Lifelong Learning: 8 Tools and Resources
So, in the last post, I answered hypothetical questions (that I imagine you would ask) regarding what, why, and how to be a lifelong learner. I’m sure you deduced that learning, in any capacity, is priceless in my eyes.
That’s why I want to give you 8 free tools you can use to learn something new every day. Onward we go!
This post contains affiliate links to sites that I do not own. Read the full disclosure here.
1. Take Classes and Attend Lectures
This is the most obvious when people think of learning–and, you should. There are so many classes you can take that bring together others with your interests. However, most people avoid the classroom because:
- “I can just buy and read the book.”
- “School is so expensive.”
- “I hate homework. It’s pointless.”
- “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
I have to admit: these are all true on some level. But whether it is worth it for you to invest your time, money, and effort in a formal class/lecture really depends on the 5 W’s + H (I can’t remember the catchy little abbreviation from school, so yeah…).
Find a variety of free online lecture videos and audio at OpenCulture. Personally, I use Coursera for my free university classes.
- Who: Is the person offering the class an expert, or sponsored by one? Or, did they read a book and some articles, and are sophomoric enough to offer a class?
- What: If you study math, a book won’t cut it; you need tutoring. But, if you take a history class, a book works. Depends on your learning style, too.
- When: Considering your studies are voluntary, you can always make time for it–if you really want to learn this. Do online classes or do it over the weekend (some are offered on weekends); put your kids in class while you attend yours and drag your significant other along, too. Learning time is more quality time than just watching random YouTube videos together!
- Where: Community colleges; if you want surefire credibility, variety, and help, that’s the first place to check. But, there are other places, too. I know in most cities in which I lived offered classes from local school districts, local libraries, local businesses, and local recreation centers–very cheap or free because of taxes.
- Why: Because. It’s good for you. Don’t believe me? Read this.
- How: There are so many ways to take a class or attend a lecture. While I still contend that face-to-face formats are best, there are webinars, newsletters, workshops, conferences, online courses, and podcasts that essentially do the same thing.
2. Read a Book
Naturally, if you’ve gone to school at some point in your life, you’ve probably associated books with those heavy things breaking middle-schoolers’ backs since the beginning of time. But, they do so much more if you open them! Nevertheless, while textbooks are the most straightforward texts to read, there are others that teach non-fiction things, as well!
- There are self-help, nonfiction, handbooks, how-to guides, and all kinds of genres that are just as informative, and more engaging, than a textbook.
- You can get possessive and buy them physically or digitally like I do (I don’t like sharing). I’m a regular at Barnes & Noble with connections because I practically live there.
- You can check them out free from your local library. Taxes pay for stuff like that.
- You can rent and/or buy them used from college students (they’re always looking to sell); I did half.com in college, then, Amazon has a marketplace.
- Don’t forget audiobooks! Audible.com, Amazon Kindle online store, Barnes & Noble online store…the list goes on.
If you want to better retain and review information, make sure you take notes and/or mark the text!
3. Follow or Subscribe to a Blog
I remember when blogs became a thing. They were like digital diaries at first. Then, when we high schoolers discovered you could publish them for others to see, it became a place to immaturely rant about our opinions on things we thought we understood. I tried one as a “diary”, and I wanted to have one to share ideas with others. But, I left the scene because I found that–like most social media and some blogs today–people really do just like to rant about a conflict. But, look at me now!
Blogs have come so far to be so much more productive and positive. Now, they’re a great place for learning rather than just argument.
- If you don’t have the time or patience to read a whole book (like me), blogs are shorter and blunt articles posts (typically).
- Though not an “authoritative experts” on the topics (typically), you can assume that 90% of blogs are by people who experienced and studied what they are writing about.
- Plus, there are so many blogs out there offering different and similar resources, tools, and perspectives for you to check out.
- If you subscribe to a blog, you can receive info related to the topic in your email inbox.
- If you follow the RSS blog feed, you’ll be updated on new posts.
Nice, quick, and easy.
4. Subscribe to a Podcast
With the advent of technology as a learning tool, there are fewer and fewer people who are text-based learners. For them, reading, of any length, is tough for a variety of reasons. Podcasts may be your thing, then. Podcasts are episodic, audio file series. Basically, like an audiobook is an auditory book, a podcast is an auditory blog. There are so many benefits to listening to podcasts including:
- Deeper connections with the creator and topic: “You may have a favorite author or blogger that you love to read, but hearing their voice and hearing them express their thoughts literally adds a new dimension to their content” suggests Jonathon Howe from thomrainer.com. He also suggests that
- “podcasts allow listeners to grow more in their knowledge or expertise about a topic or situation while at the same time redeeming [the] time that would be wasted on an inane task. Commutes are turned into classrooms through podcasts. Dog walking becomes discipleship time. Exercising not only builds the body but the mind as well.”
