We were always asked to study hard and to do better in school and college. But we were never told how to study and what are the best ways for doing it except for suggesting revision after study. Same thing continued in the professional life also. Here are some points in this blog which will help in learning faster and better.
The Challenge:You are given a 300 page document/specification and asked to understand and then present it or use its concept in your project. You want to learn a new language/technology in a limited time.
(a) Set Objective: Set an objective as to what your end goal is in terms of understanding and implementation of concept and how much time you have to learn it. Set aside fixed number of hours for learning it. If you can spend full time for it, then it is the best case. If not, then define a target date and number of hours you will spend daily and track it.
(b) Online Research: Do the online research for the topic. Create a folder by the name of technology in your computer. Do the google search with the following keywords by replacing technology in the string based on your subject. “Technology tutorial pdf download”, another search by replacing pdf with ppt. This will show the links where pdf’s are available for download. Download these into the folder which you have. Once downloaded, sort the files with size and start reading with those having higher size. Search for the video lectures/tutorial for your topic on Google/YouTube. You can use the string “Technology Video lectures” or tutorials. Watch the videos and bookmark the videos which you like or make a note of it as you might want to refer it again. If you find videos to be very slow, fast or bad quality, go through some other videos. Do not worry much about the details of the subject you want to learn. You can use the sort option as “view count” or “length of video” as this will give you rich and most viewed videos first. Don’t forget to check ratings/comment as people are quite truthful while rating tech videos.
(c) Rapid-Fire: Phase-1 of big document: First thing most of us see is the size of the document. But don’t worry much about the size or complexity of the document. Have the document in the form which works for you, Hard copy or soft copy. Start reading from the beginning very fast. You can skip some part of the page also, Go through the figures in the document and try to grasp as much you can quickly. Take notes, try to redraw the figures present, and try to relate it to something similar you studied earlier. Do not get into details and the objective is to create a mental picture or dots in your mind about the technology which you will join in the next phase. This will also make you familiar about how the document is organized and in next phase while reading you can recall how the concept you are reading is used in the subsequent chapters.
(d) Control Anxiety, Accept Confusion: Control your anxiety about not understanding something or number the pages you need to cover or confusion you have with the concept while reading it.
(e) Deep-Dive: Phase-2 of big document: This phase involves reading everything in detail from the beginning if the requirement is to have the complete understanding of the subject, otherwise hit the relevant section you are interested. Write down the notes as it is quite helpful in understanding and remembering the concept. If you are reading from a book use highlighter or scribble using pencil/pen on the book. I know we were always asked to keep the book neat, but the only benefit it had is the higher resale/reuse value of the book. But it did not solve the very purpose of why you bought the books. Having visuals/highlighted area in the book helps in making yourself familiar with it and significantly reduces the revision time. If you come across something which you do not understand, write it down and move forward. If after moving forward you realize that it is difficult to proceed without the concept you didn’t understand, Try research online using the specific topic as a keyword. This phase effectively connects all the dots in the phase-1, and answer the questions in your mind.
(f) Implementation/Revision: Phase-3: This phase is about the application of your knowledge in the project or if you are doing self-study then doing some sample implementation using the concept. You can also check the implementation available online. If you did not get a chance of practical implementation of the concept immediately after studying, chances are that you will forget it soon. Within a period of 2 weeks, Go through the book again in rapid-fire, this will help in embedding the concept in your memory better.
(g) Discussion and keeping yourself updated: Phase-4: Discuss the concept with anybody who has worked on it irrespective of that person being senior or junior. After every week or two check about the new development on the technology on sites like www.lightreading.com and register yourself to the mailing list you find interesting.
Example:If the technology you want to understand contains multiple sub-components or documents, then in the “Online Research” phase, Check for the tutorial which explains the overall technology and use cases. After going through it , pick each sub-component/document one by one and go through all the above phases. One such example is “Apache Hadoop”. In order to understand it you need to understand multiple sub-components which it has like Hadoop Common utilities, Hadoop Distributed File System(HDFS), Hadoop YARN and Hadoop MapReduce.Now if you search for Hadoop tutorial you will find the tutorials which explains all these components in action along-with the explanation of Big Data and its Use Case. After going through it you pick up sub-components and follow the steps above.