On our watch, something seriously interesting is happening in the world today; An Education Revolution. But first, let’s go a little back in time when something similar occurred. A short history lesson never hurts:
In medieval times, around 1439, Johannes Gutenberg developed the first-ever movable printing press system. Do not underestimate this revolutionary invention, since it started the era of mass-communication. All of a sudden, books became inexpensive and were not only for the elite. Everybody could have them, write them, and distribute them.
It set up a huge cultural shift that created a world society in which a majority of the world population became literate. This invention by Gutenberg made it possible for anyone that could write to reach huge audiences, sometimes on a global scale.
Some call it “The Gutenberg Revolution”.
Fast forward to the 20th century – the invention of the computer and the internet – another major revolution in human mass-communication: All of a sudden, anyone owning a computer with internet access is a mouse-click away from an unlimited amount of information. This immensely increased the speed with which people could communicate with each other around the globe.
Now, here’s the crux of this recent development: For the first time ever in human history, the spoken word of the masses has more reach than the written word. I’d like to call this either “The Jobs” revolution – or the “The Gates” revolution (Not trying to upset either the apple or Microsoft fanboys).
Just like Johannes Gutenberg made it possible for the masses to print and distribute books with the movable printing press, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates made it possible for the masses to create and distribute video and audio via desktop computers.
Of course, the radio and tv were already there, but it was only a fraction of the population that decided what content was made and distributed – just like books used to be written and produced by a fraction of the (elite) population before the movable printing press.
Thanks to media platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and iTunes, now anyone with a mic or video camera has the ability to reach an audience of millions.
The desktop computer, combined with the internet, has given the majority of the world population the opportunity to become a producer of visual and audio information – information to be shared with anyone that wants to consume.
Interestingly enough, there is a huge upside for the consumers as well: The availability of any piece of information, whenever we want to have it.
Okay, let’s now jump to the reason why I started to talk about all this. In my estimation, many people are still unaware of the possibilities of the internet when it comes to consuming useful and educative online content. We could learn so much about the things that we are interested in if we would just know where to look in online subspace that seems to have no bounds.
Online education can be an incredibly useful part of our personal development, just like books are, and it keeps getting easier to implement it in our daily lives. There are so many online platforms and tools available to us that create the possibility to develop a new skill or broaden our knowledge.
It provides us with the possibility to explore new interests, next to our current job or formal education, with relative ease – because any piece of information is available to us whenever we want to have it.
Therefore, I’d like to promote three ways you can get a personal upgrade when it comes to knowledge or skill: Audio-books, Podcasts, and Online courses.
In my blog post Why Reading Is An Essential Life Habit l talk about the importance of reading books regularly, and how to make it a habit. However, this habit formation is not as easy as it sounds, and there are many variables that make it hard to pick up that book again and again. Other forms of entertainment can be more tempting (take less cognitive effort), or maybe reading in your downtime is just not your thing.
Not to worry, here’s your savior technology: “Audio-books”! It is increasingly more common for new books to be published not only in book form but also in the form of a recorded audio version, almost always narrated in a great storytelling voice. You can think of it as bedtime stories for grown-ups – but then without a higher authority governing your bedtime…
The revolutionary benefit of audio-books is that you can finish a book while doing some other minor cognitively demanding task. For example; during your commute to work, cooking dinner, walking your dog, hitting the gym, or it can even be the last thing you listen to before you go to sleep.
With the ability to download an audio-book on your smartphone you can listen to great literary works anytime, anywhere you want. All of a sudden, you can fill up new spaces of time by listening, that you normally couldn’t by reading.
For the inspired reader, here’s a practical tip: Check out Audible. This website offers one of the biggest collections of audio-books.
Podcasts are a very curious upcoming phenomenon. It is a relatively old concept, but in recent years there has been an incredible increase in both production and consumption.
The most simple definition of a podcast is “the internet’s version of talk radio.” However, podcasts are different from the radio in the same way that YouTube is different from television. Everybody can produce a podcast relatively easy today and has the ability to distribute it to a huge audience on the internet.
This also means that the topics that are covered by podcasts can be very niche. So, due to this podcasting boom, whatever is your interest, there is probably a podcast for it! Sports, politics, psychology, history, tech… there’s a podcast for everything these days. A great way to expand your knowledge on your topic of interest.
What I personally find fascinating about the concept of podcasts is the quality and depth of many of these conversations. Radio is often superficial due to a limit of broadcasting time, or simply because they want to keep an as broad as possible audience interested enough.
In my experience, on podcasts, you can listen to people who have something useful to tell in an unscripted and authentic way on the topic of your choosing.
I personally use Castbox to listen to podcasts. This is an app (and website) on which you can download podcast episodes for free. Spotify also has a great offer in Podcast, though not as extensive as most of these podcast apps. The podcasts I currently mostly listen to are:
- The Ground Up show (By Mat D’Avella)
- The Tim Ferris Show (By Tim Ferris)
- Making Sense (By Sam Harris)
- The Joe Rogan Experience (By Joe Rogan)
Click on their names to learn more about these guys. Very interesting personalities.
3. Online Courses
Last but certainly not least: Online Courses. Just like books and conversations have become digitally available to us, now also educative courses have become immensely numerous on the internet. We’ve gone past the days of YouTube tutorials.
YouTube is still a great way to learn new things of course! However, now a large number of universities, companies, and many other professional institutions, have ventured into the field of so-called Massive Open-access Online Courses (MOOCs). These are online courses that you can follow, which often also include certificates that are internationally recognized – a great way to upgrade your resumé!
In my blog post What Every Student Should Know I talk about the online course Learning how to learn by Barbara Oakley. This course is available on a platform called Coursera – an online educative platform on which you can earn credentials from top universities. This is just one example of the many other platforms that are available to us.
Apart from big institutions, expert individuals are also contributing massively to the availability of online courses. People that have become great in what they do, and who have created structured lessons to teach their craft to anyone that is interested.
Worth mentioning as well are Codecademy and DuoLingo Check them out if you want to learn how to code or learn a new language from scratch. It is fascinating to me that they offer their services for free.
By now, I hope I’ve convinced you that you can learn anything, anywhere, whenever you want. You just need a digital device with an internet connection and the awareness of the existence of tools that allow you to take in information easily and effectively.
This new revolution (Whether you would call it “Jobs’ or “Gates”) in education and availability of information is a serious milestone in human progress. It will be interesting to see to what extent it will complement, or maybe even partly replace, traditional formal education in the future.
The ability to design the trajectory of your own education, and therefore your personal development, in such great detail, is something that no other human generation has ever had. I can only say: “Take advantage!”