TITLE: Follow-Up on Learning by Doing and Ubiquitous Information AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: February 10, 2017 3:55 PM DESC: ----- BODY: A few quick notes on my previous post about the effect of ubiquitous information on knowing and doing. ~~~~ The post reminded a reader of something that Guy Steele said at DanFest, a 2004 festschrift in honor of Daniel Friedman's 60th birthday. As part of his keynote address, Steele read from an email message he wrote in 1978:
Sussman did me a very big favor yesterday -- he let me flounder around trying to build a certain LISP interpreter, and when I had made and fixed a critical bug he then told me that he had made (and fixed) the same mistake in Conniver. I learned a lot from that bug.
Isn't that marvelous? "I learned a lot from that bug." Thanks to this reader for pointing me to a video of Steele's DanFest talk. You can watch this specific passage at the 12:08 mark, but really: You now have a link to an hour-long talk by Guy Steele that is titled "Dan Friedman--Cool Ideas". Watch the entire thing! ~~~~ If all you care about is doing -- getting something done -- then ubiquitous information is an amazing asset. I use Google and StackOverflow answers quite a bit myself, mostly to navigate the edges of languages that I don't use all the time. Without these resources, I would be less productive. ~~~~ Long-time readers may have read the story about how I almost named this blog something else. ("The Euphio Question" still sets my heart aflutter.) Ultimately I chose a title that emphasized the two sides of what I do as both a programmer and a teacher. The intersection of knowing and doing is where learning takes place. Separating knowing from doing creates problems. In a post late last year, I riffed on some ideas I had as I read Learn by Painting, a New Yorker article about an experiment in university education in which everyone made art as a part of their studies. That article included a line that expressed an interesting take on my blog's title: "Knowing and doing are two sides of the same activity, which is adapting to our environment." That's cool thought, but a rather pedestrian sentence. The article includes another, more poetic line that fits in nicely with the theme of the last couple of days:
Knowing is better than not knowing, but knowing without doing is as good as not knowing.
If I ever adopt a new tagline for my blog, it may well be this sentence. It is not strictly true, at least in a universal sense, but it's solid advice nonetheless. -----