Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Continuing Education

2014 has been a good year for my education in at least three and a half ways. I want to write about them here, not to brag, but to cheer for myself moving from "kind of, sort of learning some stuff" to a more structured approach that seems to be making a difference.

1. My Spanish is getting better. Early in the year I took some community-ed Spanish classes where I had to get over my fear of trying out the language aloud in front of other students and a teacher who was a native speaker. Those have ended, but I've been using Duolingo to work on vocabulary and practice translation, and I'm starting to use some new strategies from Fluent Forever that should help even more.

2. A few months ago I got our old family accordion repaired, got some instruction books, and started practicing. My family has been very patient (accordions are loud) and I'm having a lot of fun! The weirdest thing is that while it's always been hard-to-impossible for me to memorize piano music, accordion music is much easier to memorize. Which is good, because imagine having to turn pages during an accordion performance.

3. Early this year I was introduced to Coursera, a platform for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) where you can sign up and take classes from universities all over the world for free. They're not for credit, of course, and usually not as rigorous as a regular undergraduate class, but they're a fun way to explore different subjects and get some brain exercise. Most of them run for 6 to 12 weeks, and my biggest problem has been trying not to sign up for too many at once. Here's what I've finished this year:

The Science of the Solar System (Caltech) - Serious science class with an amazing (and famous) instructor, Mike Brown (also known as Plutokiller). My second favorite so far.

Songwriting (Berklee College of Music) - This one was fun and took me way out of my comfort zone (I had to post my singing online for strangers to listen to).

Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us (University of Pennsylvania) - All the things the doctor checks when you go in for a physical, explained.

Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World (University of Michigan) - I liked reading sci-fi classics like Frankenstein and Dracula, but I didn't like writing essays and trying to come up with something meaningful to say. That's one thing I don't miss about college.

Programming for Everybody (University of Michigan) - Easy introduction to the Python programming language.

Pre-Calculus (University of California, Irvine) - A great review of algebra and trigonometry and all that fun math I haven't used in years.

Fundamentals of Music Theory (University of Edinburgh) - Not the best-thought-out class (it got really difficult really fast) but it was fun to listen to the instructors.

Developing Your Musicianship (Berklee College of Music) - Some basic music theory, demonstrated by a super fun teacher who's clearly enjoying every minute, leading up to learning how to write and play a 12-bar blues.

Copyright for Educators & Librarians (Duke University and others) - Very specific topic that was actually quite interesting.

Learning How to Learn (University of California, San Diego) - Fairly good class with some good ideas about more effective studying and learning.

An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python (Rice University) - My very favorite class so far. Each week we had a game to program, getting more and more complicated and ending with an Asteroids game - here's mine. (Of course they gave us step-by-step help and provided the sounds and graphics, but still, it was really fun to write the code and get it to work correctly.)

Introduction to Guitar (Berklee College of Music) - I gave this 6-week guitar course a good effort and can now say I have tried guitar. Back to accordion for me.

Social Psychology (Wesleyan University) - Quite a good overview of this subject, with lots of video interviews of well-known psychologists and clips from famous and infamous experiments.

Think Again: How to Reason and Argue (Duke University) - Logic, fallacies, evaluating deductive and inductive arguments.

How Things Work (University of Virginia) - Basic mechanics (physics) using everyday examples. I just finished this one today.

I'm kind of amazed at how long that list has gotten, just from spending some time on classes most evenings instead of watching TV.

3.5. The half is for the Shakespeare reading. Apparently my goal of reading all the plays in one year was a little ambitious, but I'm more than half finished and still going (The Merry Wives of Windsor, currently) so I know I'll get there eventually. And then on to Dickens, I think.


Regina Alexander said...

You never cease to amaze me! The accordion? Really! How fun is that!Love you so much!

Mary said...

What a fun post! You are such an inspiration! Thanks for the resource :).