The Future of Learning

Nearly a year ago, amidst a new world of online learning, I made the decision to drop out of school. As my friends and peers soon made the journey back to schools across the country, I started to take Masterclass and Skillshare courses in an attempt to continue my own personal education.

I was immediately shocked by how much I was able to learn on my own, and how cheaply I could do it. The only real barrier was self-motivation. Anyone can learn pretty much anything on their own these days, if they are able to force themselves to work at it without a school or a teacher or a parent constantly looking over their shoulder.

I learned a lot, sitting down for 30 minutes a day for several months, watching professionally developed videos, taught by extremely talented teachers – often either professors or professionals in a field. I couldn’t imagine, when EVERY single teacher across the country was now having to teach in the exact same manner as these courses, through a screen, why more students were not taking gap years or dropping out all together. Why settle for a professor you might like alright in person who is now bungling their way through online coursework, when you could learn from a true professional? From some of the best in the field? That question stuck with me.

Today, I was served an ad on YouTube, from a company I’d never heard of: Outlier. The beautiful visuals immediately hooked me, and I watched through the whole thing – a very rare occurrence indeed. I even clicked to see the company’s website. An education company that looked much like Masterclass from the ad, that was aiming to bring the absolute best professors in the country right to your laptops, for a fraction of the cost of traditional university courses. AND giving you transferable college credit from the University of Pittsburgh (low and behold, it was indeed from the co-creator of Masterclass).

Scrolling through their website this morning, I was floored. This is the future of education. This is what education today should be. This is what education of the future needs to be.

I’m rooting for Outlier, and the outliers it will inspire.

Lessons from Malcolm Gladwell’s masterclass

1. The ultimate question is “what is interesting?”

– Imperfection is interesting
– Failure can be interesting

2. Interesting doesn’t mean it’s clean or that the protagonist gets what they want.

3. Incomplete stories, without that final piece that wraps it up nicely, can be the stories that stick in a readers mind the longest…

4. Give your audience meat to chew on and think about, but give them candy too – funny little moments that are easy to consume and share with others.

5. Surprise vs. Suspense

– Surprise: New, revelatory information out of the blue
– Suspense: Keeping information secret that the reader knows it is missing and needs

6. Library nonfiction shelves are arranged like a conversation – categories blend into each other and teach you how to think.

7. Stories must challenge, transport or transform.

8. Use comparison and contrast of characters in and of itself to help describe and flesh out individual characters. The contrast, and how characters respond to each other is often revealing.

Gladwell’s may be my favorite class I’ve taken so far in my learning challenge. He is incredibly engaging, and teaches through his storytelling. His course is on Masterclass. I highly recommend it along with all of his books.

Writing Craft

This morning, I spent an hour or so discussing stories and writing with a sister of mine, at my kitchen table. Writing is something I’ve always found alluring, and something I’ve wanted to pursue in some form or another – but in talking with her, it quickly became clear how few tools of fundamental writing I had strapped to my toolbelt.

This afternoon, I got two months free on Skillshare from a YouTube video I watched, and dove in. It is absolutely wild how many high-quality courses there are on myriad creative topics, with hundreds in the realm of creative writing.

This evening, I took two preliminary writing courses. One about an hour in length, the other only 25 minutes or so – I found both very valuable. I found revelation even in truly rudimentary things, such as a character’s desire, what’s at stake and story context. These are all things I’ve known about forever of course. In my head, I know that a character has a desire, and that’s how they spur the story forward through action pursuring that want. In my head, I know that a story needs conflict and clarity – but so many of these things have never actually been presented to me in a teaching / educational format, and hearing many of them strung together cohesively in one course was extremely helpful.

Perhaps my favorite tool from the second course I took was the difference between Plot and Story.

Plot = Physical: the journey, the challenge, the action.
Story = Emotional: the thoughts, the character’s change, the reaction to action

Take these ramblings as you will… I’m excited to continue learning, and I’ve decided to try and put 30 minutes of my time every day into taking a course on Skillshare. This is my public resolution.

That’s all boyos – excited to keep trying things and learning stuffs.