Learn Anything With Technology
I’ll admit it. I’m a knowledge junkie. Jack of all trades, there is little in this big world that doesn’t interest me, and as soon as a shiny new topic catches my attention, I’m dive into it without reserve.
Although I’ve been this way my whole life, the process of learning has become much easier and more accessible than it was through my young adult years. Back then, delving into a new area of study meant spending hours at the library, thumbing through the card catalog, and checking out more books than I could easily lug to my car. Those books would cover every surface in the house, and I’d be constantly immersed in the glorious process of learning and applying this new knowledge.
I still check out an inordinate number of books, but technology has given the process of learning so many more dimensions than what was previously available. Following are some of my favorite websites and smartphone apps that make it possible to learn anything, without leaving the comfort of your favorite recliner.
When I first started using YouTube, it was primarily for entertainment. I’d find videos of my favorite artists performing songs I enjoy, or search for memorable clips from movies I wanted to revisit. That changed when I decided to start doing brake jobs on my own car and making other minor repairs. Reading about a process is certainly informative, but seeing it demonstrated gives more depth to your learning. Since then, I’ve watched YouTube videos on dozens of topics to increase my knowledge of landscaping, culinary techniques, home repair, jewelry making, dog training, crocheting, website building, and first aid. Those videos even helped me learn how to design and build a wedding arch for my oldest daughters ceremony. The best part is the wide variety of videographers offering tutorials; if one person’s teaching style doesn’t work for you, there are many others to choose from.
One way businesses reach out to their market is by offering free webinars. These online workshops usually focus on a single skill, and offer either a series of slides with a voice over, video of the teacher explaining or demonstrating the concept, or a combination of both. Since the point of these webinars, of course, is to reach new customers, the sessions usually end with an explanation of services or special offers, which generally include substantial discounts and bonus gifts. You don’t have to buy anything, though, and good webinars will offer information of substance. I find many useful webinars via ads on social media, but you can also enter “free webinars on [your topic of interest]” into your search engine for options.
When I first started blogging, I was determined to learn WordPress, and Udemy provided numerous tutorials that helped me make sense of what I’d learned from books and online articles. The site currently offers about 80,000 courses on personal and professional development. This learning platform is a global marketplace, assisting experts in a particular topic in preparing their courses to offer for sale. I log in from time to time to peruse courses I might be interested in, and based on those I select, I’ll receive notifications from Udemy when those courses go on sale, often for as little as $10. Courses consist of a combination of video and PDF downloads, and once purchased, a course can be taken at your leisure.
If you prefer a more formal learning environment, Coursera may appeal to you. Created by Andrew Ng and Daphne Killer, both Standord University professors, Coursera offers courses, specializations, and degrees in topics taught by top instructors from accredited universities. Subjects include computer science, digital marketing, business, social sciences, humanities, biology, medicine, psychology, and many others. More than 33 million students have taken over 2,400 courses since the learning platform’s inception in 2012.
Let’s not overlook the power of the search engine. I still marvel at the ease with which I can find any piece of information I need simply by pulling out my phone and entering my question. How do I convert milliliters of this medication to ounces? If a recipe calls for fresh herbs, what is the equivalent in dried herbs? What planetary phenomena am I seeing right now? Where’s the nearest gas station to my present location? While it’s incredibly useful for obtaining these bits of information, it’s also highly entertaining to simply enter a search term for any topic that interests me, and enjoy the wealth of information available to me within seconds.
I was late to the podcast party, but I’m rapidly making up for lost time. A podcast is, at it’s most basic, similar to a radio talk show. Some podcasts feature the host sharing his or her knowledge or point of view; in others, co-hosts have a discussion on their topic, or a host will interview a guest with expertise in their subject matter. Podcasts cover every conceivable topic, and while some are strictly intended to impart knowledge, others are meant to be entertaining. I listen to podcasts while driving or cooking, and I’m looking for opportunities to squeeze in a few more throughout the week. You can listen to podcasts on your smartphone or computer, and many have a corresponding website where further information can be found.
Visit the Apple store or Google play, and enter whatever you want to learn. I’ve found apps for many of my interests, including Duolingo for learning other languages, fitness apps to help me plan and track my workouts, nutrition apps that help me make food choices that support my health goals, and mindfulness apps that help improve my focus and provide guided meditations to manage stress. This is the proverbial tip of the iceberg, though. I used to jokingly ask, “Is there an app for that?” whenever someone was talking about something new to me. It’s not much of a joke anymore; I’ve yet to look for an app on a particular topic and not find one.
It’s true that if you’re not very comfortable with technology, there will be a bit of a learning curve involved in taking advantage of these learning platforms. But if you love learning as much as I do, it’s more than worth the effort. Most libraries offer tech help, or you can ask a more tech-savvy friend or relative to walk you through the basics. From that point on, all the knowledge in the world will be at your fingertips.