Learning in Little Steps

Photograph of an adult and a child kneeling in front of shelves at a library.

I want to be both of them!

I have a tragic case of Internet Brain, so the way I learn is by looking at piles of stuff until either frustration or serendipity occurs. (And by lurking.) One of the things I love to do with the new version of Aboard is to ask it to throw together a topic guide for me.

Example: I’m learning Western music theory. It turns out there’s a reason for all the notes. So I told Aboard I wanted a music theory concept board. Specifically, I typed: “A board for organizing information about music theory with 15 major topics, with difficulty indicated in stacks and specific areas of focus as tags.” Here’s what it came up with:

Screenshot of a music theory board

Better than a good book? Different. I wouldn’t trust it as much! But I like the way the cards imply: Learn this, take notes, move things to “done.”

Another case: I realized that I have forgotten everything about basic electricity, but I’m also learning to solder. I typed in “A board to learn the basics of electricity.” And here’s where it ended up.

Screenshot about electricity basics

It needs to propose more tags, but again—I think there’s this middle ground between “Wikipedia page” and “WikiHow” and “Which one is the ohm again?” that I’m really enjoying exploring with this product. I can take little notes per card. Or I can ask it to put together a one-week class for middle-schoolers, which would allow me to pick up my understanding of electricity where I left off:

Electricity board highlighting a basic concepts card

I’m iterating over this subject until I realize that, yeah, if my goal is to learn to solder little circuits, I should actually think about this like a scientific middle-schooler—define what I’m going to do and what results I expect, then draw conclusions. I need to balance out knowledge and practice.

You may not think this is amazing, but I absolutely love it.

I’ll throw out two more cases. I was looking at the VC Matt Turck’s giant landscape of AI companies, and I went, whoa, take a step back. So I prompted Aboard to make “50 key introductory concepts to understand AI LLMs.” Which helped me calm down. It’s just software. We can learn it.

Screenshot of an introduction to LLMs board

And then, you know, my humanist brain starts to rebel at all the quantified stuff, so I decide to take a different swing and go for “20 great works of art in NYC museums, with museums as stacks, tagged by type of art”—and it did a solid job. I haven’t seen all of these!

Screenshot of an NYC art board

I wish it had found a picture of Rabbit by Jeff Koons—and okay, artwise this is a little, um, basic. But it’s a starting point.

Am I really going to learn and study all this stuff? Music theory? Little by little. Electricity? Sure. AI concepts? On and off. Art? Need to go further.

Aboard isn’t a genius teacher, more of an earnest data-powered buddy for these learning expeditions. But I like that about it.