Gratitude For Self-Directed Learning

When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher was the worst I’d experienced in my life up to that point, or ever since. She had a nickname that seemed to be perfect for her nature – “the Cockroach.” She lectured, condescended, and tested, all without engaging. I didn’t do well in that environment and I was punished for it. I remember one time when she showed the movie “Shane” to the class. I and several other students didn’t get to watch it because we were behind on our schoolwork. She placed us at a long table against one of the classroom walls and set up a curtain behind us, so that we couldn’t see the movie, but we could hear it. Unfortunately, that was the year that grammar was taught. That being the case, I am grateful for self-directed learning, which due to the Internet, has far-reaching and amazing potential.

One of the ways that I am grateful for self-directed learning is through audio books. I have used CDs and online services. A few years ago, I was commuting to work, which meant that for an hour a day, I was sitting in my car listening to the radio. I decided to be more effective with my time and visited the local public library. I found a wealth of books on CD and started listening to them. It was a great way to spend my time and I learned a lot. Nowadays, I subscribe to a service and I get around three books a month. I download the books to my phone and listen while I’m getting ready for work in the morning and while I’m in my car. I also love how I can change the rate of playback – I usually listen at 1.5x speed and when I do a replay listen, I listen at 2x.

I have to make a note here – these books are great, but if all that I am doing is listening and then moving on, then it is a waste of my time. I also have to write down what I’ve learned and make a plan to put the key points into action. I’m grateful for those authors who create workbooks that go along with the audio and make it available for download. Learning sticks best when we make it a part of our daily experience. The more we use our knowledge and skills, the more we develop them and they become part of our nature. To me, it’s useless to listen to something once and not attempt to use it to improve my life.

A second way that I am grateful for self-directed learning is through online videos. Youtube is probably the most used form of this, but there are other services, both free and subscription-based that have fantastic benefits. Almost anyone can put up a video, so it is important to me to know that the content o is accurate and true. That often means watching many videos on a subject (or reading and listening to related material) to see if what the video creator is saying is in line with the data. I think this is a good general practice in any case – I try to send out a wide net when I am learning something – and check to see whether the various sources of information connect and where they contradict one another.

One of the great things about videos is that it can combine the visual and the auditory to enhance learning. Other than through the use of computer-based training, there aren’t many methods that are as engaging as through videos. The opportunities for this type of learning, is growing, especially as more colleges and universities are putting up their courses on the Internet. I still need a way to remember the information – I’m a big fan of notebooks – and a plan to put the information into action.

A third way that I am grateful for self-directed learning is through online courses. While they will be more expensive than a series of youtube videos or an audiobook, they can have great benefits. For one, they are often taught by a well-known expert on the subject. This is especially true of such services as masterclass. Brendon Burchard also has a variety of online courses, some of which are fairly inexpensive. Whatever you desire to learn, there is likely a course out there that will give you the knowledge that you need.

If you lack the resources to take these courses, you can make your own. In the book “Ultralearning,” by Scott Young, he talks about how he wanted the knowledge that a degree at MIT offered, but he didn’t want the schedule or the price of that degree. He found that the professors offered lectures, slideshows, test questions, and other data that would allow him to tackle the degree, but at his own pace. Thanks to the Internet and the wealth of information there, we can learn just about anything that we want.

And now, even though I missed out on some key learning, I can now dive into subjects that evaded me so long ago.

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