Self-Education in IT: 6 Steps To Master Knowledge

Aug 20, 2018 by

We all learn something new every day. But what is interesting is that no one teaches us to learn, although it is only self-learning that makes the true foundation for long-lasting knowledge. In this article, we touch the ground of self-education for IT and tell you how to learn effectively.

How does it work for IT?

Effective self-education open many doors, continually investing both in a real portfolio (somewhere on GitHub) and in a portfolio of developer’s knowledge.

But what exactly does it mean to learn effectively? It seems that this is a one-time process of deep understanding of important information or concepts and integrating them with existing knowledge and experience. It is also critical to assimilate new knowledge that will not “fade” after a couple of days.

The main problem with this approach is that most software developers learn in practice: they learn exactly as much as it is necessary to solve a particular problem. David Miller, a senior software engineer at Elinext, confesses: “I started as a junior developer at Elinext back in 2009 with only basic knowledge of Java. Being involved into a real project, my skills and knowledge of the technology couldn’t progress faster.” So the theory strategy is good in the short term, but if there is no reason or opportunity to use new knowledge in the nearest future, the time is wasted. As a consequence, this knowledge is difficult to apply to other similar tasks in the future.

Textbooks and random presentations will create a false sense of understanding, gathering the islands of superficial knowledge in the memory. But our approach to self-learning in IT will be different: it consists of preparation, exploration, practice, immersion, teaching and repetition.

Preparation

This is a very short stage, but it makes the basis for all subsequent steps. That’s where you choose the materials to study. Ensure that they are of high quality and from the relevant sources of information, read students’ reviews, expert recommendations, or rely on your personal experience.

Exploration

Regardless of the type of information source (a book, video or article) at this point, you should only read it without spending too much time on it and without going into details. Try to understand what the main idea is, what the author is trying to convey and how he does it.

Do not hesitate to skip the material that you do not understand yet. Make notes and brief conclusions about each section and write down the questions that arose during the examination.

Practice

This is a cornerstone of learning software development. This stage is continuous because it does not end when the next one emerges but goes over the entire learning process. Your goal is to practice everything you studied: only then, you can draw conclusions on what you have not understood or what you need to learn better.

The choice of exercises is crucial. Find the golden mean: they must be complex enough to make progress, but not too much; otherwise, it will end up in demotivation.

Immersion

And here it is the difference between the typical approach of most developers and really effective self-learning. The main goal of immersion is to understand the most complex ideas that you identified during practice. The Feynman technique model would be a short and productive way to complete this stage:

  • Select the subject for immersion.
  • Collect all the basic information from the sources that you selected during the preparation phase.
  • If the topic is extensive, break it into smaller parts.
  • Write down the idea you want to understand.

This concept works especially effective for IT where too much incomprehensible information appears on track, and this applies to any programming language.

Teaching

It’s time to write a simple explanation of the idea. Do it as if you are teaching someone else, for example, a child. Using the available information, write down each part of the idea in your own words in the form of several sentences and/or visualizations.

If some part remains unclear, copy the explanations from the source of information, but clarify the terms you do not understand and try to visualize everything. Use analogies to the concepts you know well, and try to understand how to combine them with what you are trying to understand now.

As a result, you should have several pages of notes, suitable for presenting your newly acquired information to colleagues or writing about it in a blog.

Repetition

After filling in all the gaps in understanding the idea, it is necessary to somehow preserve fresh knowledge, ideally – forever. Leave it to the work of your brain and use interval repetition. Transfer all notes from into the prompt cards using any program of your choice. Review the cards daily for 10-15 minutes. In a couple of weeks, you’ll see substantial improvements in your knowledge and be able to connect to your existing background.

Good luck in your self-education!

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