What do you first think about when you come across the word ‘learning’? Sitting inside a stuffy classroom staring wistfully out of the window at an empty playing field and a clear blue sky perhaps? Exams and homework? Or maybe a piano teacher armed with a ruler to rap your knuckles if you go wrong (or was that just mine?)
When we are kids, learning can seem like one of those things that we have no choice about – we have to go to school, we have to do our homework, we won’t be ‘free’ until we’re at least 16. Many children feel disempowered and constrained by the education system, and it’s learning that gets the blame.
But of course learning doesn’t only happen at school, or finish when we have the requisite piece of paper to prove we’ve ‘done our time’. As we suspected as kids, we don’t have a choice about learning – if we didn’t learn at all, we simply wouldn’t survive as a species.
You probably can’t remember learning to walk or talk, but how about learning to drive a car? Remember that first time behind the wheel, when the idea of concentrating on the pedals, the steering, changing gear all at the same time and still breathing seemed impossible? Or, if you speak a language other than your mother tongue, first getting to grips with the basics and the sheer joy of being able to understand your first very simple conversation? Now that you have assimilated the knowledge and practised over and over, it seems like second nature of course.
Ever tried teaching someone to read, to ride a bike or to use a computer for the very first time? It can make you marvel at how much you know and take for granted. You don’t need to be a maths ingénue to be able to know how much change to expect at the shop, but the fact that you know it is testimony to a lot of teaching and learning.
I’ve recently been on a learning binge as I have been getting to grips with presenting my first ever radio show and taking part in a vlogging challenge. Both experiences have enabled me to see very clearly just how much I have learned over a relatively short time. This got me thinking about the learning process and just how much we humans, with our collective knowledge, our technology and our culture, can and do learn on a daily basis. Here are some fun ideas to shoehorn some more learning into your life without having to remortgage or become a full-time student:
- Find a poem you love and learn it off by heart.
- Get hold of a ukulele or guitar and learn how to play G, C and D chords. You’ll be amazed how many songs you’ll be able to master with just these.
- Swap some learning with an older friend or family member – I know someone who introduced her grandmother to social media and learned how to crochet granny squares in return.
- The internet is awash with ‘how to’ videos and no-cost or low-cost e-courses. If you know what you want to learn, google it and see what comes up.
- Check out your local library for taster sessions, talks or exhibitions – see what takes your fancy.
- Don’t stick to your favourite television channels or sections of the paper – be open to what you could learn when you venture out of your normal areas of interest.
- Join an amateur dramatics group, speakers club or choir and learn to use your voice.
- Give a new physical activity a go – whether it’s yoga or full contact rugby.
- If you’re going abroad, spend some time beforehand learning to say and understand some simple phrases in your host country’s language. Then make sure you use them when you’re there.
- Enrol in a short, sharp learning intensive. The vlogging challenge I mentioned earlier returns in August (go to savvysexysocial.com closer to the time), you can commit to writing a blog every day in May, or maybe to taking part in a photography challenge. Whatever grabs your fancy.
- Only got a few minutes? Watch a TED talk.
Whilst it’s almost impossible to stop learning completely, taking an active interest in learning – whatever the subject matter – keeps us sharp, engaged and connected with the world around us. It also promotes a positive outlook and a lust for life. And as Albert Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”
Are you actively learning anything at the moment? What would you like to learn more about? How, where and when do you learn? Let me know in the comments!