Monday, August 6, 2012

Lifelong Learning

Life is a journey and one just has to keep learning as we move along. Lifelong learning isn't a new concept. It's a concept as old as Man. I guess somewhere, someone coined it into a word and it has caught on. These days, we talk a lot about lifelong learning, maybe because the comforts of life has made us soft and lazy.

Anyway, in education today we tout lifelong learning as an essential, something that is necessary because everything is changing so fast. I think it's just a illusion. Reading novels about the eras before this one has taught me that lifelong learners have always been around. When I read 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks', I was amazed by how innovative the doctors were. They built their machines and tools from scratch and imagination.

Today, I think it should be the same too, except that knowledge is now available at giddying quantities and speed. But many of us are not bothered about it. Cos we feel we have everything we need. There is less hunger in us these days.

Anyway, continuous education, lifelong learning...they've become easier. Once upon a time, you have to find a master willing to take you in as an apprentice. These days, you need to have an attitude, well not that sort of negative attitude but the sort that quietly propels you to learn and continually improve yourself. And learning has taken on a new dimension with the Net, which is very liberating.

Other Half recently introduced me to this site, Coursera, where you can sign up for courses; all disciplines. A gamut of courses are available and many of them are by professors from very well known universities. I am currently following this course 'An Introduction to Finance' conducted by a professor from the University of Michigan. Because I am a week late, I have decided to just listened to his videos. I won't be participating in the forums or assignments. No certs but this course is giving me an opportunity to learn some basics in Finance. I've done 4 lectures in 2 days and I've found his lectures to be most informative (and entertaining).

I've also signed up for some other courses which will start in a couple of months; World History by a Princeton lecturer, Critical Thinking and Sociology (which I did in uni more than 20 years ago). And I am super sure that all these will be many folds better than anything my school or state department can ever offer me because the facilitators have been downright boring and come across as quite clueless in the subject matter which they should be experts.

Coursera is not the only avenue. The Net has opened up many other possibilities. There are talks one can listen to like those from TED and RSA Animate. You can also try iTunes U which is a great resource. Also, you have forums where you can discuss with like-minded people. There are online articles, ebooks, interactive sites. If you are an occasional space buff like me, there is also NASA you can check out. It has great pictures of everything to do with space! Incidentally, they've just put another Rover called Curiousity onto Mars! I used to show Spirit and Opportunity to my boy and co, trying to spark their imaginations years ago.

You can learn anytime, any place... as long as you are connected to the Net. 8) Apps on tablets have also enabled anyone to learn stuff which needs real expertise.... like astronomy for example. These days, you can just hold your iPad to any location and with the right app, the constellation of that particular location you're pointing at will just pop up onto the screen. The rest is easy because there is Google!

So yeah! I am a lifelong learner, not because I am forced to but because I have an 'attitude'. LOL! But I'm truly amazed by the offerings. I think being a student today is really fun, cos there are so many sources you can look into. The only thing is to drag oneself away from the distractions... also from the Net. And it's a bit sad that our schools aren't preparing our students to be lifelong learners. One of the prerequisites is independence. Spoon fed students make poor lifelong learners cos they need external stimulation and are not internally generated.

A university degree may not mean very much in the future. It's your 'attitude' that will matter more. And to sell that attitude, one needs good communicative skills. So yeah... lifelong learning has been happening from the beginning of humanity. And it just got more complex.

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