T-SQL Tuesday #008: Gettin’ Schooled

Here we go again with another round of T-SQL Tuesday fun this time brought to you by recent SQL Certified Master (MCM), SQL University professor, and my brother from another mother Robert Davis (Blog | Twitter).

This month’s topic is actually a series of really good questions:

We return to our days of youth to take a fresh look at learning. How do you learn? How do you teach? What are you learning or teaching? Or the coup de grace post would be learning something new and telling us about it.

So given that I established and run SQL University this topic is right up my proverbial alley!

How do you Learn?

I love the old adage “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime”. My best learning tool is by doing, which I’m sure many of you can relate to. There’s only so much academic knowledge you can soak up before it starts spilling out. Honestly, if something isn’t relevent to me in terms of real-world application I have a much harder time grasping the concept. For instance a year or two ago when I first heard of PowerShell I looked at it and went “oh that looks cool…I guess, not sure what I’d do with it.” Fast-foward to a month ago and I finally get a chance to re-learn the basics and actually apply it before that lightbulb went off in my head that said “oh WOW, I GET it! I heart PowerShell!”. Without that opportunity to really apply the academic knowledge, the education itself goes to waste.

Thing is not every job you’re in will call for use of PowerShell, replication, mirroring, etc. so the next best step…do it yourself! The wonderful world of technology now allows us to build virtual machines on our laptops with relative ease. So if your shop doesn’t give you a proper sandbox to play around with advanced features then I highly recommend you install Virtual PC, VMware Workstation, VirtualBox, VMLite or whatever your preferred flavor of virtual platform and get to practicing! If installing and configuring virtual machine’s isn’t your cup of tea (but I highly recommend as you learn lots of lessons by installing/configuring machines from scratch) there’s a free sandbox environment you can experiment with a fully configured SQL Server 2008 virtual machine at http://sqlserverbeta.com . This is a free, no-strings-attached virtual machine complete with AdventureWorks databases installed ready for you to tinker with brought to you courtesy of PASS, Dell and MaximumASP.

How Do You Teach?

Ah the Golden Rule: we learn it young and it applies forever. When I learn I like to be entertained a bit as well as soak up good knowledge. I also like to interact as much as possible. This being the case when I do a presentation I try to keep it lively as sometimes straight technical content is…well…boring. I’m sure that sounds blasphemous to some of my fellow geeks out there but you know its true. You’ll be sitting in a session with content that can’t really be demoed (i.e. internals talk). The secret to teaching is making a topic engaging enough that you don’t lose your audience.

 Although there’s a fine line between entertainment and being annoying. I’ve been guilty of this myself wherein in your attempt to keep it light you come off looking like a clown. Make sure you remember your root cause for being there and that’s to teach. Clowning has its place so remember to toe that line carefully…unless you’re Buck Woody then all bets are off!

What Am I Learning?

Anything and everything! I’m like a shark and learning is my water. If I’m not learning, I’m dying. SQL Server is a HUGE product and currently I’m starting to lean towards learning the BI stack. Another key thing that I keep learning and playing with is PowerShell. In all seriousness there’s ALWAYS something to learn and it doesn’t always have to be something as huge as learning an entire product line or feature. Start with baby steps. One cool thing I’ve seen recently is a series of blog posts called “One Cmdlet At a Time” in which Jonathan Medd (Blog | Twitter) learns PowerShell one cmdlet at a time. This is a great example of how you can tackle learning something one little bit at a time. In his case not only is he learning by doing so hands on but he’s teaching as well via his blog. It’s a win for everyone!

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4 thoughts on “T-SQL Tuesday #008: Gettin’ Schooled”

  1. You’re absolutely right. Especially about powershell. Learning powershell is only possible through “doing”.

    And I know what you mean when you mention people “who come off looking like a clown”. I keep things light, but I never go so far as to write jokes into my presentations. FWIW, I think Buck Woody rides that line between light-hearted and clownish. A little too closely sometimes.

    1. Ha indeed! It’s difficult to tread that fine line and I think Buck has done a great job of it. I don’t write jokes in either but sometimes I get lost in the “entertainment” bit and tread too far off course. Got jolted back to reality recently with a SQLSaturday feedback form that said I was too silly and strayed off course. That kind of feedback keeps me grounded and forces me to focus on the important part which is key.

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