Monthly Archives: December 2006

I am back!

I am back from retreat. It went pretty well. Good to see all the old friends and new friends again.

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A summary of learning

This is what I wrote many years ago. After so many years, I still feel it very useful and essential for my learning.

Learning is not just to learn something external. It is also a way to change ourselves. Through learning we try to change the way we think. It is like a revolution of the brain. If you think this way, I guess learning can bring a great happiness to your life.

Before talking about the ways of learning, I want to first emphasize something extremely important. You need always know what you want, where you are and be able to do whatever you think is right. It sounds simple. But it is always easier said than done. Start practicing this with your tiny everyday things, like getting up at 6:00am every morning and starting a productive day. Keep in mind you will be happy if you are doing what you really want to do.

My learning is subdivided and layered (please refer to the layers of knowledge for this). I won’t go from one book to another book, finishing one in detail after another. On the contrary, I feel intuitively what I want to or need to learn at the present stage of learning and go over whatever resource or tools to solve it. For example, I may feel I need to know about the American business world. How Americans are doing the business? Especially in the IT world. I will go over several magazines or newspapers. Business 2 is a good one. Not going into too many details first. Just have a rough idea first. Get familiar with many American companies. Also keep in mind knowledge in other fields may contribute a lot to your study in the present field. The study in computer and electronics certainly help me a lot in the understanding the business of IT world.

Concentrate on some field and some layer at a certain time. I mean, Really Concentrate.

What field and what layer to pick up at this time?
1. it depends on the whole picture of your learning. The whole picture is like 3D map, subdivided and layered. A clear picture always helps.
2. use your intuition first to feel what is important to learn at this stage. Really feel it. Feel what is the fastest way for you to learn.
3. correct it through your practice. I am sure you will always find that your intuition has something wrong after you put it into practice.

Such field and layer are reflected in your goal of the present study. The goal should be clear and operable. If you pick up the right field and the right layer, you will feel you are learning at the fastest speed. Nothing to worry about anymore. You are already the fastest. After solving the present problems, you will feel your study slowing down. Then you will need to find the next layer or the next field. The key of learning is just to be able to find every time the right field and the right layer and be able to advance the learning at the fastest speed.

After you find out the right field and the right layer, you need to look for resource and tools to solve those problems. Be open. Keep your ears open. Utilize different medias. Every book has its own use.

How to create? Try connecting knowledge in different fields and layers.

Below is the original Chinese version:


一学期过去, 我所进行的大脑的第二次革命也就暂时告一段落. 虽然由于时间关系,还有很重的部分如具体的的真理(数学中蕴含), 对知识明确逻辑关系的掌握以及在高层面上对知识的应用涵待解决, 但我已发生了巨大的变化.

在高中时, 通过独立思考, 在提高成绩的实践摸索中, 抱着理性精神, 我获得了一整套完整的方法, 但未能明其本质.

在大学里广泛的阅读,吸收各样知识, 兼容并包, 尽可能知道自己所不知道的东西, 所学甚多, 但也杂而没有经过实践检验. 所以大脑是混乱的.

备研一开始, 就注重独立思考, 注重实际问题的解决, 期待完成大脑的第二次革命. [学习不仅仅是学些身外世界的东西, 更重要的是通过学习改变自身. 所以学习的心态应该是求变的心态. 由此你可以感觉到学习的极大快乐.]

如今使命完成, 我掌握了唯物辩证的方法 (具体的真理则蕴含在数学中, 尚待发掘).

备研中(129号以后), 充满了无穷的快乐与幸福. 创意无限, 能力迅速增长, 几年来的迷惑, 长期的困惑, 全部一扫而光.

如要谈上学期所得, 可以概括为: 唯物辩证, 创新, 乐趣.

尊重客观规律, 不主观行事. 因为只有符合客观实际方能前进. 此即唯物, 也即我一直以来叫的理性精神.

