I think I would just ignore such information and carry on regardless, but this time for some reason I realised the importance of really getting to grips with the theory behind DNS before I learnt the details of how to configure it. So I put down the book and instead got myself a copy of DNS and BIND. Glad I did, since I began to realise how simple DNS actually is if you learn it in the right order. Just a question of laying a few foundations and then putting the bricks one on top of the other. It is important to put those bricks in the right order though. Like the little toddler learning to build a pyramid style tower, when they have to place the largest bricks at the bottom and then choose the right brick to place next in order to reach the top.

A lot of people think I.T. is difficult, and that you have to be really clever to understand it. My self-belief that I could program came from reading the first few chapters of the basic manual as a child - I did nothing much with computing after that until I had reached adulthood, but I had the confidence to enroll on a softwear engineering course because I had written a little basic program adding a couple of numbers together when I was aged about 10; I knew that I understood the basic principal of programming and that the rest would just be adding pieces of that understanding together.

This is also why children start with the alphabet when they learn to read, why my first chemistry lesson started with the atom, and why my first biology lesson began with the cell (as far as I can recall).

Everything in I.T. is easy if you learn it in the right order. Next time I am reading something that seems difficult, it is just a question of identifying which area of knowledge I am missing and then going back and learning a few basics in that area, and then building on that basic information to find my way through to the destination - a bit of patience, starting at the beginning rather than jumping straight to the end. I can however 'fast-track' my way to the end, because I know where I want to go and can take a straight route there.

I was pleased with my moment of revelation and shared my new understanding with my husband, who just said 'Of course, it is the same with everything. Didn't you know that?', with the tone of voice that made me think that this is something everyone else already knew, and it was just me that was taking a long time to recognise this fact. Next time I am proof reading his medical publications, wondering where he gets his knowledge from, I'll just remind myself that he too just started at the beginning, and then carried on putting one brick on top of another, in the right order.

But just in case you hadn't realised this yet, thought I might share my moment revelation with you:

Everything is easy to learn when you learn it in the right order.