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Learning - Sally's Journal
April 12th, 2005
08:22 am


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It's odd.

A comment on the last post:

You've managed to come to a variety of the same conclusions as two of the three most influential thinkers in my life (Confucius, Buddha) without knowing it

Now, this may be excessive praise* but it highlights something that once again is obvious, but I'm going to present it as though it's some great revalation** Being told things is not the same as learning them.

Last summer I went to a lecture on stall and surge. I sat there, I listened, I thought I followed pretty much everything, it was ok, not too dull, not too shiney, yeah. Now, after 4 months of slogging through the literature, peering through papers, fighting my way to an understanding of the problem, I've reread these lecture notes, and... this lecture is God*** Every thought I've spent hours wrestling with clearly explained and joined together in the most logical way to lead you through Very Complicated Thoughts very easilly.

But I'd read it before I spent months wrestling with learning stuff, and it didn't magically impart anything on me! In the same way I've been to lectures where analysis proofs / fourier transforms / lots of stuff were explained perfectly clearly and correctly, and I didn't get them until I'd spent hours tryng to do questions - even though I'd already been told everything I needed to know.

Is this just me? It's a bit depressing. It probably means that most of trying to explain thoughts to people (this LJ included) is wasted effort, because people will read it and follow it and not learn anything from it (although they may come back to it in 20 years time and say "what? That was there all along? But it took me *years* to work that out")

I suppose all you can hope to do is point people in the right direction of things it's worth spending their time learning. Odd.

By the way (I couldn't mention my praise without mentioning the flip side of the coin) someone said "she has a tendency to sound unclear in her posts". Do I? (Confused and uncertain is different to unclear). Take this as an invitation to give me some constructive critisicm about this mess that is my LJ.**** I need to learn to deal with critisicm

*But I like excessive praise. (Complimenting me is one of the easiest ways to make me like you, I must try to stop being so shallow) Thankyou everyone who's every said anything nice about this LJ. Although it is all your faults if it gets even more self indulgent.

** This is after all how the content of this LJ works.

*** Ok, not quite. If I'd discovered that then my problems would be far fewer.

**** Of course, it could just be that you can only ever sound clear to people who think the same way as you, and that you will just confuse some people whatever. But you can very easilly sound unclear to people who think the same way as you just by writing rubbish, so it's not as clear cut as that.

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2005 08:01 am (UTC)
Knowing is not understanding. *nods*
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2005 08:02 am (UTC)
Re: unclarity. I don't think so. I think anyone trying to explain a complicated concept tends to ramble slightly, but I've thought you were always pretty controlled and clear.
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2005 08:04 am (UTC)
Even I'm not sure! I'm tempted to say uncertain because you hold quite liberal Christian views which seem a bit fudged to some "hardcore" believers and "hardcore" atheists. Then again, sometimes your own views are quite certain and it's just you have made some statements in a theological context where people have different views but assume you have the same as theirs because it falls under the general umbrella of "Christian" beliefs, and you have just had to "clarify" your views by stating what they're based on afterwards.

I dunno - I'd have to read your posts a bit more analytically and I don't have time right now.
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2005 08:13 am (UTC)
It reminds me very much of the observation that you can only teach people from where they are. If they don't understand the prerequisets, or less obviously don't understand the need for foo, they can't really get it. So, eg. before you lecture foo you need some good examples of why foo is useful, and ideally some examples of the hard way so we actually appreciate foo. And enough examples that you get a feel for how foo works. But otoh they often did lecture those but they didn't go in *either*

The same applies to lots of other things. Poetry about foo doesn't make sense until you've *experienced* foo.

On lj, I think there's a risk of that, but you shouldn't stop explaining, because some people will be in the right place, and other people might be able to be brought to it.

Eg. I remember once explaining "cogito ergo sum" to someone, and they didn't get it -- because they hadn't yet started to doubt the world. But after half an hour of "well, when you're dreaming you don't know it" etc, they got it and found it interesting.

One, or more to the point, I :) needs to check our assumptions before we post and see what some people might disagree with or need made explicit.
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2005 09:30 am (UTC)
I find the posts on this lj to be clearly expressed unless I speed-read them. Like anything else that's complicated enough to be interesting.
Date:April 12th, 2005 09:53 am (UTC)
I've always find with heavy-duty maths especially that it takes several goes-through to get it. Both as a teacher and a learner. As a maths student, going to a lecture was only ever the first pass, and rarely enough to really get it - except for the most basic stuff. But even when I was just at the mindless taking down of notes stage in lectures, it meant that when I came to review it it had a certain, familiarity, if you like. Definitely helped.

Tell the truth, a lot of the time I didn't really get stuff at a deep level until I came to teach it as a graduate supervisor. Having to explain something forces you to think about it, and if you want to do it well, to think about it from different angles. I continued to gain new insights into even first year Analysis for quite a few years of teaching it.

As for your LJ, I think it is generally pretty clearly expressed and very interesting. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2005 10:58 am (UTC)
she has a tendency to sound unclear in her posts

It's not really possible to sound unclear. Either your writing is clear or it isn't.

I would say that it was a bit odd to get half way through a post and then write "D'oh! I'm so stupid. This isn't about sticks and carrots at all." If you have a change of mental direction half-way through, it would probably be better to go back and edit, so that the entry is easy on the reader's mind. You might also consider shorter sentences.
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2005 12:48 pm (UTC)
I don't mind that style of writing, as I often find it interesting to get a rawer insight into people's thought processes, and how people work out their own opinions.
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2005 11:46 am (UTC)
We may learn something from your entries, but not necessarily what you hope we'll learn. Nor is this a bad thing, really; it depends on if the goal at hand is to learn what is being taught or to learn what one needs to know. It's nice when those coincide, but not a given.
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2005 02:22 pm (UTC)
I only meant that you sound - yeah, well, "confused and uncertain". Unsure of what to think. Maybe I was unclear :-)
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2005 05:03 pm (UTC)
I read that comment as saying that you weren't sure what the answer was, not that you explained yourself badly.

And I've had exactly the same sort of feeling of finally understanding what I already 'knew', so no, it's not just you.
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