Today is the last day of school for the kids in my town. For many that means the start of several months of forgetting much of what they just crammed into their brains for finals. Admittedly, I was never that kid. I read all the time, even really boring things like math text books (yeah, I’m that person).
But, as an adult that has been a really great thing! I am constantly seeking out new ways to learn. The downside is that now I am the one responsible for paying for books, events, and other learning tools… and that sure can get expensive.
Earlier this week I attended a local ISPI event. Rick Rummler spoke on performance thinking and then we participated in several mini-sessions. Deadra Welcome presented a great min-session on a program she used to keep her department learning (for free!) for a month.
So, in the spirit of keeping the school year alive here are some free tools and resources anyone can use to keep learning all summer long (any beyond!). I provide some examples below, but you can use your favorite search engine to easily find a resource in any of these categories that fits your needs.
You’re here so I figure I don’t need to sell you too much on this one. 🙂
Blogs offer a way to stay on top of current trends, interact with other professionals, and expand your horizons a little. I follow several and my advice is to find some authors you like and subscribe so you never miss a post (unless you are sitting on the beach with a pina colada in hand, in which case you should be ignoring everything digital).
Twitter is a great learning tool. Follow some folks who post interesting and useful things, and click on their posts every once in a while. Online chats such as lrnchat (which happens every Thursday at 8:30 pm EST) are a great way to connect with and learn from other professionals interested in learning. If you can’t make the chats (I am usually having family time) they post the transcripts each week.
LinkedIn is also a nice place to stumble across news, blogs, events and other professional happenings in your field. The more rich your network of connections (read not just large, but also quality connections), the better your news feed will be on LinkedIn.
Of course, every social media channel offers a chance to learn, but for the newly initiated I think these two are a great place to start.
I can waste lots of hours on YouTube watching videos of cats. But for about every 3 cat videos, I also watch something that helps me learn a useful skill. It might be a new workaround for Articulate Storyline or how to build a rain barrel (yep, I just installed some to help water our garden!). Other great online video sites include Screenr, TED, and Vimeo.
Whether you want to learn to code, need some inspiration for a course, or want mobile support for instructional design, apps can offer lots of support and learning opportunities these days. And no longer is apple king of the apps. Andriod and Windows app stores have bulked up considerably in the last few years. And yes, there are tons of great educational apps for free.
If you don’t have a smart phone or tablet, never fear. Lots of apps also have versions that exist online or can be downloaded to a computer desktop.
Podcasts exist on any topic you can imagine. I recently participated in one called Eye on ISD. I also listen to several that don’t directly relate to what I do, but keep me listening to a constant stream of new ideas. iTunesU is a great resource for high level learning on specific topics.
Massive open online courses require some dedication but can be quite worth it. These online courses are often free and offer an opportunity to “audit” a college course online. There are lots of great places to sign up for a MOOC and it is likely a class exists on whatever you want to learn.
This is one of the few resources that I am calling out by name for a few reasons: A) I think it is awesome, B) It doesn’t really fit into the categories above, C) I signed up and want to learn from as many awesome people as possible, so you should sign up too.
Learn Camp is a free, 12 week long self-directed program led by Mike Taylor of Articulate. Basically, it is an awesome way to experiment with technology on the web. It is geared towards learning and development professionals, but everyone is welcome to join in the fun. It doesn’t even take much time (less than 30 minutes a week, or 4-8 hours total over 12 weeks), so you have no excuses.
I know that for myself, and several others I have come across, a community that can provide substantial feedback on your work is the tool that has helped me grow the most. I am lucky to have several of these right now, my school community and the eLearning Heroes community being the primary ones.
If you don’t have a work or school environment where you can do this, there are lots of forums and communities online where you can share and get feedback.
Talking with folks about their ideas is a great way to learn whether it is face-to-face or virtual. Ask questions, listen actively, and engage. I try to approach every conversation with the attitude that everyone has something to teach me.
Yep. Remember the library?
If you really hate making the trek, or don’t have the time, or just love technology too much, many libraries now how programs that will allow you to check out books through your e-reader/tablet/mobile device. There are also now lots of virtual library options like Textbook Revolution (books & textbooks), the Free Library (classic lit and periodicals), and Project Gutenberg (eBooks).
What are your favorite ways to learn for free? Do you have any sites, apps, community or resources you would like to share? Please do so in the comments below!