[OT] Adult learning (was Re: debate ... ACT Government)

Gordon Deane Gordon.Deane at wintermute.anu.edu.au
Sun Apr 28 10:42:07 EST 2002

(Skipped comments about the importance of document structure, that I completely
agree with.)
Except that if you are forced to use Word, as happens so often, you *can* use
stylesheets and structure your document, albeit painfully.  If that workplace
was using Abiword, you wouldn't even have that option.  The fact that nobody
else there cared would not reduce the pain for me.

I do agree that most people find the abstraction of dealing with structured
documents hard.  Word's hybrid model makes it even harder (try explaining the
difference between the bold button and a bold style to one's mother).

> > > With the appropriate training, most people (who want to learn) could
> > > learn the skills required to bring order from that Chaos.
> >
> > Children learn extremely quickly. Adults can learn also, but it's not quite
> > as straight forward.
> >
> /Anyone/ can learn - children tend to be more flexible about it,
> because they have fewer preconceptions, but adults can be just as
> good. Unless you're talking about spoken language, in which case
> children /do/ learn vastly more easily, but that's because the
> structures in their brains that handle spoken language are still
> developing - it's a special case.

Or is it?  I was taught by a professional ESL teacher that children *don't*
learn language better on any obvious metric: faster, more easily, whatever. 
They learn language with enormously more difficulty than adults, like everything
else.  Apparently there is ongoing academic debate as to whether children have
*any* advantage EXCEPT in phonetic learning (accents & sounds) where they do
learn much faster and more permanently.

The difference is that children give *much* more time and concentration to
learning a second language, and they are usually happy to experiment and
practice.  Put them in an immersive school, and they can spend 6 hours a day on
this language.  Move to a new country, and they can spend even more than that. 
Adults have so much else to do, and are embarrased to fail, and otherwise can
seldom give this much attention to the task.  Many adults consider that they are
doing well learning a language if they can spend an hour every day on it.  Less
than that is almost not worth bothering, though, or so I am reliably told.

> > program. Someone who is only trained in C will have difficulty with Perl,
> > but someone trained to program can pickup new languages easily.
> >
> *points up at his comments about curricula*

But like real languages, the third is easier than the second, etc.

Personally, I think people should learn both one of {Python, Perl, Scheme,
Ruby(?)} and one of {C, Pascal, Java} at least.  I remain uncertain on the best
order to do this in.

Gordon Deane  <Gordon.Deane at maths.anu.edu.au>
Mathematics Honours
Australian National University, Canberra
Rm JD104A  (02) 612-50003

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