How Technology Helps Us Learn New Skills

December 3, 2015

4:00 pm

From our computers, to our front lawns, and all the way to our homes – technology has vastly improved the way that we learn and practice new skills. Recent technological innovations now facilitate much of how we gather new information, process feedback, and acquire skills. Whether it’s learning how to play piano, becoming an expert stock broker, or building hardware, technology provides resources that enable us to absorb new skills faster and more efficiently than ever before.

This technology can save us time, energy, and money, while making us better at the skill than we could have hoped to become. Here are three ways that technology helps us acquire new skills:

Visual guides

Visual guides like YouTube videos, online tutorials, and webinars are very effective ways to gather information and learn new skills. There are many helpful online tutorials that can teach us how to tie a tie, how to fix a computer, or even how to roast a turkey. Visihow.com, a popular web-based platform that helps people learn new skills online, exemplifies this new wave of visual guides.

A major problem with traditional how-to books and instruction manuals is that they rely too heavily on the reader’s ability to coherently interpret and apply the written instructions that they have set forth. With technologically advanced visual guides, avid learners no longer have to rely on printed words and bland instructions. Instead, they can reap the benefits of watching the task being performed. Studies have shown that a majority of people prefer to learn with visual instructions, rather than verbal or auditory methods. It has also been shown that visual stimuli incite a greater amount of neural activity in the parts of our brains linked with memory and learning. Because of this, learning a new skill is often easier if you are shown how to do it rather than being told how to do it.

Imagine, for example, you are learning how to make a pizza. If someone tried to explain how to do it over the phone – how to flatten the dough, how to spread the sauce and sprinkle the cheese – your final product might come out looking like a mess. If, however, someone came into your kitchen and showed you how to make a pizza while you sat by and watched – you would have a much easier time replicating the action yourself. Thus, when you want to learn something new – online videos and tutorials are a great way to go.

Find the right people

Technology is bringing many activities which were formally in-person and making them online. From learning languages to learning cooking, the gap between the physical and digital worlds is being closed. Many finely tuned skills require expert supervision and specific tools. If you want to learn how to ski board you can’t go to your next-door neighbor and approach them the same way that you might ask for a pound of sugar – you will need a ski board instructor and the proper equipment to learn. In this case, learning how to ski board is not intuitive. You certainly won’t be able to use visual guides to merely watch someone ski board from your bedroom computer and hope that it will translate into you mastering the skill.

When it comes to physical, or otherwise intensive skills the resources necessary are often not easy to come by. For these skills, technology can be a huge help. There are now a plethora of skill-specific websites that pair mentor with mentees, and teachers with people who are eager to learn. There are also broader sites to find experts; even Craigslist can be a helpful resource. When it’s a skill that involves time, tools, and teaching, your best resources is to use a skill-specific website and find an expert willing to help

Find the courses

If learning karate is your next project, you might be able to wander down to your town center and find a clinic that teaches newcomers. But what if you want to learn how to make your kitchen children-friendly? You will be wasting your time by trying to find the resources via word of mouth or on foot.

For skill-specific courses, there are a conglomeration of different websites and online tools to use to find, review, and register for group and individual courses. SoulCycle, a popular group spin class, enables users to find locations, learn about the program and instructors, and register for classes, all on their main website. Another example of this is web-based exercise forums and classes. YouTube-based exercise classes have spearheaded a new wave of technologically savvy exercise manuals, and encourage thousands of people to find time to exercise.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

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AJ Agrawal is an entrepreneur, speaker, and writer. He is the CEO and Co-Founder at Alumnify Inc.

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