January 13, 2017
What can you learn today?
The benefits of learning are well known and undisputed. However, things are changing. The ways of facilitating learning are improving and access to learning is becoming more ubiquitous and incredibly cheap (free!). We used to think that the brain stopped learning after a certain age. However, new findings shows that our brains keep replenishing (neurogenesis) and keeps developing (neuroplasticity) for most our lives.
We are nothing without the knowledge and skills we develop. Learning keeps us young, mentally supple, and keeps our mind ticking over. Without learning, our mind would remain juvenile. Without sharpening the tool, we have, we would remain basic animals. Keeping our minds active in our latter years should be important as basic nutrition and daily hygiene.
“Intellectual and moral growth is no less indispensable than material improvement… Thought is a prime necessity; truth is nourishment, like wheat.
A reasoning faculty, deprived of knowledge and wisdom, pines away. We should feel the same pity for minds that do not eat as for stomachs.
If there be anything sadder than a body perishing for want of bread, it is a mind dying of hunger for lack of light….” Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
Our intelligence and competency is a combination of the hardware we have (i.e. our brains), but also the software and systems we use (i.e. the knowledge, learning, processes and disciplines). It’s a well-accepted fact that the human brain has far greater capacity that we really give it credit for. And the argument for using it is massive.
Engagement, purpose, stimulation
We’re learning more about how we learn. If we can improve the process of learning, then we’ll be learning more, learning it faster, and doing it with more ease. Learning is significantly easier if its relevant and enjoyable. IF we find a purpose or need in the content being learned, then the content is absorbed far quicker.
Learning is interwoven with memory and comprehension – each aspect improves alongside each other. Like a spider web, the initial unique strand is the hardest to lay, as there’s no foundation, nothing to work from. But as the basic web structure is formed, then more and more strands become easier and easier to interweave and add.
The same is true with webs of knowledge; it’s easier to grow comprehension and knowledge when there is a base to work from. It gets easier and easier to add more and more strands of knowledge – to an existing structure of knowledge. That’s often why people who can speak numerous languages find it easy to add more and more. Things become easier to learn and absorb as there is more comparative relevance to other aspects of existing knowledge.
You can teach an old dog new tricks
There’s a common misconception that the elderly can’t learn new things. That children can pick up languages far easier than adults, and that our brains degenerate after a certain age. This is all bunkum. Adults have a far better capacity to learn a new language than a child.
Mature minds have so many more reference points than children, and these references help information stick. And grown-ups have disclipline and have refined processes of learning and retention. Children, alternatively, just blindly absorb – they have no systems and no referencing. Adults benefit from decades of learning refinement and knowledge aggregation – they should take full advantage.
The new frontier of learning
The art of learning, or the teaching of knowledge, has recently captured the intrigue of Silicon Valley. They argue that the learning process stayed dormant for far too long, and is ripe for some good-old Silicon Valley ‘disruption’.
While most things in life have developed beyond recognition in the last 200 years – teaching has progressed very little. The classroom of today – teacher with blackboard in front of students – is virtually identical in concept to a classroom of 200 years ago.
Getting learning and teaching right is such a big thing, the benefits of cracking this nut are huge. If people are enabled to learn, easier and cheaper, then the proliferation of education can lift the world from poverty.
“Education is not a way to escape poverty – It is a way of fighting it.” Julius Nyerere, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania
So, learning is starting to change, fast. Hand in hand with the evolution of the learning process, is the increase in availability of cheap and free knowledge and content. The amount of free and cheap information out there now is incredible. For example, MIT University (one of the top universities in the US) famously released all their courses, content and knowledge, online for free. So now anyone can complete any MIT course or degree – from anywhere in the world, for nix. The only thing you don’t get is the MIT degree certificate at the end. For that you must pay an extra few hundred thousand dollars.
Then we have technological advances which makes it quicker, easier, and more fun to learn. Now, learning is personally tailored via computer interfaces. Some interfaces are monitoring brain waves, and track eye movement as you learn, to ensure that you’re actually learning and absorbing, and not off daydreaming or confused.
When there’s individualised attention and bilateral instantaneous feedback, learning can proceed much faster, but more importantly at the pace and within the style best suited to each individual. Soon, all of this will be done for next to no cost, and available to all.
Duolingo is now one of the world’s biggest language teaching courses – it’s available on computer and smartphone apps. It has about 25 million users, and teaches 21 languages with 8 more under development. With so many users, they’re able to analyse and refine the learning process. This means they’re able to enhance their processes, which makes learning a new language easier and quicker. They say it currently takes about 34 hours of use to equal a semester of language class – and they’re continually working on improving this time.
The best thing about it is, it’s completely free, available to all, and it’s fun.
Courses and learning are really just a means of delivering and disseminating information. And information, due to the internet is freer, more abundant and more distributed than ever. There’s now easy access to endless information and courses, and costs are either free or negligible. And the scope of courses is just mind boggling. There’s likely to be a course on any interest you could ever imagine.
And it’s not just the course material, but the teaching and sources are equally as impressive. It’s not only MIT in on the act, there are incredible free sources of knowledge. There’s TED talks (video lectures by some of the most impressive people in the world including Bill Gates and Bono from U2), Wikipedia (the world’s biggest encyclopaedia) and of course Google (searches and presents every piece of knowledge in the world), to scratch just the surface.
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And if you want to pay a little money for a course, then there’s even more amazing opportunities. For a small fee, you can be taught by superstars! If you like acting, you can join a course taught by Kevin Spacey (Academy Award winning actor). If you fancy tennis, then Serena Williams can help you there. And Christina Aguilera offers a singing course. You can have access to these industry legends and more, for about $90 (£65).
The internet now offers a huge range of online courses. Udemy, Lynda, Udacity, MIT, Masterclass are just a few of the big-name online course platforms available. Even Google have their own courses, and soon university, which count towards their very own “nanodegree”. Udemy, for example, has 42,000 courses on offer, enjoyed by 14 million students.
Endless opportunity to grow
Learning is essential to grow and maintain our faculties. Learning means self-development, development of skills and sense of purpose. The options for learning are more available, more freer and the quality is better than ever.
Keeping Good Company believes that education, personal development, purpose and feeling good, all go hand in hand. We offer courses to our clients as a way of expanding their horizons and increasing enjoyment and engagement. We offer assistance and oversight throughout the courses, ensuring that the process remains enjoyable, and we see great results.