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I am constantly looking for new ways to learn and obviously in this quest it's important to understand how we learn best. As programmers and developers, do we learn best with videos or actually reading text or does it depend on the person in question?

Thanks! ~Daniel

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closed as primarily opinion-based by MichaelT, GlenH7, gnat, Bart van Ingen Schenau, Dynamic Nov 29 '13 at 4:50

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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It varies with everyone. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Mar 10 '11 at 21:55
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For what it's worth, I loathe *casts. Podcasts, screencasts, vidcasts, whatever you call it - urgh. I want to learn at my own pace, skip back and forth with ease, etc. I don't want the Internet to turn into a collection of TV channels. :( –  Sedate Alien Mar 10 '11 at 22:04
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@Sedate Alien: Amen to that! I'd find them slightly less objectionable if navigating through them was done via a list of named "bookmarks" at a reasonable level of granularity (so I can go back a little bit to repeat something again and then skip forwards, then go back to an earlier point...), but I have yet to see anything like that... :( –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Mar 10 '11 at 22:08
    
@Sedate Alien - As much as I like podcasts every now and then, a good text is a good text. Also, much easier to save locally/view at my own leisure/and print(!!!) (yes, we still do that :) –  Rook Mar 10 '11 at 23:30
    
This is an oversimplification. Video is ill-suited to many tasks, and print is ill-suited for a few as well. It depends on the task and also the person, to some extent. The modes should be complementary. –  Mark C Mar 11 '11 at 4:48
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8 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Here is my way of learning, for example how would I learn about JUnit.

  1. I go read about it on, one of the stackexchange websites(most of the time stackoverflow or programmers).

  2. Find the best book about it and maybe some lectures.(youtube search for Harvard, MIT, Stanford)

  3. Before reading the book, to get the whole picture what I'm going to learn, I go to slideshare and watch some presentations about JUnit.

  4. After that I ask myself what I want to learn from the book.

  5. I start reading the book/tutorial and if I don't know any of the words in it like what are ternary operators, before going further I learn a little bit about them.

  6. After reading a chapter of the book, I do the exercises if available or create some of my own. Make some notes about what I learned and answer the question I raised before reading.

  7. When I feel quite comfortable with the stuff I learned, I blog about it or teach someone else.

You should learn using video, audio, text and any other media available, don't forget to PRACTICE and teach someone else or blog. This way you will learn the best and have perfect retention.

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+1 for getting the whole picture of what it is you want to learn –  Spooks Mar 10 '11 at 23:29
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A study done at the University of Texas found that people remember (Metcalf 1997):

10 percent of what they read;

20 percent of what they hear;

30 percent of what they see;

50 percent of what they see and hear;

70 percent of what they say; and

90 percent of what they do and say

Source: Metcalf, T. (1997) Listening to your clients, Life Association News, 92(7) p16 - 18

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I've always learned by doing.

Reading is great, but unless I either write it down, or code it up retention is difficult. Especially with abstract concepts it is easy to have that "Ah-HA!" moment only to lose it again soon.

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It's very personal, there has been a ton of research on learning styles, some of it is good reading too.. if learning by reading works for you that is.

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=LEARNING+STYLES&as_sdt=0%2C41&as_ylo=&as_vis=1

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Wow, it's amazing the amount of research the human race has done into things people go their whole lives without even considering. Really interesting. –  dbramhall Mar 10 '11 at 22:17
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I also prefer to read and do, rather than watch, but for certain (especially non-programming) activities it also helps if you can watch someone demonstrate it to you.

It's really very different, some people are very visual and don't learn well from a book but learn well from watching other people carry out certain tasks, other are the other way around.

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Depends on the text, the video, and the person.

For maths teaching, the very popular Khan Academy have adopted the strategy of large numbers of short videos - with a blackboard showing formulas and diagrams - i.e. you're looking at text the whole time you're watching the video. In that case at least, it's not a question of either video or text.

My most direct experience comparing text and video learning is from a TED talk, 'My stroke of insight'. The talk is fantastic, the book a bit dry. Where there is emotion to be communicated along with technical information, and in that talk it is important, video is great. Where it is just technical understanding, in my view it is books, and ideally books with exercises to work through at your own pace, that shine.

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Video is fine for learning some new features or the basic functions of a GUI. While seeing it in action you can get some additional info from the explanations. The video can have the code in text, but at some point I just want the code and description. Video is really bad if you just need a reference. You want the name of a function, you do a search instead of listening through the whole, "Hello, my name is Bill. I am a certified EIEIO and today we are going to look at some of the new features in..." Click.

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Sometimes you look for text online just so you can copy an example from it and paste it in your source editor. Also text is important if something you're looking for is very specific or highly technical and you don't want to sit through a video.

But Videos are very important because it's just simple to sit back, relax and watch something. They're especially great for coding or UI related stuff. For example, http://www.lynda.com has some top notch videos on learning Adobe stuff. Also, I find myself using YouTube quite alot too. Alot of iPhone development stuff can be found on there.

So to answer your question: Both. They are equally relevant.

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