- A writer from myndset.com brought up the point that “They come in different shapes and sizes to fit the down moment you have (waiting for the doctor, stuck in an elevator, beside a dull passenger…)”. (S)he identifies four different types depending on your time to spare, which can really change up how you choose your casts.
- Freshu.io’s writer Lauren Reamy even recognizes that “podcasts are all about listening to other people’s stories, and through this, you will gain a greater appreciation for simply listening”, which can potentially better your relationships. Plus,
- “listeners of podcasts generate more vivid images in their minds and have high levels of emotional involvement in the story” and
- “podcasts stimulate mental imagery more intensely and cause listeners to have to pay more attention” according to some university studies she found.
- Not to mention, just like a blog, there are tons for so many topics and interests narrated by like-minded and experienced people. And, it carries all the convenience of an audiobook for the same kind of audience.
5. Subscribe to a YouTube Channel
If you’re more visual, you always have YouTube. I remember when the site started with only a few things, and mostly music videos. Now, you can find lectures, tutorials, and documentaries on just about anything you want from organizations, universities, and professionals.
I personally love the humorous or animated literary channels. And, my husband follows many about the military, guns, and projectile science channels. Not only are you able to hear the information, but you can connect it with a visual that will help you to process and retain the information. Not as convenient because you look at the screen,
but it’s also engaging and an easy way to learn something new!
Don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole of video stupidity! Educational videos are so much better and rewarding! I promise!
6. Download an App
Like they say, “there’s an app for that”. Just like the videos, apps give you more of a visual, and possibly tactile, approach to learning. In addition to traditional games that promote hand/eye coordination, observation, attention, agility, and strategy, there are also applications that are designed to teach you something new or promote increased brain functioning.
Apps can also just be more convenient. Your favorite creators (bloggers, YouTubes, gamers…) may have an app that includes all their work in one place for you to sign in and have it compiled for you to browse at your leisure.
7. Participate in a “Conversation”
No matter what format you choose for learning, you learn the best when you can discuss it with someone else. So, you should join the conversation–through chat, comments, forums, book clubs, class discussions, whatever. Classes are naturally the first place you will find a good conversation about your topic. Whether for a class assignment or activity, or you just hit it off with a peer through a good chat.
Be careful using social media, though. It’s so easy to get caught up in an argument or wit-match rather than a conversation to learn more. Stay focused on the topic, keep it productive, and find others who are interested in actually talking about it rather than just rant, fight, or comment on it. Hopefully, you can start some great conversations below when you comment on this content!
8. Keep a Journal
Like most females, I have kept a journal since my middle school years. I used to use it for reflection and ranting to deal with the depression and mental illness shifts. I stopped them in college. About a year ago, I found some of them and noticed how messed up I was when I was a kid. And, it made me want to start again–but in another way.
There are so many studies and articles finding that journaling is an excellent practice for self and world learning.
- You can know yourself better: The writing encourages us to reflect and become more self-aware of things that can be fleeting and/or ruminate in our heads.
- You can learn how to achieve more: Journals can help you organize your life and interests. I keep multiple bullet journals for that reason. One of them is to identify emotional issues and devise plans for how to overcome them.
- You can get better at what you’re doing: As a teacher, having students keep reading and writing journals is important. By constantly writing about our writing and reading informally, we actually become better at it.
- You can be creative and enjoy learning: Journaling is an awesome way to interact with what you learn in a more creative way. Sketchnotes, charts, images, rambling, random information. There are so many ways to make it your own, and that makes us a little more invested in what we do with it because we want to use it.
There are different types of journals based on your needs and goals. You can easily Pinterest it. I have to say, it has proved one of the best things for me–tried and true for years.
Crazy, right? A plethora of things out there for learning.
Technology can be a double-edged sword. While it can be a differentiated way of learning, it can also be the distraction from learning; this is when maturity comes in! Speaking of which, how do you keep yourself productive when trying to “study”?
Again, all the tools I listed above are free. But, there are better, paid versions of each. I do all of them (whenI have no life) and I pay for none of them (too broke)! Do you know of any other free resources that we lifelong learners can use, too?
Remember, lifelong learning is ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated. It’s a lifestyle that can be natural and conscious. In either case, it’s potentially the best thing for you for so many reasons!
If you want to keep learning with me and teeter on wisdom, follow me on social media!