Learning Technology in Community

When I first starting learning to code, I took an auto-didactic approach. I studied WordPress, HTML 5, CSS, Javascript and PHP using an combination of resources, including Treehouse, Codecademy, Coursera and reading several O’Reilly books.

During the process of learning alone, I learned that being self-directed can also be self-limiting. When I get stuck, if I can’t Google my way out of the hole, I am out of luck. And when I can’t figure out why something isn’t working, I have no opportunity to get a different perspective on my approach to the vode. Or even to catch a missing semi-colon or comma.

At about that time, I connected with a friend who was looking for someone to learn PHP with her. We decided to team up in the hope that we could both support and facilitate each other’s learning processes.

I learned that I preferred learning with a study buddy because: 1. It kept me accountable. No matter what excuses I came up with, I had someone relying on me to show up. 2. My co-learner was able to provide a different perspective on the material. Our backgrounds were different enough that we were both able to bring something to the partnership. 3. We were able to teach each other when one of us understood something that the other did not. This helped solidify the information for the person doing the teaching.

The biggest challenge that we both found when working with a study buddy was the difficulty of coordinating two busy people’s schedules.

When I first learned about Ascend I was particularly intrigued by the idea that the group would include people of a variety of ages, learning styles, educational, professional and tech backgrounds, each bringing their own strengths and weaknesses to the table.

In practice I learned that indeed, learning in community offset many of thethe limitations I found when I was learning alone. And, the dedicated window of time obviated the logistical issues I had encountered when trying to squeeze in my learning around two busy people’s schedules.

One of the first things we did when we started Ascend was a strength-testing exercise. My own results underscored why Ascend was a good match for me.

  1. One of my strengths is that I am “intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. [I am] good at figuring out how people who are different can work together productively”.

  2. I also “find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal”.

Ascend’s peer to peer learning approach brought not only some great opportunities, but also some challenges.

There were a few times when I felt like we were the blind leading the blind when I was working on something with a fellow Ascender and neither of us knew what we were doing. But, we were able to work together to figure it out, even if that meant bringing ssomeone else into the conversation. Despite its challenges, I found this much more satisfying than doing it on my own.

At the end of the 6 weeks, our Ascend Learning Community cohort became much tighter than I would have initially anticipated. We really have become a community. I hope the connections we have built will continue to both support and challenge me as time goes on and we all return to the routine of daily life.