Training the Dragon..

The story goes like this..

I had a dog named Dragon, who just spent time lying around and enjoying the stay at my house. One day I thought of training him.

So here I start. I give him an exercise. Simple one. I throw a ball and he has to get it back to me. So I show him a video of another dog doing the same. Then I try to motivate him to play this game by telling him how much fun it would be.. we would be the greatest of buddies. I think he kind of bought into that too..

But he just wouldn’t get the game. He would go behind the ball and start wandering around. If he manages to get the ball, he wouldn’t bring it to me. Sometimes he starts chewing it too.. I lost my hope and gave it up.

After a few days, I asked Dragon to sit in a corner every time I play my violin. He would again not get it. Only this time, I tried to correct him whenever he went wrong. As soon as he starts walking out the door, I ask him not to do that and sit in the corner. I was surprised to see that he had started learning and improving this time.

So what I was getting to in my effort so far is Feedback is an essential part of the learning and growth process, and when it is provided in an effective manner it works magic.

Instant Feedback

In the earlier story.. when I started giving feedback, my dragon started learning better and faster. Also, I did not wait to give my feedback. It was instant.. the moment he was making the mistake. The intention is to provide the feedback when it happened, so the context isn’t lost. Say if I give the same feedback after an hour, Dragon wouldn’t remember what it is for.. and worst, might take my feedback for some other thing and start doing that wrong.

Intention to improve

All the time, I wanted Dragon to improve. Improve his skills, improve our relationship and improve my skills to handle him too. That was also the key. Had the intention been to torture him or make fun of him, it wouldn’t have worked. He just wouldn’t have learnt anything from that.

Learning is at its best when it is driven by actions and guided by feedback. That’s the practical learning we talk about. The famous term experience refers to the amount of feedback received by a person on the various activities performed by him.

The mind works that way too.. You can show him all the videos and tutorials you want. They won’t help you in programming, unless you actually do it. Just get down, write code and learn from that. That teaches you more programming than the best of books around.

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