Sunday, 21 December 2014
The autodidact: Part 1
When I was a little kid, my parents bought me a teeny weeny keyboard one year for Christmas. It was about the size of a credit card and had numbered buttons on that you pressed in a particular order (as per the song sheet you got with it) to play different tunes. They were tunes like Twinkle Twinkle and Mary Had a Little Lamb - real simple basic tunes, but I loved this little keyboard so much they bought me a slightly bigger one soon after. Then came another bigger one until finally I ended up with a full size Yamaha keyboard. So I went to JG Windows in Newcastle and bought some keyboard books and taught myself how to play the keyboard. I reached a respectable level of skill before my parents offered to send me to lessons to develop my talent even further. I had lessons for a few months before I gave up and stopped going.
I didn't enjoy the rigidity of the lesson structure. I spent too long - in my eyes - doing scales and going over things I could already do. I see now that it was to help build up my tolerance and keep my fingers nimble, but the fact was that I was better learning in my own way. So what if I didn't put the right fingers on the right keys - I was still playing the tune properly... It's the same now with typing. I was taught how to touch type and did a GCSE in typing, but now I can't touch type to save my life but can still knock out about 60 words per minute using my own unique way.
I've always been like this. I learn best when I can do it my own way and I'm really good at learning things as a result. My continual thirst for knowledge really benefits from this too. I suppose that's how I ended up at The Open University - despite being given all of the information you need and any amount of support you could wish for it's still up to you to do the studying in your own time and in your own way.
Now that I'm part-way through my paid-for courses I'm turning my thoughts to how I can continue on a far more cost-effective path once they're done. I have quite a few options, all of which I'm really eager to get stuck into.
Lately - mostly since 2012 - a trend has emerged for Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC's as they're more commonly known. I've completed a few already just as tasters, and there are a wealth of companies offering them. They're sort of like bite-sized chunks of bigger modules offered by some of the world's leading universities and although they don't offer any formal qualification or credit points they're an absolutely ideal way to build up knowledge in either a broad range of subjects or even specialist areas. Some have designated start and finish dates, some are just a 'sign up and go' scenario but there are plenty of companies to choose from, each with a different offering and some with ever more interesting ways to claim some kind of additional value from their courses to the world at large.
Courses are all very well and good, but there are still certain things I want to learn more about that aren't readily available as courses and provable learning. I want to learn more about programming in Visual Basic for example. I've dabbled a little bit when re-writing a Time in Motion sheet earlier this year, but I would really like to get to grips with it properly and not have to rely on getting the answers from Excel forums. I would also like to learn more about particular training methods, however finding courses about developing as a trainer are more difficult and so I'll probably have to resort to learning from books and Internet sources.
The difficulty with self-directed learning like that is how you prove it's value. You don't get a qualification at the end of it, you don't even get a completion certificate so, aside from the natural passage of time to allow you to fully demonstrate these newly acquired skills how can you prove you have them?
This is what I'll have to to a bit of research into. There will likely be a way to claim some valid value from completely autodidactic learning, but as yet I don't know what it is.