11 Ways to Learn in 2011

Because last year’s list of 10 Ways To Learn In 2010 was widely read, I knew I had no choice but to create an even longer list for 2011.

The opportunities for online learning have grown tremendously this past year. Interestingly, there seem to be more ways to participate in active learning. So with no further introduction, here is the official list of eleven exciting ways you can learn online in the coming year.

1.  Learn to Focus

We all know how important it is to gain and sustain a learner’s attention. So starting your learning journey with focus is a good idea. If you need to improve this area of your life (and who doesn’t), check out Leo Babauta’s free eBook Focus (he’s the author of Zen Habits and Zen to Done).

There are three options for reading Focus: 1) Download the free eBook (it’s the fourth item listed on my Goodies page), 2) buy the Kindle edition on Amazon or 3) get the Premium version, which is a complete digital course. Also check out my 12 tips on staying focused for some quick pointers.

2. Master the How-to Universe

Learn how to do something you’ve always wished you could do, but needed step-by-step instructions to get there. Wired’s How-to Wiki teaches everything from building an igloo to using bit-torrent. You can collaborate and share your how-to knowledge on wikiHow. You might also let the tips and instructions on Instructables make you feel empowered—and if you’re dead serious and have a toolbox, check out the DIY projects on Make.

3. Explore the World’s Museums

There are so many places to visit and so little time. Many museum sites now provide an online gallery of their collections, current exhibit overviews and virtual tours. Unfortunately, many museums do not yet have this offering. These links take you directly to a page where you can start exploring each museum:  Louvre, The British Museum, Tokyo National Museum, Smithsonian, MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), Hermitage Museum, Prado Museum, and National Palace Museum.

4. Hack Your Life

Although life doesn’t come with an instruction manual, these blogs try to provide one. At Dumb Little Man you’ll find tips and advice on productivity, business, career and life hacks. The author of the Happiness Project bestseller spent a year trying out every principle she could find for being happy. This blog is a continuation of her explorations. Productivity 501 is dedicated to improving your personal productivity. The 99 Percent presents articles and advice for making ideas happen. And don’t forget the premiere blog in this genre, LifeHacker.

5. Become a Storyteller

As we slip into the digitization of everything, learning traditional skills becomes ever more important. Storytelling is one of them. From Nancy Duarte’s book on storytelling for presentations, Resonate, to Online Storytelling Bootcamps, it’s becoming a cultural obsession. There are lots of online opportunities to learn more about this ancient practice.

You can connect with storytellers through the National Storytelling Network and watch videos by professional storytellers at Professional Storyteller. Find articles about storytelling at Storyteller.net. Learn how to tell video stories at the New York Video School. They have pricing by the month. Educators might like storytelling ideas for learning at Story Arts and more resources at Karen Chace’s Catch the Story Bug.

6. Soothe Your Inner Geek

There are scores of ways to fulfill your inner geek. For understanding software and technology concepts, Common Craft produces lively animated explanations. You can also find excellent online courses on many software programs at Lynda.com. Then there’s makeuseuof.com, to help you stay abreast of the best software tools, services and websites.

Check out Gizmodo and Endgadget to keep up with the world of technology and cool devices. And since technology news moves quickly, you may want to stay on the cutting edge through TechCrunch. Finally, there’s a gadget site that writes from a woman’s perspective—Popgadget (men are allowed to read it too).

7. Learn On The Go

If you haven’t started listening to podcasts on your phone or mp3 player yet, it’s time to start. You’ll get charged by squeezing in extra learning time during your day. For podcasts and videocasts, begin with iTunes University, with over 300,000 free lectures, videos and films (some only work on Apple devices, but many work on all mp3 players). View course selections through iTunes software or through individual university sites.

You can subscribe to a huge variety of free podcasts in iTunes, but there are other sources too. Consider podcasts from: Podcast.com, BBC Podcasts, Scientific American and National Public Radio. If you’re interested in self-help and personal topics, try Personal Life Media. If you’re looking for a super selection of audio books (and willing to subscribe), check out Audible.com.

8. Produce Videos/Start A Channel

The world’s engagement with video has increased with the surge of  the social web. What does this mean for personal learning? Now is the time for you to share your expertise in any field or activity by making how-to and instructional videos. This is one of the best ways to continue learning. You can create your own channel on YouTube and also incorporate other people’s videos as Favorites. Here are instructions on eHow.

But really, you don’t even need to own a Flip or webcam. You can create videos out of your photographs and music at Animoto and Masher. If you want to teach something that’s on your monitor, like a software tutorial, use screencasting software. Here’s an excellent comparison of 12 free screencasting programs.

9. Create Music

Delve into an auditory learning space with Visual Acoustics, which provides a canvas for creating music. You’ll have an enlightening cross-sensory experience. (Get some coffee while you wait for this program to load.) Or if you’re looking for a musical diversion, create a music group of French singers at Incredibox. Just drag instruments, voices and effects to each singer and listen to your creation. Now, if you’re really a musician at heart, try Jam Studio, which is a more advanced program and for a little cash, you can become a member and get more features.

10. Report the News

Because the Internet levels the playing field among people, citizen journalism is now on the rise. You can take advantage of this opportunity by learning how to be an amateur reporter. Learn how to conduct interviews at You Tube’s Reporters Center. CNN is so eager to have your reports, they’ve developed the CNN iReport site complete with Assignment Desk (no fact checking or editing here). Also, you can learn about journalism as it relates to technology at the 10,000 Words blog.

11. Interact with History

They say history becomes more interesting as people mature. Perhaps that’s true, but providing user controls and interactive content also helps. Here are several enticing history sites to explore. Start with this grand History of the Western World. It’s deep and multi-dimensional, providing a rich learning experience. Then there’s the British History Timeline from the BBC, Digital History of the US, and a Black History in the US timeline that reaches back to 1619. If you’re interested in politics, you’ll like State of the Union, where you can analyze these speeches dating back to 1790.

NASA has produced many historical timelines and exhibits and this is just a sampling. There’s one for NASA’s 50th Anniversary that’s complete with news and music from decades past. Unless you’re under 10, click the “Skip Animation” button at the start. We Choose the Moon covers the first Apollo launch, stage by stage. And the Planet Quest presents the history of the human desire to understand the planets.

If you liked this article, please share it with friends. And if you have ideas for next year’s list, please add them below.

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  1. Pg Sharpe says

    Wow, this is a great article and it’s full of awesome resources. I can’t wait to try them all. I think I’ll share this list with my teenage daughters, and elementary school teachers. Workiing through the list of resources will give students opportunities to gather job-related skills.

  2. Penny Mondani says

    What a great post! I’m sharing this one with my elderly mother. Learning new things (including how to use the Internet) keeps her brain “young”. It is never too late to learn…Thanks for this! Penny

  3. Testy T says

    Learning on the go is awesome. Stick an audiobook or foreign radio station on during your commute (the latter is good for when you’re learning a language), and you turn dead time into productive time.

    All good suggestions!

  4. Michelle Nieves says

    This article is an eye opener for educators and instructional designers. This information shows that as technology advances, also the way a person learns is modified in order to adapt to new learning experiences. As an instructional designer, we need to make the learner’s learning styles a priority when designing learning experiences. Thumbs up for this article!


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