February 21, 2014

The University Of The Kitchen Sink

I graduated from Plymouth University in 1990 and rejoiced that I would never have to take another exam ever again. In case you couldn't tell, I don't like exams. I am not well suited for exams. And frankly, I don't think that exams like me either. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have taken a couple of tests, but only for really important things like citizenship of the United States, my driving license and my ministerial license.) In terms of academic qualifications I have abstained from taking any examinations. (Again, in the matter of full disclosure, I did consider a masters degree in computer science, but I realized that I knew all that and did not wish to take exams to prove that I know what I already knew.)

Yet, while I dislike exams, I love learning. I love learning about many wide and varied subjects. (Full disclosure time again: technology, lots of technology!) I read books like a fish goes through water and watch educational videos with delight. I had never really given it much thought and certainly had not considered that there was a discernible pattern in all of this. But then I got to thinking about when I did much of this.

One of my habits is to help with the kitchen cleanup on a Sunday evening. Everything in a pastor's house builds up towards service on Sunday and many tasks and activities get left undone the closer it gets to Sunday. Then Sunday arrives, we have service and after the sacred Sunday afternoon nap, we play catchup and clean and tidy. I have developed a habit, perhaps an addiction by now, of listening to TED talks while washing up. Naturally, this is the source of my title for this post.

If you are not familiar with TED, they are conferences where speakers address issues connected with Technology, Entertainment or Design. (Hence the name TED.) These talks are generally less than 20 minutes long and are delivered by experts in their field. Many of the talks are absolutely fascinating. (Sadly, some are pure liberal gibberish, warning of global warming, the perils of capitalism and distinctly anti-Christianity, but these are fairly easy to spot and avoid.) When you're up to your elbows in soap suds, they are a great way to occupy your brain and emerge knowing more than you started with. Here's one of my favorite TED talks ... on classical music no less:

Still in the realm of video, there are many great documentaries available on Youtube. It might feel like Youtube is just full of clips of silly stuff, but if you dig around under the surface, you'll find some gems. I've watched documentaries on the Second World War, the American Civil War and many other conflicts. Documentaries on airplanes and ships. And even a full series of episodes on World history and Chemistry. And I'm now working my way through Biology. All excellent stuff. Here's a link to the first episode of that Chemistry class from the always interesting guys at Crash Course:

If high school (senior school for anyone reading this from Great Britain) seems long ago, you can work on bringing it all back to the front of your mind again with Khan Academy. This is an online resource that provides a complete curriculum for many subjects. They started with mathematics and have expanded to offer other subjects. As I help my oldest daughter with her math studies, I recently figured that getting back up to speed on my math using Khan Academy would be useful. To this end, I decided to start at the beginning and work forward from there. I have completed fourth grade math and am currently 96% completed with fifth grade. My progress is pretty good, but I must admit my speed for large long division problems will never earn me a medal if it ever becomes an Olympic event.

And if these learning resources don't meet your needs, I am delighted to inform you that several American universities make their full course work available online. You don't get the huge students loans or the diploma when you complete the work, but you do get the information. And at the end of the day, that's the important thing.

So, welcome to the University of the Kitchen Sink. Dive in and learn some stuff!

Tags: Videos Personal