My opinion on various ways of learning

Introduction:

You might think after reading the title of this article, “Just why do I need to write so much about ways of learning of all things?”

The answer is simple.

I wish to shed some light on how these ways of learning in this modern age work, how many options do we have, and whether as a blind person they do work for me or not. Hopefully, it’ll give you some idea of how hard it can be for a person without eyes to learn anything, even in the modern times.

So, let’s take a count of what exactly I consider to be the “Ways” of learning.

Video: pretty simple. You watch a guy doing something, who hopefully will be explaining along the way in detail whatever task he is doing for his audience.

Audio: explaining is the same as in video, but you don’t have the luxury of watching along with the explanations.

Text: again, pretty simple, when you think about it. Books, online tutorials of dubious quality which don’t even bother to fix their spelling mistakes, this article… (Though I suppose you would hardly call reading this article learning. This is just ramblings of some blind guy.)

Practical: now, this is a unique thing. Practical learning happens in the classroom, online, with text or videos. Basically, you get the theory of whatever task you are trying to accomplish, then you’re shown some examples, which you will use to solve problems. In the days of internet, if you’re using any platform which do offer this kind of learning option, you’ll also get the (Success or failure,) immediately.

Now, these will be the ways I will be examining in more details in their respective headings, along with my personal opinions, and how much success I had with them. For this purpose, I will be using from school work, to practical subjects like math, and programming to assess the failure or success of a particular way of learning.

Let’s start with the first one.

Video

Look at this video.

You might think, “Pretty simple. He just shows you a variation of squat exercise. What’s your point?”

The point is, look how he explains the exercise along with words. Since it is in a video format, he doesn’t have to use so many words to explain it. He can just show the position, and the proper form of the exercise.

Which is nice and fine. But do you know what I got out of that video?

Nothing.

You read right, I got nothing out of that video.

Now, compare that to

This article.

Even though there aren’t any video examples on that, (There might be some images, I can’t be sure,) I got more things out of that article, than that video. Because not only I got the form and position to begin the exercise, I got other things as well, like benefits, dangers, etc.

The point which I’m trying to prove here, is that during a video tutorial or a class, the instructor often says things like “Do this, it’s like that,” which don’t help me at all.

This gets even worse with programming and math. Here I am, trying to understand the equation, but the instructor just says, “Plus these, minus those, and after division and multiplication, of these three things, we will have our answer.”

In programming, it usually goes like this: the instructor is trying to solve a problem on the video, and everyone is typing the code shown on the screen along with him. After nicely laying out the problem, he begins to type the code. “So, you see,” clacking on the keyboard. “Since we wanted to do that, I’ve put that statement there,” more clacking on the keyboard, while I decided to spare the readers some programming statements in case they get bord and decide to leave in the middle. “And here are the final touches.” Some more clacking on the keyboard, slower this time. “And we’re done. Let’s run it.”

The program of course, gives the correct output.

What did I get out of that?

If your answer is “Nothing,” you’re right.

Back in 2020, I tried Andrew Mead’s

JavaScript course on the udemy.

Andrew is a great teacher, no doubt about it. His explanations are always clear and concise. But when it comes to actual practical programming, his course is useless to me. I have to follow with a code file given along with the course, except that I read with a screen reader.

he’s trying to explain some important concept, and then I try to read along with him in the given code file, and my screen reader drowns him out. I often needed to pause his video, read the lines of code, restart his video, and do it multiple times in just one lesson.

After a while, I got fed up with it. It is a rather slow way of learning things, causing me to take a lot longer than a sighted person to complete a lesson. If there were only few minutes of difference, it wouldn’t be a problem. But it took me longer than that.

At that point, I had to abandon his course.

Due to the beatings I suffered in my childhood by older students in the name of teaching me math in my blind boarding school, I was turned off from this subject. Naturally, since the threat of a beating does not hang over my head anymore, I tried to pick up math once more in 2020.

Everyone recommended

Khan academy

For it.

And I can clearly see why did they do that. Sal Khan, as he is affectionately known, explains things nicely. But remember “Plus these, minus those”?

Yeah, that cause me a lot of problems while trying to learn from him. The khan academy site also offers practical questions to solve, but we’ll go over that later.

I have no doubts in my mind that Andrew and Sal are wonderful instructors. If they were teaching me in person, my experiences with them would be very different, as they would be able to adapt to my limitations.

