Being taught vs teaching yourself

I’ve spent much of my life “being taught.” The passive voice is intentional; It was a passive process. I used to think it was reasonably effective until I started teaching myself.

When I’m teaching myself, I don’t tolerate learning something irrelevant. There are too many things to learn in the world, and I can’t predict what will become relevant as I progress, and what will not. Teaching myself results in jumping from relevant knowledge to relevant knowledge (picking up the soft skills along the way) until I know what I need to know. It’s more motivating, more satisfying, and more efficient (school gave me buckets of knowledge about Laplacian Transforms, that I don’t use). When I learn something today and apply it tomorrow, it’s an great feeling. And learning something is a lot more effective when knowledge is what actually separates you from a goal. Not just a diploma.

It used to be that you couldn’t teach yourself because you didn’t have the resources. Now, resources are everywhere, and they are often free. Basically none of my web development skills come from formal education. I believe that’s going to become more common across other industries as well. We’re starting to see a ton of alternatives to traditional education from MOOCs to unschooling to experiments like Krypton Community College. This is great news, and if we watch closely and see what sticks, we’ll get a lot closer to finding comprehensive solutions to the grand challenge of advancing personalized learning.