Things I Spied VI-New Ways to Learn

After a life spent as an educator, “You can take the girl out of the classroom…”, I remain committed to constantly learning. But there is no way you will ever get me back into a classroom. Not with the many alternative ways I have found to learn. And not surprisingly, they all involve my technological toys-I mean tools.

First up is Duolingo, which I prefer to use on my iPad. Learning Spanish has been an ambition since high school, where I studied French. In college, it was German, later on, Hebrew. And even a smattering of Chinese (“Lung se le” or It’s cold as death” has come in very handy at my favorite Chinese restaurant this Winter. But I digress.

Duolingo has short daily lessons, using scrambled sentences, transcription from Spanish to English and back, repetition into the microphone and picture associations for new words. A perfect score yields bonus points, as you stay “on track’ or fall off it. You can even compete with friends. And the program includes Portuguese, French, German and Italian, once I am fluent in Spanish. Chinese and Japanese are pending. I have made more progress with this approach than with any other one I have attempted. And it’s fun!

Meanwhile, John Green, author of “The Fault in Our Stars”, a must-read before the film debuts) has created a series of weekly World History and Literature video YouTube lessons at Crash Course. His brother, Hank covers Chemistry and Psychology. Some may find them kitschy, as he uses cartoonish graphics, and talks even more rapidly than I do, but I have been entranced by them. I particularly liked his take on the Odyssey, and Hank’s overview of the structure of the brain. John’s explanation of the history of the Ukraine and the present situation I thought was particularly brilliant.

These alternative forms of learning have real appeal for me, partly because I have lost whatever “sitzfleisch” I once had for sitting in a classroom or listening to someone lecture at length. It was probably slipping away before the advent of the constant ping of technology, but now I really need a hook of some sort to stay engaged.

I signed up for Dan Ariely’s online Coursera course on “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior” and was completely taken with him as a lecturer, in 20 minute segments, and with the delivery of course material through online reading. I considered it the best course I had ever taken, for as long as I lasted. But the demands were actually so great that I “dropped” the course, alas! I tried a Coursera course, in Logic, and dropped after only one class. The prof’s tics drove me crazy, and, up close on my computer screen, were impossible to ignore. I hearkened back to a college English prof who regularly rolled up her eyes to the point where we decided she had her lecture notes written inside her eyelids. That was a required course, so dropping it was not an option. But with age and the Internet comes power!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *