As the Hackathon approaches, I’ve been reminded of a few things important to my learning process:

  1. Having something concrete to work on is important to my learning process. Picking up a skill without a clear application or need is lousy way to develop a true understanding of it, at least for me.
  2. It’s okay to walk away for a while, as long as I prioritize coming back. I lost momentum for a week due to Thanksgiving and other demands on my time, and picked my JavaScript lessons back up over this last weekend.
  3. Sometimes it’s best to come back to a problem. This week, I’ve had a string of days where I’ve been stuck on one concept, and instead of beating my head against it, I stopped for the day once it was clear the concept wasn’t gelling. When I came back the next day, I would usually be able to see where I was hung up right away and then move on.
  4. It helps to talk to people already using what I’m trying to learn. A programmer friend was in town last week, and at dinner, he asked me to describe how I was planning to construct my text adventure at the Hackathon. The resulting conversation pointed me toward concepts I wasn’t yet familiar with. When I got to that point in my instruction a few days ago, remembering that conversation really helped me understand the purpose, value and applications of those concepts

It remains to be seen how the Hackathon itself will go. I suspect I understand more than I think I do, but at the same time I’m certain there are still huge gaps in my knowledge. The experience will educate me in both, and likely point me toward a few more things beside.