Plan of study

I’ve always kind of despised the phrase “lifelong learner.”

There might be something too precious about it. Or perhaps it feels rather too obvious–of course you’re a lifelong learner. Any moderately cognizant person is.

Still, I suppose the phrase applies. Given that I’m taking a vacation from formal study (woo!), I’m joining the ranks of those who continue to self-educate in their free time. I’m partly accomplishing this the old fashioned way–books!–particularly with my new project blog, Dead White Guys. As always, I have an annual reading goal of 100 books. And lately I’ve been trying to introduce more nonfiction: ideally one text per novel or short story collection read. (It’s tough, though. I really, really love fiction.) I’m also trying desperately to keep my Italian fresh, which for me means translating. I’m hoping to get started on Eco’s Il Nome Della Rosa by the end of the year.

Then, of course, there is the internet.

The problem with the internet being that there is so much stuff.

I’ve limited myself to five online mediums: Duolingo, Code Academy, iTunes U, Coursera, and Youtube. (No, I’m not linking you to Youtube. You know where it is.)

Duolingo and Code Academy are both great interactive ways to study–and they take less than 30 minutes per day. I’m using Duolingo to brush up my Italian and Spanish, as well as starting German and French for fun. And I completed my first lesson on JavaScript via Code Academy this week. HTML is next.

iTunes U works well because it’s a more passive style of learning, i.e., I can listen to lectures while I’m walking, driving, cooking, or cleaning. At the moment, I’m listening to Corey Olsen’s lectures on Tolkien.

Coursera is by far the most formally structured, but many of the classes still let you set your own pace. My first course is Introduction to Sustainable Development.

Finally, I’m using Youtube to continue learning yoga and the banjo. Because some subjects require demonstration.

What’s exciting about being out of school is being able to study anything. My last program of study was in the liberal arts but not actively engaged with contemporary scholarship or topics. Sure, we talked about Plato in the context of modern politics, but that’s not the same as gaining an in-depth understanding of those politics.

Then again, what’s completely overwhelming about being out of school is being about to study anything. I think the biggest issue is finding balance. There are subjects I can study for my own edification. Subjects that will help me seek a wider range of employment. Subjects that will help me pursue further formal education. And it helps to have a variety of means to study those subjects, because that impacts what I can do on a day-to-day basis. At the moment, I’m spending about two hours a day learning. It’s a slower kind of pursuit than being enrolled in a degree program, which is also refreshing. Plus, there is an intrinsic value to personal goal-setting and achievement.

What are you studying lately? 



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