辩证, 是一套方法, 即提出问题的能力, 分析问题的能力和解决问题的能力. 问题即矛盾. 我们始终要注意学会如何分析矛盾. 整个备研过程就是不断寻找主要矛盾以及次要矛盾, 分析主要矛盾同时不忽略次要矛盾. 寻找有效的方法 (书籍, 工具) 以解决矛盾. 通过实践活动对各层次的矛盾, 各类矛盾的关系以及地位都有了深刻地认识, 明白了矛盾的客观存在以及解决矛盾的必要性.

我将备研看做一次实践活动. 即以提高成绩为目的, 以能力提高为导向, 培养提出问题, 分析问题, 解决问题能力, 逻辑分析能力, 具体问题具体分析能力的一次实践活动.

因为矛盾是事物发展的动力, 而主要矛盾则起支配作用. 故而抓住主要矛盾进行解决则是自己前进的方向.故而要寻找的主要矛盾即是能使自己迅速前进到达目标的问题. 目标, 即上面所说的提高成绩. 目标要明确.

而我为什么要以能力提高为导向呢? 这是因为整体的观点. 备研只是现阶段的主要矛盾. 而在我的整个生活中其只是很小一部分. 我一生的主要矛盾即能力, 自由, , 乐趣, 创新. 其中又以能力为基础. 现阶段的主要矛盾是为解决一生的主要矛盾服务的, 故而要以提高能力为导向. 而从实践观点看, 考试的宗旨是提高能力, 是对实践的模拟, 其本身也是以实践以提高能力为导向的 (虽然不一定能真实的模拟实践, 而有一定出入). 考试这个实践最终也是服务于科学研究这个实践的. 抱着整体的观点去学习, 则头脑清晰, 得心应手. 再注意具体问题具体分析, 则如行云流水一般.

关于整体观, 高中创造的知识框图法即是适应解决矛盾的需要产生, 而又被实践证明是正确的. 在人生中保持着整体观, 则容易找到主要矛盾, 也容易将新的能力提高纳入原有体系, 进行存储与随时应用, 人生的力量则是没有一些乱用了. 这也是大一时, 我接受知识能力很强的一个原因.

我不会详细的先把一本书从头到尾看完, 然后再看另一本. 我在复习时, 在旁人看来, 恐怕简直不知道我在做什么. 同时好几本书放在桌上, 杂乱无章的在各本书上跳来跳去. 这是因为我正在着力解决某一层次的主要矛盾. 心里可以感觉到主要矛盾正逐渐被解决, 这是一种势如破竹的感觉. 而这又可以马上由考试检验出来.

每当某一层次的矛盾解决后, 会有一段的停滞. 这时就需要寻找下一层次的主要矛盾. 找主要矛盾, 首先靠的是感觉, 感觉哪里是达到自己目的最快的方向, 所以自己的目的必须要明确. 再在实践中修正自己的感觉. 另外就是要依靠整体观, 随时知道作为一个整体各个层次的主要矛盾在哪. 每解决一个层次的主要矛盾, 都应该感到自己能力有很大的提高.

这里插一点, 在备研中, 我感受到这世界真是一个无穷美好的世界. 有无限多美好的东西等我去发掘, 悲观是根本没有意义的. 我真想将这一世当作十世去生活. 每一天都很珍贵, 珍惜生命中的每一呼每一吸, 而不论外在的相对时间观念, 什么年啊节啊, 都是人主观产生的相对观念. 我们作为自主的人, 关心的只是: 自己的成长.


Filed under What is Learning


Here is the paper.
I agree with the general direction this paper points out. However, there are several important points I have to point out.

First of all, this paper was written in 2000 (very impressive to write something like this in 2000). Now in 2006, as a new wave of innovation surges in web2.0 , I don’t know if Danny Hillis will think differently now.

I did more than 3 years of research on elearning, working on a project very much like the concepts outlined in the core part of this paper about knowledge web. What we were trying to do is to design a learning object system to adapt to different learners according to his learning background, learning styles and so on. There are many similar attempts in both academic and industry fields. For now, let’s give them a name for convenience of this article: Instruction Design Based and AI Assisted Adaptive Intelligent Tutoring System (IAAITS).

