After surviving some crazy times at work a couple weeks ago, I decided it was time to figure out what I’m doing with my life. Well, I have some things figured out, but I mostly needed to get my education plans in order. I can go just so long before I get so restless in my mind I can’t stand it. I think I have a problem with addiction to knowledge or something 🙂
Anyways…I’ve had a really amazing week of learning. First of all, I decided I needed a more effective way to manage my work. I found a great app, iProcrastinate, that has worked out quite well so far. Not really crazy about the name, since my whole point in using it is to avoid procrastinating, but that’s ok. I can see what tasks are due in the next day, couple days, week, or indefinite future. I can set assignments to repeat every week. I can divide a task into steps, so that even before the entire assignment is done, I can feel like I’m making progress and track what is left to do.
So I had a great app…the next question was, what to put in it? I had a few things I knew I definitely wanted to do, such as:
Continue Western Civ course from Liberty Classroom
Start Western Literature course from The Great Courses
Continue Duolingo Spanish
Continue Khan Academy Geometry
Start Khan Academy Chemistry
Continue with yearly reading program
And then I discovered some other things I wanted to add:
A course from Edx.org on Ancient Heroes
An Intro to Operations Management course from Coursera
After reviewing all this, I decided that this must be one of the most eclectic education programs ever. I don’t think there is one subject which I haven’t already studied or am not planning to study. This makes my life a little confusing sometimes. When you’re listening to a lecture on the Epic of Gilgamesh, then watching a video about the Roman Republic and then reading the Iliad, it can get a bit muddled up in my head. Which is ok.
You may realize that there’s a theme of ancient studies here. It all started when I signed up for Western Civ from Liberty Classroom. It is a fantastic overview of Western Civ history, but I felt like I needed to get a little more in-depth. That’s what I love about being an autodidact or self-learner. I have no deadline for finishing this, I can learn at my own pace. So I’m hoping to get through the Western Civ course in the next year. But I’m going to take my time with the art and literature supplemental courses, just because I want to make this really thorough.
I really enjoy having so many different sources for my education. It is great experience in figuring out how different programs work. Some, like Liberty Classroom and Khan, are very self-directed and flexible. Others, like Edx.org offer more structure. Some, like Duolingo, are just downright fun and addictive. My Duolingo app on my iPod is more fun than Angry Birds. Not that I play Angry Birds much, but I’d far rather “play” my Spanish app. Yes, it is that fun. So I just like being exposed to different technologies and approaches because it helps me stay adaptive.
Let me say something about the Edx.org course. It is called The Ancient Greek Hero. And is an utterly fantastic class. It is taught by Professor Nagy from Harvard and explores the theme of heroism and how the Greeks expressed their conception of heroes in works of literature such as The Iliad. I like the structure, everything is clearly defined and explained so I know exactly what I need to do. I like the approach because Professor Nagy focuses on learning how to read out of the text as opposed reading into the text. For instance, you could read a feminist agenda into a Greek story where no such concept existed for the original author and audience. Instead, the emphasis is on understanding the text in the way that it was intended rather than interpreting it from our modern perspective. While I don’t think we can ever completely remove our modern mindset from reading, it is definitely a goal to aim towards. I also like the idea of slow reading and fast reading. Professor Nagy selects certain texts from The Iliad to slowly read during the week, and then will assign several scrolls to read quickly. The slow reading is just that…taking the time to appreciate the nuances of the language, the specific words being used, the details of the text, and everything associated with that. The fast reading is more like speed-reading…skimming over the text to get the main “gist” of it. Doing a slow reading of the entire Iliad would be overwhelming to me, so having this balance between my normal speed-reading mode and a more thoughtful analysis of specific passages is really good for me. The course also focuses on the “big picture” of the story…what the texts tell us about the worldview of the characters, how this is relevant to us now, and other more broad themes. This is what I find most interesting about anything I study, so having that perspective in this class is great.
Why am I saying all of this? Maybe you’re interested in taking some courses or want to continue your education in a rather unconventional way. I thought I’d share some of my resources and what I like about them to give you ideas of what you can do. We live in a time when knowledge and educational sources are literally a click away. And it doesn’t cost a fortune. It would be tragic to neglect these incredible benefits of our technological revolution. There is absolutely no reason to not take advantage of these things. It would be like going to banquet but bringing our own peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or going to the beach but never touching the ocean. It doesn’t really matter if it is “practical.” If it happens to be useful in a pragmatic way, that’s great. But just as there are mountains to climb for the sheer joy of conquering the peaks, there is this world of knowledge to explore for the sheer satisfaction of doing it. We learn to lose ourselves in the wonder of a world so vast we can never reach the edge.