On Learning: Education in the online world

I used work in education – for EMAP for The Education Show – and was part of a tight-run race to become The Education Sabbatical Officer at my University. So, I always keep a close eye on developments in education and learning.

And one thing that has undoubtedly changed the way people learn is the internet. The digital age means things move more quickly, we have more “ideas” and we’re surrounded by advice. But how do you know it’s *good advice*?

There’s a rich seam of information across the internet, across social media (particularly Twitter and Reddit – two favourite time-sinks of mine). But, what is out there to help people structure this information? Perhaps there are people out there searching: “pay someone to write my paper”? Or, maybe people eager to learn these days simply feel overwhelmed?

There are two things that can help.

On Focus

The first thing I’ve been thinking about in 2016 is the priceless value of focus. I recently read Cal Newport’s brilliant book called Deep Work. In this fantastic read, the author and professor writes about the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.

This difficult skill is very hard to master, but produces incredible results. According to the author, Deep Work makes people better at getting results and offers a true sense of fulfilment that comes from craftsmanship.

This must-read book argues that Deep Work is going to become a super-power in the 21st century digital economy. Unfortunately, many young people, have lost this ability. Instead, they spend their days in a frantic blur of Instagram, email and WhatsApp and don’t realize there’s a better way.

“As automation and outsourcing reshape the workplace, what new skill do we need? The ability to do deep work. Cal Newport’s exciting new book is an introduction and guide to the kind of intense concentration in a distraction-free environment that results in fast, powerful learning and performance. Think of it as calisthenics for your mind-and start your exercise program today.” ~ Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human

Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite.

Newport_DeepWork_HC 2

Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.

For any students or people struggling with learning, or just getting work done in the digital age this book is an essential read.

On Structure

The second thing that students can do is to check-in with new type of experts – like Edubirdie.com or Paperial.com – who can offer research into a subject, comparison of key points of view, and expert citations.

A good way to think of this service is like pay for research paper – an AirBnb for expertise. Here’s a YouTube channel with some background.

These sites  are there to answer big problems in education: 1) there’s too much to do (including part-time jobs to pay for education) 2) there’s too much to do outside of the structured learning and 3) there’s not enough tutor time. All this means the focus on studies is getting harder and harder.

These sites (like pay for essay Edusson.com) have a good variety of subjects too. Including literature, philosophy, history, psychology and more.

There’s a lot to learn about education, that’s for sure. And as for me? I’m back to my Portugese lessons on DuoLingo.

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