Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

So You're Out of a Classroom and Want to Know Some Stuff



I'm bored. And after spending far too long angsting over the fact that I can't do exactly what I want I decided my best substitute is to crack the books. I am ashamed of just how much I've forgotten over the years and want get to work re-stuffing my head.

To some, the obvious answer to this predicament would be to go back to school but for a lot of reasons I don't want to do that. Money would get involved and when there is money especially the type of money it takes to go back to school, gets involved things get complicated, at least more complicated than just wanting to expand my toolbox and know things for the sake of it.

So here is my list of resources available to people for absolutely free. While there are some cheap classes you can take on the weekend and those are valuable that is not this list.

But before I get started allow me to play devil's advocate against myself. A classroom setting does have many benefits. The structure of the syllabus can help keep you on task and force you to confront material against your biases. A good teacher won't just let your word that you don't need to know that or that you already know this stand, at least without evidence. Self-evaluation of skills is much harder because it's human nature to assume you know even if you do not. Furthermore, the syllabus provides a good outline for the material to be absorbed over a time period.   And lastly, the communal nature of a classroom which in and of itself is an asset allows for safety and equipment that is often hard to use on your own.


I'm mostly making this list for myself but I also suppose it could serve as supplemental material to anybody who is in a class and wants some supplemental material if you're hitting a conceptual block.

The Local Library


I prefer to own books but it's also a long time I admitted that I'm not going to have the scratch to update my own private library for a while so I might as well get back in the habit of utilizing public ones. While not every public library allows you to check out books for free, mine does so I might as well use it.

Also while there is a user fee for suburbanites the Detroit Public Library main branch is amazing. I haven't been in a while but dear god I loved that building as a kid and they don't charge a cover fee for entrance.

Seriously that building is one of the best looking ones in the city and even as a kid I knew it.

Anyway, one of the barriers to learning new skills is that I don't have the money for reference books but a lot of those may be found at the library. And the same goes for technical programs I might not have the money for to install on a home computer. Nobody is going to take me seriously when (I'm 4 versions behind on EVERYTHING and it bugs me that I can't fix that.)

Also, textbooks are expensive but libraries tend to have them. They might not be the latest version but it's better than nothing.

Free Online Libraries
There is a lot of stuff in the public domain.



PBS

Yeah I love PBS. Everybody kind of knows that if you want your kids not to be idiots they'll help but you'd be surprised at the amount of non-fiction content for adults. A lot of this is geared towards current affairs, but you'd be surprised at how many hobbyist and adult education shows are on PBS.
Seriously PBS is one of the premier spots to look for documentaries. If Ken Burns farts PBS gets it first.  If you're of a mind to learn PBS isn't a bad place to start.

It's not on every set top box but Roku has a PBS app that archives a lot of PBS stuff for free. Some days I just keep it playing in the background when I'm not in the mood for something else.  Even then a lot of this stuff isn't hard to find. Amazon and Hulu have licesenced a lot of this stuff.

Here is my short list of programs

YouTube
PBS has gone digital. And has a lot of programming on YouTube such as,
But Youtube, in general, is a godsend for anybody who wants to learn. Here are a few of my other favorite education channels.
Film YouTube
I remember once watching a Punk documentary where one of the interviewees once lamented that if you care about something you're going to try to get good at it and getting technically better at playing music was weird for punk. 

Internet film got better at film and so now there is this whole space of Youtube talking about movies beyond the normal fanboy wanking (that admittedly I love) And it is kind of amazing.  Especially when those Youtubers use film to have broader discussions about culture, philosophy, and ideology. Here are some of my favorites at least in that regard.
Do the Thing Youtube

Dear god there are a million tutorials on youtube. And for the sake of completion here is my list of practical here is how you do the thing youtube channels. 

Legacy Media
While PBS is the most obvious a lot of non-fiction media has had to make the jump to the internet. And so the usual suspects often have educational resources online. More over a lot of newspapers and print magazines are starting to do web documentaries. 

And the same goes for old hobbyist magazines. I've tried to avoid the usual suspects thus far but if you can name them chances are they have a decent youtube channel.
(Sometime while writing this I got really hungry evidently.)

Open Courseware
Several universities post lectures, and many more post resources for their own students. Even if there isn't a lecture most many colleges post things like
  • The Syllabus
  • Previous Exams
  • Homework and Exercises
  • Supplemental Reading Material
  • Lecture Notes
  • Advice on How to Approach Material
If there is a particular university you are interested in, see what they offer and how much is available for free online. I'm not talking about online course necessarily but how much of the material they release to online.  

Kahn Academy

While Kahn Academy has videoes on almost every subject thier real gem is thier World of Math Program which has broken down and has both tutorials, and excersises for roughly 1200 skills between counting and calculus 2 and offers learners instant feedback as well as the ablity to relearn old skills in a way classrooms just can't.

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