How to Stop the Boring from being Boring

The importance of using what you learn

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So if you had told me a year ago that I would be hosting my own website and regularly updating it, I wouldn't have believed you. Back then I had no interest in web design or development, and frankly I still don't have much, but now despite that I have my own site. There were really various different things that pushed me into making this site, but one of those things was the fact that I was in a web development class (which I wasn't interested in). I think it might be worth sharing my experience with that class.

How I learn

I've always been a fast learner, because of that I gained a reputation of being one the smart kids in school, so I got used to my peers asking me questions about things before they would go ask the teacher, because I was one of the smart kids I usually had an answer that would satisfy them. Going on to college that reputation didn't follow me, but I did find that I was always trying to find better ways to explain the concepts that my instructors were teaching, and that when another student would ask a question in class, I'd find myself finding a way to answer. I guess I formed that habbit subconsiously during the years that I was constantly being asked questions, and because I have that habbit I also find myself critiquing the way I'm taught things. One example of one of my critiques is that I think that using social media as an exapmple to explain to students the idea of object oriented programming would be much simpler than using video games as an example, but that's another discussion.

Anyways, the point I'm getting to is that I can't immagine a worse way to learn the basics of web development than the way I was taught. I learned everything I do on this site (aside from hosting) in an online class whose basic weekly structure was:

  • read this large collection of boring pages from (which is set up more like an encycolpedia rather than a guide)
  • take this long and strict quiz
  • now do this assignment with vague instructions and no rubric so you can't tell how you are being graded
  • It felt like someone gave me a dictionary, asked me to read it, then told me to write a book. Of course dictionaries are great, but if you are going to write a book for the first time, you'll want more help than just a dictionary before you are comfortable going about writing. In the week of that class where I was being taught HTML, I was never shown and example of a full HTML document, thats a problem.

    Overcoming bad learning environments and attitudes

    So I was forced to take a class I wansn't interested in and it was one that was poorly taught, that is not a good situation to be in. However I was still in that class when I decided I waanted a website for myself, so the skills I was being taught in that class suddenly became relevant. Suddenly I wasn't being forced to write a bunch of HTML and CSS pages, I wanted to do write a bunch of them. The terrible structure of the class didn't change, but my outlook on it did, the stuff I was being taught went from things I believed I would never use, to things that I was using. I'm still no master at this (if you ask me to make a table in HTML I'll do it in markdown then use pandoc to convert it to HTML), but I can do the things that I typically find myself needing to do and if I ever need to do someting beyond that I know where to look to figgure out how to do it.

    If you ever find yourself in a boring class, find a way to use what you are learning in your life. If it is a programming class, write yourself some programs. If its an art class, draw sometihng for fun. If you have to write an essay and you are given the freedom to pick a topic, then don't write about stuff your teacher suggests, or even worse about current events, write about something that you are interested in, it could be, The legal process and environmental impact of creating new mountain bike trails, or The viability of opening an etsy shop in 2020, or The case for open source software. If you are in some math class where you can't tell if you will ever need the stuff you are learing, change your outlook, the point of learning math is to practice creative problem solving, you may never need to solve a quadratic equation in the real world, but you will need to use creative problem solving every day of your life. You will have a much more enjoyable experience learning boring skills if you are able to find a use or purpose for them in your current life, you don't have to be neccecarily good at using those skills if you don't want to be, but if you have a reason to learn something you'll enjoy learning it.