Discovering the Learning Spiral

Childhood Programming Memories

As a child my mom once sent me to join a course in computer programming that was designed for children. I remember learning a few things and that it was fun there. Later I did computer programming, still as a child, by reading and learning from a book containing simple computer programs. As my programming skill developed I came to the conclusion that trial and error was the king among learning methods and that every other learning method faded against it. I held that belief for many many years together with the belief that training courses are utterly useless.

Learning Spiral

As time went on, my perception about this matter started to change. I started to realize that every method of learning had its own merits. I realized that the strongest and most advanced learner is the one who makes use of a diverse set of learning methods not simultaneously but one after the other. One could switch from using one learning method to the other then go back again to using a learning method he had used before and go through the learning methods in sequence once again in a continuous upward spiral.

Asking friends was an additional source of learning besides the learning methods I had already recognized while improving my computer programming skills which were: trial and error, readings books and attending courses. As I said, each learning method had its own merits.

Trial and Error

Learning through trial and error for instance allows one to discover new things that might have not been discovered by others, provides a very deep and solid understanding and mastery of things and builds experience. Relying too heavily on trial and error alone while excluding other sources of learning may lead to imbalanced learning and a fragile foundation that may lack many basic fundamentals. Trial and error can also be an extremely slow method for learning.


Books can be a solid source of learning that provide the fundamentals and give a strong solid and balanced foundation. They can be a reliable source of information and a good reference guide. Similar to trial and error, books are independent sources of learning that do not need you to be in contact with anyone. Some of the drawbacks of books however is that they might be boring, might not answer all your questions and might not be up to date.

Training Courses

Training courses can be the fastest way to learn. They give you a strong push to start on learning something, they give a balanced foundation and provide you with the opportunity to ask questions, practice and have your mistakes corrected. Training courses, however, cannot on their own push you up towards high levels but just give you an initial strong propulsion in the right direction.


Friends can be a powerful source of learning that provides motivation as well as updated information and answers to your questions. However, they might not always provide correct information or the correct answer.


Relying on one source of learning only results in imbalanced weak learning. Going from one learning source to the other is what builds a strong and advanced learning experience.

What other sources of learning can you think of other than trial and error, books, training courses and friends?


Story of my Learning Systems Analysis

Child doing Computer Programming

I started to do computer programming since the time I was a child at primary school. By the time I attended university I had been programming for years and wanted to advance to the next level. I had heard about systems analysis and reckoned that it would be the next step to take. At that time I had a totally wrong idea about what systems analysis really was. Maybe I thought it was the way by which one can know how to write complex programming code.

Systems Analysis Book

Anyway, my eagerness to learn systems analysis, despite my wrong idea about what it really was, made me buy a big fat book of around 800 pages about systems analysis. The book was titled Systems Analysis and Design. I set on a long journey of reading in that meaty book bit by bit. To my astonishment, I was introduced to a whole new world that I had earlier not known anything about. I was surprised to know that systems analysis was all about information systems and how to build them in a structured way. I enjoyed reading the book and learned a great deal from it.

Teaching Systems Analysis

Years later I was teaching Systems Analysis and Design at IBM Authorized Training Centers in Cairo yet it was object oriented analysis and design by then. Sure my earlier background with systems analysis and design helped me a lot with that.

Lessons Learnt

There are many lessons to be learnt from this story. One lesson is that one might set about going towards one direction based upon a certain perspective only to find that what he is going after is totally different from what he had thought it was yet still find it useful and interesting. New doors that the person had not been aware existed in the first place start to open up taking him to a whole new world he had known nothing about.

Another lesson is that reading and using books can be a very powerful means of learning. Still a further lesson learnt from this story is that skills you learn or knowledge you gain can turn out to be useful years later as you make use of them.

Follow your Passion

It is thus advisable to follow your passion and go to wherever it leads you for new unexpected worlds can open up for you and the skills you will gain, no matter what they are, may turn out to be handy one day.

What other lessons can you come up with from this story?