Daily Archives: February 24, 2009

Learning through Lecture

During my last programming project, we were doing some fairly complicated stuff. It involved neural networks and image recognition. As the philosophy major, I decided that I would do a lot of the writing for the group. The problem was that I initially had no idea what was going on.

My friend sent me a link to the papers of the guy who created the algorithm we were going to parallelize. I was presented with a choice: Read a 7 page paper, or watch a 45 minute lecture.

Sometimes, the lecture is a more effective use of your time. When I tried to read the paper, it made no sense. I didn’t have a framework with which to understand it. It’s like reading Kant with no philosophical background and no glossary. To truly comprehend it would’ve taken hours. It was actually much quicker to watch the lecture, where the guy was explaining it to an audience without experience in this exact problem. The lecture was very illuminating. Thus, it was quicker to watch the entire lecture than to read a very short paper.

This isn’t always the case. Some people are terrible writers and some are terrible speakers. Still, the lesson is that you can learn a lot from lectures, and sometimes you can learn more than you can from reading. Especially in technical papers, the writer will assume knowledge that the speaker will take pains to explicate. Since we have the wonderful world of YouTube and other video sites, watching a lecture isn’t limited to buying a video (DVD — what?) or finding a professor.

With that in mind, I’m going to post more videos. They’ll usually be things I’ve already watched, but which I’ve found useful.

Here’s one such video:
(h/t quad)

I loved this quote: “The core skill of innovators is error-recovery, not failure-avoidance.” I also liked the analogy of improvisation to the creative process, namely accepting and adding to what someone else has rather than shutting them down. Another lesson to take away was that I should focus more on being interested than being an interesting person.