This past Friday I visited New York City to attend Skillshare’s first ever Penny Conference. Skillshare is a “community marketplace” where people can learn “anything from anyone”, and this conference was based on education.
A lot of cool ideas, themes, and messages were conveyed at this event and I thought I’d share some with you. The speakers’ ideas reiterated, challenged, or even sparked my own ideas, so what you’ll see below is a synthesis of the two.
1) Knowledge is ubiquitous. Everywhere we look there is something to be learned. There doesn’t even need to be a teacher present; we can learn from the trees, a river, or even our pet fish. Messages and knowledge cannot be avoided but they can be missed. Tune in to all the knowledge around you. Keep an open mind.
2) Knowledge is a free commodity. We learn from our interactions, relationships, experiences, and so on. Often, it’s free! In fact, some of the best lessons in life are free. It’s just about tuning in to the resources around us and expecting to walk away from the encounter with more ideas than we entered with.
3) Schools shouldn’t punish mistakes. In our education system, “failing” has a rather negative connotation. With failing, however, comes growth. Failing brings knowledge. Failing brings experience. If we teach kids that failing is bad, to be feared, or avoided, we are then keeping them from fully learning.
4) Active learning, not just passive. Let’s be honest, sometimes our minds wander when we sit around and just listen to people talk. Especially if we’re not particularly interested in the subject matter. Active learning is a great way to help with focus and attention, but also with creating identity and purpose among a group of individuals.
5) “There is no excuse not to be better.” One of the speakers used this expression after mentioning that we have “more people, more expertise, and more connectivity than ever before.” I love this little expression. I think it makes a good point, too. We can do just about anything we want with all the resources available to us. If we want to change the world, there’s no reason why we can’t!
6) Experts are great sources of knowledge. The speaker who said this learned how to write a book primarily by asking advice of people who had already written books. How easy is that? On almost any subject imaginable, there are experts and wild fanatics who are eager to share their knowledge. In fact, many of them do (through books/teachings/blogs/etc). Your job is to find the people who have the answers you need and just ask them the right questions.
7) Everyone is a teacher; everyone is a learner. You are a teacher! Or at least – you could be. You have some piece of knowledge, advice, or experience that you could share with me right now that I’d benefit from. Maybe you can knit, skateboard, or throw a frisbee really well. Maybe you have years of relationship experience. Whatever knowledge and/or skills you have, any time you share them – you are teaching. On the other end of the spectrum, every single thing that happens to you is an opportunity for learning and growth. Learn all you can from everything and anyone that you can. The coolest thing is, then you’ll have more to teach!
8) Share what you know. Your voice matters. There is someone out there right now who could use your advice/knowledge that would radically impact their lives. Don’t keep the precious gems in your brain all to yourself, share them and create a learning community.
9) We can learn a lot from kids. This was addressed primarily by Adora Svitak, who actually spoke at TED on this subject. Although her talk from this past Friday was different, watch her TEDTalk here for more information on this one.
10) We can learn from video games. The key idea here was that video games contain a narrative, a captivating story that gives us more than enough motivation to fight valiantly until the end. Now, what if that kind of purpose and drive could be paralled in education? A really cool talk on the subject was given by Jane McGonigal at TED, actually. Check it out here.
11) Learning is personal, not a competition. We don’t have to fight about who knows more or whose brain is bigger. But what we can do is work together, help each other out, and create a true learning environment. Competition leads to hoarding of ideas. It’s the whole “I’m going to hide my ideas so you can’t steal them” approach. The drawback of this is that we need ideas to spark new ideas.
12) Analyze. “Interact, absorb, see, and write things down.” Don’t just take things as they are but really think about them. Do some mental work! Not only will it help information stick (in your brain), but it will also spark ideas and new perspectives.
13) Learn by doing. Be active in the learning process. Sitting in a classroom is okay, but getting involved is often even better. Find ways to test out what you’re learning. I remember “learning” how to drive a manual transmission car in driver’s education class. We learned by reading a book, and it might as well have been written in Chinese. The real way I learned was by getting behind the wheel of a car and stalling ten million (that’s an accurate number) times, to the dismay of my stomach, head, and ego. But hey, failing is a part of the process, as mentioned before.
14) Education creates opportunity. In order to use what we know, first we must know. Knowledge truly is power, and with it we can forge any path we want. But it takes more than just motivation. After all, no matter how motivated you are, it’s nearly impossible to cut down a tree with a tissue. You need tools, of which knowledge is one, and the knowledge of how to use them properly and efficiently. With a solid foundation of knowledge, anything is possible and any opportunity can be capitalized upon.
15) Ideas have weight. One of my favorite quotes is by Victor Hugo, who says, “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.” I love it! Ideas have power, as he suggests. They’re not just empty thoughts skipping gleefully through our conscience, hanging out, doing nothing. They are real, tangible things, just waiting to spring into action! They are a force. They are an impetus. They are potential for greatness. Never underestimate an idea. Instead, nurture it, care for it, help it grow, help it develop, and when the time is right, release it and watch amazing things happen.
On a side note, I certainly couldn’t visit New York without being a little “touristy”. He are some pictures from the day after the conference before we left for home.
Below: At Planet Hollywood…awesome place!
Below: Inside ToysRus in Times Square. Ferris wheel in the store?! No big deal.
Below: Keeping it classy. Like Elvis. And the M&M guy.