Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How You Can Train Your Aging Brain Using Free On-line Learning

Great news! Current scientific study shows the brain continues development as we age. Many long-held views regarding learning by aging brains have been overturned. What can you do to reap these brain development benefits? 

You can train your brain through continued learning. Life-long learning keeps the brain cells growing. It encourages social interaction and maintains mental fitness. Being more interested you take part in your community more. You talk with people, maybe some younger than you. Even your perception of aging and independence relates to your learning and educational activities. 

Elderly man with two youth eating breakfast at a restaurant.
Grandpa with his grandsons at breakfast.
Recently, while eating at a breakfast-only restaurant, I saw a Grandpa (over 75) with two youths. Of all things, they were talking politics. The boys, his grandsons, were actively participating! (Yes, I overheard this.) On my way out I complemented the Grandpa about the boys talking with him, especially about politics. He said, “It's important. I push it.” It was obvious Grandpa knew his political stuff and used it to encourage enthusiastic conversation.

One way to trick your brain into keeping its connections and even growing more is through free on-line learning websites. On-line learning sites provide you various formats for full courses or individual talks, eBooks or entertainment videos. Many classes can be taken at the pace you want. You can find learning possibilities on almost any subject.

The quality varies between individual instructors and in various website's expectation and presentation. Gauge any offering for information quality, just as you would question any personal instructor and critique reading material.

Below is an alphabetical list of 10+ possible sites for your learning pleasure. (I have not tried them all, although I have surveyed each one.) My favorite is TED Talks. I have enjoyed many engaging and thought provoking talks on their website. It bears watching, for nothing else than something different to think about. 

If you want to learn more about a specific skill, YouTube is the one I look to first. While knowledge and presentation quality varies greatly between presenters, there is a wealth of information available in a user-friendly format. I've looked at numerous videos on calligraphy, illumination, and sewing. I have several favorite YouTube channels I rely on for quality, current gun related information.

Here is my alphabetic list of 10+ learning websites:
  • edX   https://www.edx.org/  Free on-line classes and courses from major universities MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, UT. The only leading MOOC provider that is both nonprofit and open source.
  • Guides.co  https://guides.co/   An eBook style guide publishing platform that makes it easy create, share, and connect with people through useful content.
  • Khan Academy   https://www.khanacademy.org   A non-profit educational providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. The organization produces short lectures in the form of YouTube videos.
  • Learnist: Share What You Know http://learni.st/   Share your knowledge with the world. Platform is similar to Pinterest.
  • SquareKnot   https://squareknot.com/   Squareknot lets you make branching step-by-step guides, in an online, interactive Pinterest style platform.
  • TED: Ideas Worth Spreading   https://www.ted.com/   A non-profit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.
  • TED Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing   http://ed.ted.com/   Carefully curated educational videos available to make customized lessons.
  • Udemy  https://www.udemy.com/   An online educational marketplace with limitless variety similar to YouTube. Every course is available on-demand, so students can learn at their own pace.
  • YouTube   https://www.youtube.com/   A video-sharing website where anyone can share videos with friends, family, and the world. Not all videos are educational. It is in a class by itself.

Because there are more educational websites than these, when searching for educational websites on the Internet remember not all are free. Also, you want to be careful with your personal information. Avoid clicking the advertisements that appear around the information you want, or that pop up unbidden. They sometimes contain computer viruses.

The Internet has made life-long learning easy for everyone with a connection. There are many websites dedicated to providing you free courses, reference books, education apps, and other learning materials. Perhaps you have one you are you are fond of and want to share. Please, feel free to include it in the comments below.

With on-line learning you can trick your aging brain into keeping its connections. enjoy your brain's growth and reap multiple future benefits.