Monday, March 16, 2015

Continuous Learning

This is a very old song that had a major impact on me when I was very young. One of the reasons I have learned as many different things that I have, is because I'm always looking for new ways to grow.

Forbes: Why The Best Leaders Are Full-Time Learners



Here are some ways to continue learning for free or cheap, using online resources:

  1. Take a MOOC, a Massively Open Online Course. The first MOOC to become truly massive was Sebastian Thrun's AI Class, the first MOOC I completed.  There are now three major MOOC platforms I know:
    1. Coursera. This is the platform I have used the most. All courses here are offered free, with the option to pay a fee and upgrade to a Verified Certificate. Many of the course offerings are offered by universities all around the world.
    2. EdX. This platform was founded by MIT and Harvard. It is a non-profit organization, which means that they do send out e-mails requesting donations. The course model seems similar to Coursera, in that courses are free to anyone, but one may choose to pay for a verified certificate. This platform also offers series certificates for students who complete all of the designated courses in a topic.
    3. Udacity. This platform came out of Sebastian Thrun's AI Class, and seems to be geared more towards the corporate learner. There are some free courses available, however many of these classes have a fee attached. Signing up for this platform means periodic Sale! e-mails.
    4. Other platforms exist. Open Culture keeps a running list of nearly all MOOCs beginning in a given month.
  2. Search for an App on the topic. Many Apps are available in a variety of topics. 
    1. If you want to learn another language, I strongly recommend Duolingo, available for Android and iOS.  They have successfully gamified language learning, and have a growing selection of languages available. One minor drawback, Duolingo requires a connection to the internet, so a wi-fi only device doesn't work away from wi-fi. If you are already proficient in a language, the Fluent in 3 months blog suggested using a second (or third) language to learn the third (fourth, fifth, etc.). The drawback on Duolingo, is that "French from Spanish" counts as a different course than "French from English," and so progress does not carry from one base language to another. That said, it definitely exercises the brain. Sometimes I feel like learning the Romance languages (French, Portuguese, and Italian) from Spanish is "cheating," because the words are often similar. But there are enough differences to make one think. The real mind-bender, for me, is "German from Russian."
    2. Memrise is an app with progressive levels of topics / flashcards in a variety of topics, from foreign languages to science to theater and film. This is also gamified. When I started using the App, the packages one could select from the App itself were limited to primarily languages. However, one can navigate to the website on a computer and select additional packets that would then be available on the mobile device. 
  3. Look for a Podcast on the topic. For an iPod or iOS device, many podcasts are available on iTunes for subscription. If you use an Android device, different apps offer different selections of podcasts. I started using Podcast Republic and Podkicker.  Stitcher came out as a way to take your subscriptions and turn them into a long stream, it appears that both Podcast Republic and Podkicker have updated to add that functionality. All three have the option to download for offline listening.
  4. E-books. Most classical literature is now available as a free e-book, either from Project Gutenberg or another source. Open Culture maintains a list of free textbooks, although some of the "textbooks" are websites, not downloadable PDF or e-books. 
  5. Websites. For example, the Fluent in Three Months blog and website provide resources on how to develop one's polyglot skills. Codecademy provides free introductory lessons to programming languages and skills. Russian Language Mentor provides opportunity to develop one's reading and listening skills using progressively more difficult news clips. Memrise and Duolingo each have a web interface. Open Culture allows one to subscribe to a daily post or article. Blogs and discussions boards exist for many topics, and social media can connect you to additional resources.