Learning ALL the things!


The only way to make someone want something is to take it away. Generally speaking, people are horrible value assessors.

When I was in school, I hated it. I suspect that’s normal. But now that I find myself busied with the busy busyness of domestic this and that, and I simply don’t have time for formal education, I find I crave it. I need it. I simply must, must, learn new things! Not for any quantifiable or material reason. Things are just so interesting! All the things!


I don’t have the time or money to go investing in tertiary establishments that will take at least two years to give me an introduction to a single topic, so I’ve been dipping into simple just-add-water online alternatives. In the past month I’ve been learning about memory development techniques, about development and finer points of assertion, relating to people of different personality types, about finance fundamentals, the even about the neuroscience of learning, itself. And I’m currently learning useful practices for writing fiction.

All bar the last of those was from Lynda.com, which, while not being free, has certainly been worth the annual fee, to me. I’d bought a subscription for its design software video courses and tutorials (I had a passing interest in watching the CAD tutorials, but I have enough to be getting on with within my own design field, without investigating architecture), but I’ve loved to watch courses that tend to be filed in categories of Business, and Marketing. Even though those topics, per se, turn me right off.

But people skills are useful to everyone, not just managers. Similarly, I don’t know anyone who would turn down an improved memory.

I can now remember a grocery list of over 10 items, in order. (Sometimes I can even remember it a week later.) I can remember the licence plate number of a car I’ve never seen, but was told about yesterday. And, possibly best of all, I can meet someone new and continue to remember their name!

The memory development, combined with what I learned about the mechanics and physiology of learning in the neuroscience course, got me geared up to cram more stuff in there!

FutureLearnSo, adding to Lynda.com intake, I’ve joined several courses at FutureLearn—a learning platform owned by the Open University, in England. (Only one of my chosen courses is currently running. I’m ambitious, but not mad.) It’s a different flavour of learning than what Lynda uses. FutureLearn is designed for learner participation. That’s why I signed up for its course on Writing Fiction. That part of me is fairly atrophied, so having specific projects set, and interactivity with other learners, will (hopefully) bring it out of hibernation.

For someone who claims to have no time for education, it sounds like I’m a liar. But I’ve been surprised by how little time it’s taken to learn things, in these formats. I haven’t needed to dedicate hours to it. Sometimes I just watch a piece of a Lynda course during the day—I may give it only 10 minutes. I start getting restless after 20. (Incidentally, the Neuroscience of Learning course told me that 20 minutes is the maximum time a person can focus on something before their attention wanes, rendering learning inefficient.) I may watch a segment while I’m preparing dinner, or waiting for the jug to boil. Even if I only progress through the courses two minutes at a time, I’ll get there eventually.

The first assignment of the Writing Fiction course sounded like it should be simple, but I found it challenging. We were to write one paragraph (50–100 words) with 1 fact and 3 fictions, then another paragraph with 1 fiction and 3 facts. But once I’d written those elements I was still significantly shy of 50 words—yet if I padded it to be long enough, I’d have more than the requested number of the two elements. Eventually I simplified the instructions for myself: Write a paragraph with one truth in it. Then write a paragraph with one lie. The task was a lot easier to hold onto, then, and I typed thus:

(1 Fact) My baby sister had slept in her small white box for a long time before the grownups had put it in a hole in the ground. The grownups had cried as she slept and held her flowers. They had said that in time, I would forget. But I remember everything.

(1 Fiction) It is a different sister now, but the silence is the same. The grownups don’t see her sinking, her eyes open and watching the rippling distance between us growing. Her arms are outstretched in languid relaxation, as though sinking into a mattress. Soon she would sleep, too. I don’t call out. And I regret nothing.


(2) Comments

  • Deborah Makarios
    02 May 2015

    Remembering people’s names?! Remarkable. I only remember interesting but unnecessary things, like what year the Spanish Armada was, or what DNA stands for. People’s names, not so much. This is possibly because a) I have met too many people in my lifetime and b) Pakeha all look the same anyway.

    • Eve
      02 May 2015

      I know the name of the HyperText Transfer Protocol element in a Uniform Resource Locator of the World Wide Web, but I had to Google DeoxyriboNucleic Acid. 🙂

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