Learning can be...

simplified and made fun - not always though :-)

Whenever I see the documentation that comes alongwith Enterprise Software Products, I always wonder why do companies create an impression that understanding of their products is such an uphill task? This is how the standard learning life-cycle goes when one sets out to learn a new software tool or product:

  • You download all the whitepapers and documentation about this cool new software product (DB Security Tool, DWH Reporting Tool, Analytics Tool etc)
  • You open one of the PDFs and find the Index extending to first 10-12 pages. Using the Index Section and sub-sections hyperlinks, one can locate information read fast,which is cool indeed.
  • You finally make your way to the content only to be presented with tons of verbiage and references to other sections in the PDF or sometimes references to other PDFs too :(
  • You spend some time trying to navigate elegantly through the PDF and couple of minutes later you declare that it's better to learn the tool by experimentation rather than going through this seemingly infinite documentation.
  • As you experiment, you make some notes, some illustrations and once you gain a firm grip on this new tool/technology, you realize that it wasn't rocket science afterall!

    And then you wonder why do some folks/companies create this "Illusion of Complexity" rather than coming up with creative ways to enhance the learning process!

    During our weekly docent meeting at Danforth today, we were presented with a quick walkthrough into "Sculpting Process" during presentation on Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller-the multi-talented African American artist, we were shown the sculpting tools-brushes, rubber, casting, mallot etc and a visual demonstration (Thanks Julia!) on how sculpting works. In less than 10 minutes we could understand not just the basic sculpting process but we could relate it to Meta Fuller's biograhy and work we read earlier too. This reinforces my views about "Visual Thinking". I strongly believe that under right circumstances, our brains can absorb so much more information visually and quickly when compared to the conventional "Read and Understand" style of learning.

    To illustrate a quick example, think about how best you can explain a scientific process say "Photosynthesis" to a person from a totally non-science background. I found several descriptions about "Photosynthesis" for example...

    • Photosynthesis consists of light reactions and dark reactions. This process can be simplified in this equation: 6CO2+12H2O + Light Energy → C6H12O6 + 6O2 + 6H2O.(Source ~ Biology Online)
    • The conversion of light energy into chemical energy in cells that contain chlorophyll, a green pigment. Photosynthesis occurs in most plants and algae and in some bacteria and protozoans. The process is also called carbon fixation......(Source ~ Howstuffworks)
    • In green plants, light energy is captured by chlorophyll in the chloroplasts of the leaves and used to convert water, carbon dioxide, and minerals into oxygen and energy-rich organic compounds (simple and complex sugars) that are the basis of both plant and animal life. Photosynthesis consists of a number of photochemical and enzymatic reactions. It occurs in two stages..... (Source ~ Britannica)

    Now take a look at the image above or this demo and see for yourself the simple practice of using pictures to understand Photosynthesis! Oh and if you like visual thinking take a look at this visual primer on The Art Of Complex Problem Solving.

    "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."~Leonardo da Vinci
    [Image Courtesy-© Factmonster]

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