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The person who figures out how to get teens to spend their free time learning instead of socializing is going to go down in history. The answer likely lies somewhere in the socializing, but I have no idea what it is.

And way to take advantage of the myriad of educational opportunities that exist online. I would have done anything for access to them when I was a kid; instead, I had to go to the (gasp) library.

I think we are going to see a growing intellectual gulf between the few that take advantage of these tools and the masses who don't. There are so many opportunities that can really give somebody a significant boost; a much greater boost than was offered to those of us who didn't have much more than books in the past. And I'm always encouraged when I see the kids who do take advantage of it.




I think learning is inherently social.

Part of the problem is the mindset that creates a false dichotomy between "learning" and "socializing." One consequence of this mindset is the idea or impression that "learning" involves locking oneself in a room, opening a book, and sticking with it until one learns the material.

An example in language acquisition: http://www.ted.com/talks/patricia_kuhl_the_linguistic_genius...


Language acquisition is not a good example to use here. Our minds are primed with pre-built language circuitry and as children we pick up the specifics of our environmental language effortlessly.

The learning we do throughout our post-infancy lives bears no resemblance to language learning. It is done using that effortlessly-acquired language structure, but in itself it takes hard work and effort. Unlike language, it goes "against the grain" of our evolved instincts. It can indeed be catalysed through judicious social interaction - comparing results, swapping tips, etc. - but the core of adult learning is focused, isolated study. Social environments for learning are a supplement, useful in moderation, but usually destructive and much more likely to result in groupthink, lowest-common-denominator mediocrity, and poor efficiencies in failing to optimise for the wide range of needs and aptitudes distributed among individuals when used in excess.


For sure. Do you have any research I can read?

There's tons of ink spilled about child development and learning, but precious little about adult learning.

I help run Dev Bootcamp so knowing as much about this as I can is really important to me. :)


Sorry, I can see how reading my comment would give the impression that I speak from great authority, but I was mostly just voicing my own preferences and prejudices about learning. I took a look at the introductory video for your service and it seems like a very professional, carefully-structured course - I do think learning in groups can work well if there is a clear, thoughfully-conceived structure for interaction. And it must surely help that you select for motivated, intelligent people - motivation is the key to real learning at any stage in life, I'd say.

I have had some experience with attempts to get groups of people to create or work together in groups with little to no structure and it never works. But I have not had much experience with the sort of structured social learning you offer (I think architect schools do a lot of this sort of structured, group creation-cum-learning - might be worth checking out.)

I do think that locking yourself in a room with a book and focussing is important, at least to build the platform of understanding from which you can move to group interactions. That's certainly my preference for the things I teach myself, and I think it is crucial for building basic understanding and confidence with the ideas. Of course there are chokepoints, especially with something like coding where at some point you need to actually start creating, where measured, structured guidance must be immensely helpful. But I think you need a rhythm - independent learning, then taking the problems and confusions you've built up into a social setting, then independent work again - I think real, 100% focus on a problem is a solitary activity. But perhaps from your own experience with DBC you can offer me some counter-examples?


"I do think that locking yourself in a room with a book and focussing is important, at least to build the platform of understanding from which you can move to group interactions."

Studying learning is inherently difficult because it requires intelligent people to try and figure out how they got that way. The tendency is to extend personal learning styles upon the population!

In this case, I bet that you learn the best from sitting down and reading a book. I'd double down and suggest that you take incredible notes and that your favourite books are thick with notes and underlined passages.

If I'm correct, it means that you learn best from reading/writing. This is one of the most common learning styles. However, some people are auditory learners (they learn the best during lectures), others are visual learners (they learn best when graphics are used to explain the concepts), and still others are kinesthetic (they learn best from doing).

To complicate matters, these learning styles are far from perfect type theories. In practice, people employ different learning strategies in different situations.


Is there a particular aspect of adult learning that you're most interested in? It's a very large field, but one that I got rather obsessed with. If you have some specific areas of interest (or if you'd simply like a reading list), my email address is in my profile.


>> The person who figures out how to get teens to spend their free time learning instead of socializing is going to go down in history.

Shouldn't teenage years be spent having fun? :) For some learning is fun (I enjoyed it to a certain extent and used things like iTunes U a lot) but even if there was a way to learn that was fun for everyone most teenagers will still want to go to parties, drink alcohol, and waste time. I think it's a cultural thing more than an aversion to learning and I don't think technology will change it (for the majority of teenagers).


Going to parties, drinking alcohol, and wasting time is a form of learning. How to live life, how to make mistakes, and where you're going to fit in in the world is probably one of the most important thing you learn as a teenager.


Getting trashed is developmentally harmful to pre-18 brains, getting pregnant or knocking someone up or getting a disease is not helpful, and there are easier ways for most people to learn than to make horrible and even irreparable mistakes very early. Also, bad habits often survive into adulthood. This isn't where anyone should be forced to fit into the world until after they have a real chance to decide.

If a kid learns to have just one drink, don't be a junkie, use protection and waste time only judiciously by 18, they will be able to learn more from higher education or career than if they learned it's good to act like a mindlessly hedonistic animal with no concept of the future.

You can spend your first 40 years sticking your tongue into electrical sockets, this is technically some form of learning, but it's not a great way to have a good chance in life. There is all the time in the world to waste and act stupid, after you have the basic bearings of adulthood.


Yeah, but... If you are the one teenager who decides it is too risky to jump off the cliff into the river... Enjoy sitting on your own while everyone else has fun - enjoy never getting invited to the river again - enjoy sitting at home playing videogames as the braver boys wander off with into the grass with all the cute girls.

Teenage impulsivity and risk-tasking are reproductively optimal strategies (the actual rates of death and disability from these activities are usually low anyway) even if you like to look down your nose at them. And people who engage in those activities often end up doing just fine in later life, as well-adjusted, popular, confident adults, with a history of sexual success.

Maybe they're not optimal strategies for being a high-performing time-efficient adult, but so what? Natural selection only cares about babes and babies.


Sure, and that might monopolize 5% of a busy teenager's time. No justification for being uneducated, uncreative, or unproductive in the remaining time...


That's true, and I don't think the various levels of parent posters would disagree: I think they're referring to constant inanity and a complete inability to pay attention to anything substantial.


Socializing is educational. Perhaps the lessons become repetitive without moderation. But the odds that a teen locked in a room full of books will be happy or successful in life are small to nil. One that can successfully manage the intricacies of interpersonal relationships has much better odds. (And of course one that can do both is best off.)


Yes, yes. This is true, and I sure know it, but people are different, and the time for learning is also fairly short. You can learn rapidly from your preteen years until you are around 30. That's it. Beyond that you are losing neurons and building on past knowledge. So while it's important to become socialized and maintain relationships, if someone is inclined to be an intellect, they should pursue that. Great athletes didn't become great by balancing their practice with time spent at the library. They did enough to get by, maybe get into college, often with the help of tutors.


Yeah, that's pretty insightful. I can sort of see it happening with games - both Words With Friends and Brainbow Numbers are about playing turn-by-turn while socializing, I'm not sure if you can take games beyond trivial disciplines though.

A social game to learn a foreign language would be interesting.


Actually part of my holistic goals - not just teenagers mind you, but get everyone being more social, engaged, happy, interested in life, motivated, learning, productive, etc..




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