I’ve been at to many parties, and witnessed far more discussions where the term education has been shockingly misused. As if most of my peers would have you believe that education starts with the aim for a diploma, and ends with the prospect of a job – An overused mantra that was, up until now, hardly ever questioned.
Education is not confined within the perimeters of a college campus- nor, I guess, do we want it to be. But much the same was increasingly true years back as it is now- why the sudden realization?
What initiated the broader understanding of education, and why is it that twenty-somethings today are more repelled by the idea of formal education than they ever were? And we can deny this to our hearts content, but the dropout numbers sing a different tune.
The reason, I believe, rests in the fact that knowledge is more accessible today than ever in the history of the world. And given the significance of knowledge to quality of human life, we can say that education and personal development converge towards the same end. When the two meet, as the line already starts to blur, we get lifelong learning.
This article, in its intent, is an attempt to show that there is an alternative – A tap on the shoulder to those who refuse to accept only one pawed road, if you will.
I remember when I first discovered TED. It was probably around then when I came in terms that my formal education was- and how do I put this- a total bull. TED is a place where you can watch video presentations from some of the most progressive minds in the world.
Do not get me wrong here, but the video format and the rehearsed speeches- not devaluing the message in any way- allow for it to sink better, and even provoke a strong emotional response (as most of education should).
Including this in the list, I already feel a pile of criticism building up. But bear for a second now. Stumble Upon is, at its core, a behavioral/data-log machine.
By roughly guessing what your preferences are, it serves you with a string of content that gets more refined and tuned to your taste the more times you use it. Through a series of likes and dislikes, it captures your subconscious interests and takes you into that direction.
A somewhat more structured, and in a way more orthodox approach to learning, Coursera is a place where college courses are available for everybody to take. You decide on what is important, and into which direction to continue. This is college without any strings attached.
The basic premise is that you skip the birocracy, and still get access to the mentors who are good at passing their knowledge on. Courses from the top universities in the world, on subjects varying from music, law, engineering and whatnot.
A similar monster to the one above, here you get a better structured approach to the curriculum. Self-paced environment, which makes learning way more easier and that more pleasant.
You know that one- if you want to learn something then ask? Well voila. Quora is a place where curious people gather to answer one another’s questions. You can ask specific or ask broad, chances are someone will have the answer, or at least point you into the right direction.
If the internet is one giant library, then Reddit is its curator. Some parts of Reddit are places where curious people teach one another in the most democratic of ways. One user finds something noteworthy, and he shares it with the others. Then, a system of voting and commenting decides what gets on top of what and, simply put, you are left with the most interesting/entertaining/valuable resources on the net.
Join this with relevant subreddits – curated lists for specific and narrow niches- and this becomes as much of a university as you will ever need.
The world Factbook
You know those movies where the CIA has all the information. Well, it turns out, they kinda do. The world factbook is a place where you can dig through endless piles of information ranging in more topics than I can try to list.
Very good for referencing, and equally good for conducting research, this is a great place for curious people.
If you ever had the doubt that memory, cognitive focus or problem solving capacity can be improved, this is the time to part ways with it. Lumosity is, at a minimum, a brain enhancing boot camp. Challenges, made with your personality in mind, designed to increase various functions of your brain.
Books, books, books… and then some. Project Guttenberg is a place where you can get books for free. Just find what you need, and read to your hearts content.
MIT open courseware
I always wanted to see the insides of a MIT class, but somehow it simply wasn’t in the cards for me. If you are intellectually aroused by the idea of learning directly from one of the best universities in the world, then I leave you to it to have fun- free courses, same quality, but without the diploma. Enjoy.
Very similar concept to TED, here you will find videos that will go a long way in giving you knowledge and increased awareness about certain topics.
Code is the new black, right? It’s the cool kids’ language. I had some less fruitful attempts on learning to code, but if I ever try another time, I was assured, this will be the place that does the job.
I can sense the raised eyebrow now, but as the old adage goes – a picture is worth a thousand words. And here you have pictures… lots of ‘em. In a more serious tone, it does go hand in hand with common sense – pictures can give you ideas, deepen your curiosity. Not to mention if your work has anything to do with design.
Podcasts are a great way to learn about a certain subject partially because you will get information that is hardly available anywhere else. This is a distinct medium and, same as the video format, goes a long way in making content to sink in.
As an example, doing what I do for a living, I picked a lot of knowledge from some business and marketing ones on iTunes.
The moment it appeared in the online world, You Tube’s potential for teaching was apparent. From learning how to play a song, to learning how to cook a meal or how to rewire a complex fancy device or something, its sphere of accessible knowledge is massive. You can also subscribe to certain channels, and learn from people who really put the effort into teaching.
I love this site. It is rather broad in its specialization, but in essence it offers innovative, progressive, and thought-provoking information on topics such as design, lifestyle, creativity…
Great online magazine for getting more knowledge on topics such as web design, UX, programming and so forth.
Without further ado, here is a list of blogs that will- without the chance of sounding too metaphysical- educate your heart and soul equally well as they will provide education in multitude of niches.
1. Steve Pavlina
A guy who loves to write, think, and dissect subjects with more depth. He explores things that concern us on daily basis and is, by definition, your go to personal development blog.
2. Zen Habits
Run by Leo Babauta- another personal development aficionado, who tries to reduce complex topics and concepts by using minimalism and common sense. Easily one of the best personal development blogs in the world.
3. The blog of author Tim Ferris
A human guinea pig, there is nothing that this guy won’t try, and then teach you how to get there. Deeply passionate about meta learning, it’s no wonder his three books hit the NYT and WSJ bestselling lists. His interests are surprisingly broad. Put that into combination with how well he goes about teaching people, and how many other interesting people he brings into the conversation and you have a well of knowledge.
Take for example this amazing article about how to start your own business.
4. Seth Godin
Seth is a curious guy. Perhaps the most curious one I stumbled across the net. What is great about his blog is that it gives you much insight into his line of thinking- A perfect direction for those who are not afraid to listen closely to their inner talk.
5. Nerd Fitness
I think it goes without saying that there are people who find mainstream fitness trends and ways of training to be more or less repelling. But Steve Kamp approaches fitness from a somewhat unique angle. He adds a nerdy spin to the whole fitness thing, that even if you never really liked fitness you may find yourself at home on his site, and among the very engaged community.
Another fitness resource that stands up in terms of editorial quality, and more importantly backing up all their claims. Probably the best health and fitness blog on the net.
I’m a great fan of Good Will Hunting. If you’ve seen the movie, there is a scene where he lectures a cocky college fella, telling him that all the money he had spent at education have brought him less knowledge than he could have gained by paying a dollar fifty at late night charges in a library.
No matter how curated an online resource is, or how tuned a college lecture gets, books are always going to beat everything else by a huge margin. Non-fiction ranging from biographies, memoirs, all the way to instructional niche centered literature; there is still no match to what level of education you can acquire by reading books.
You can visit Amazon and order e-books or hardcopies or, if you find reading less than pleasant, order an audio book. Supplementing your interest in education and pawing a road on your own, I recommend reading The Element by Sir Ken Robinson. (If this article makes you do one thing, and that is read this book, I will consider it a great success).
Also here is a massive list of the best how to books ever written.
You can learn more by following a mentor, or a role model, than you can with a lifetime of formal education. That being said, find someone who can help you get where you want to go, whether it is face to face or by reading his works, listening to his personal philosophy.
When the term education was coined it meant something dramatically different from what it stands for today. And as the line between personal development and education will progressively blur, it heightens still further the idea of lifelong learning. Learning on your own terms, not necessarily obsessed over the linear narrative, and cultivating both curiosity and passion.