I generally agreed that this approach holds one major hope that elearning has in changing dramatically the way people learn. Web will become a very important learning platform, which will making going to schools for so many years unnecessary. But as I was designing and implementing such kind of system, a lot of problems emerge and thus I had to dig deeper into these ideas. Some problems are technical such as the use of AI. But some are fundamental flaws of the ideas in IAAITS and thus need to be revised. (Here is a link to the abstract of my thesis:, If you want Introduction of my thesis or the complete one, let me know. My contact is in About Me page. My thesis realized those fundamental flaws associated with such kind of approach, and thus approach elearning with a different methodology)

What I consider fundamentally wrong with IAAITS :
1. for an active learner, at a certain time, what he wants to learn and how he wants to read the material is totally random. He might try many different ways at the same time. So it is pointless to have a system to render learning material according to some Instructional Design theories. Furthermore, it inhibits such learners to learn freely.
2. our goal is to promote active learning. But if we select all the material for the learner to learn, we are making the learner passive. Leaners need to learn how to learn. That is important. A big problem of schooling is that most people coming out of so many years of school still don’t know how to learn.

As most elearning system tried very hard to fantasize the way of teaching, elearning is really not about teaching. It is more about learning. It is about putting learning into the hands of learners. (To really understand this, you can read about unschooling and Mr. John Taylor Gatto’s site about the history of school:

In the way of fantasizing teaching, they certainly need to rely a lot on AI. But AI at the current stage is complex and unable to provide a good result at this point. Without AI, just by putting learning back to the learner, we are actually able to come up with a great system that will help learners tremendously (even much better than what AI promised but couldn’t achieve). The key of elearning is how it can help individual learners to learn by themselves. The new revised approach (for now, let’s call it Learner Centered Active Learning Platform, e.g. LCALP), relies on leveraging the web as a cooperation platform. It is in tune with web2.0 development.

AI hasn’t been providing us with great results yet. (Anyone can name some?) But if we apply AI on a different basis, e.g. on the whole web globally, AI can be put into great use. AI on this basis is very different from AI on merely processors or machines. AI on the whole web (especially web2.0) has receptors, which are those individuals who input their feelings into web. It has also actors and can get feedback. It collects consciousness and intelligence contributed by billions of individuals across the world. By putting so many consciousness and intelligence together, we will have a web brain. In essence, the whole planet will function as one: a biological creature with billions of individuals on this planet as its cells. In short, the life on this planet evolves. I wish a smart guy like Mr. Danny Hillis can work on this great thing. He seems to be on this mission for his life. 🙂 Web2.0 is a big step towards it. Web2.0 is essentially a mechanism for cells to fully connect. Also as Mr. Danny Hillis outlined, there will be rich content available online, which is vital for the success of web based learning platform. Web2.0 provides a very easy way for people to participate and contribute content. We will soon have very rich content in various formats. Semantic web will also be put into great use, probably in a different way than it is geared towards now.

Yes, knowledge web will soon become true, and lets embrace it. It is the beginning of a great era.

I like Danny Hillis’ work.Computer science combined with biology is of great interest to me. As I was learning biology/life science in my undergraduate and graduate study, I was fascinated by it. My most favoriate parts are brain and genetics. Studying biology is like getting direct touch with the great truth and thus there are a lot things we can learn from it.

The same as Danny Hillis, one big topic of my life is also how to combine creativity and business. As I think web2.0 will change the way we organize, we will certainly change the relation between creativity and business.

Oh, yeah, he is homeschooled.

(When it comes to elearning or learning, I always have too many things to tell, thus unable to tell. ) I guess by commenting on someone else’ papers, I can give my ideas some background, which will make them a little easier to understand. But a single article really cannot cover all the ideas about this new learning platform. I will have to write many small essays on it.)


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