But a pre-recorded video cannot do that. that is why when I need a “How to” guide, I never look to YouTube, and do not prefer to buy the video courses.

Of course, scummy people keep trying to sell me their shitty video courses, which are nowhere near the level of Mead and Khan. But that is an entirely different matter.

Let’s move on to second way.

Audio

Audio is my first exposure to using an electronic device for learning purposes, to which I was introduced to nearly twelve years ago, in my third grade. Older students often used the tape recorders to listen to their lessons, and make notes by pausing, and writing, and then restarting the magnetic tape again in my blind school. (The author has been overcome by the horrible memories. he will start writing when he recovers from them.)

I myself didn’t used it until my middle school, by this point I was out of the blind school. As I was new in the normal school, the audio proved to be quite useful in my early days of normal school.

(I promise that I won’t use the s word anymore for few paragraphs.)

But despite its usefulness, it does have some drawbacks.

First, you are pretty much at the mercy of the language skills of the person who is recording your material. This problem is exasperated, if you’re studying in a field which has its own terms, and the person who is recording can’t speak those terms properly.

Second, speed. there is only one speed of reading and speaking in audio. You can’t go any faster, because the chances of the human reader mangling the words increases with the speed.

Contrast that with speed of reading text. I believe the reading speed can be increased with practice, but with audio, you’re stuck with the same speed.

Third, the size. The recorded files can be huge sometimes. My middle school’s subjects for example, often took twenty or thirty GB of space. While for a computer hard drive, this is not much. But it was tedious to copy or move that much data, since it needed to be moved in chunks.

Also, my school studies taking this much space in my computer kind of rankled me a little. I probably would have been fine if a game took that much space. Yes, my priorities are twisted. Thanks for noticing.

Another thing to note, though this is personal, is that I could just never remember the time in an audio recorded file. I can remember the last page I read in the word document. But I just can’t recall the last time when I left that audio files to save my life. So far, this has only happened to me, but it is another reason why despite its usefulness, do not prefer audio recording.

Good old text

Ever since I learned to read and write in braille at first, and hear and type on the computer, I have been quite partial to text.

Not only I’m not tied to someone else’s pronunciation or reading speed, text also doesn’t take that much space compared to the audio or video files.

I could have an entire book, with thousands of pages, and the size of the document won’t be more than few megabytes. Unlike in audio, where I often need to skip along until I find the relevant section, a book in the document format has links to the topics in the index. Click the links, and you will be taken to that page where that topic starts.

Of course, some times, those links are entirely missing, but still, it can be managed.

The reading speed can be to my liking as well, as screen readers are fast, as in very, very fast while reading texts. There are blind people who can understand anywhere from 450 to 500 words per minute with their screen readers.

However, while reading the code of a program, I believe it is a bad idea to read so fast. That, and I like to read a lot of fictional books. (Which is why, you might see a lot of reviews of them here in the future,) so I usually just stick to 100 to 150 words per minute.

Practical

This kind of learning is offered by the services like

Duolingo

A service for learning languages, (Which I will be reviewing in the near future,) and as mentioned before,

Khan Academy’s site

Also offers math problems related with the topics on which you have watched the videos on previously.

Personally, I like this way of learning. Rather than get bored of theory, just try to solve some practice problems, and you’ll get the results immediately, telling you whether your response was correct or not.

okay, you explained your preference for text and practical learning. But what about in-person learning?

Let’s start with the classroom. A professor/teacher walks in, explain the topic in so-so manner, and starts to write on the black board.

Everyone starts to write in their notebooks, while I just sit there like a fool. This was the reason why I hated to go to school, (It never happened in the blind school I’ll grant you that, but it has its own problems,) and thus I preferred to study at home independently.

While this gave me independent study skills, which a lot of people of my age still don’t have, this started my disdain for learning under someone else. I started to chafe under their authority and schedule.

Thus, I have not studied with someone for a long while now, and I’m very unlikely to do so.

Conclusion:

Hopefully, this article gave you some idea just how hard it can be for a blind guy to learn things, even in the modern age. I do feel like that I complained a lot during certain sections, but I do feel that those sections are necessary to give the proper context.

See you in the next article.

Published by Tanish Shrivastava

I'm a guy who likes programming, chess, and writing.

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