Are You an Autodidact?
What was that? Youre not quite sure if you want to own that or not? Forgive me, thats my Word for the Day, as my fellow Toastmasters would say. Let me explain. In Toastmasters, we have a Word Master. At the beginning of each club meeting the Word Master picks a word, defines it and gives a few examples of how to use it in context, then every member is supposed to fit it in his or her prepared and impromptu speeches given during the meeting. At the end of the meeting, the member who used the word correctly the greatest number of times received an award of some type. Actually, its a great way to learn new words and a great way to learn how to use them in context. Anyway, an autodidact is someone who is self-taught. It comes from the Greek autodidaktos and entered the English language in 1748.
Many of our most prolific inventors and scientist, men like Thomas Alvin Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Samuel Morse, Wilbur and Orville Wright, etc were autodidactists. Today most lifelong learners are autodidactists because they are self-directed learners who master many subjects without the benefits of a formal classroom and instructor. My wife, the schoolteacher, loves to tell people that I'm the exemplary autodidactist. I quit school to enlist in the United States Air Force at seventeen where I mastered the art of jet engine mechanic. My excuse was that the only classes that interest me were math, science and shop classes and I was already doing 12th grade work when I was in the 7thgrade. I later received my GED and took some junior college courses. In later years I enrolled in some online college courses but never sought a degree. Over the years I mastered many things as a self directed learner, believe-it-or-not; I actually taught myself electronics and had a successful radio and TV repair business when I was sixteen years old. My only reason for telling you all this personal stuff is to show you that anyone can become an autodactist if they have the desire to learn as a self-directed learner.
Back in those pre World Wide Web days when I undertook the task of educating myself, I was limited to books that I borrowed from the library or purchased from a local bookstore or from some book catalog. Today the self-directed learner has the knowledge of the whole world available at his or her fingertips. The great thing about the Internet is that so many great sources of information and even online courses are entirely free of charge to the lifelong learner. Its my intentions to introduce you to just a few of those resources in this article.
2.) WIKIPEDIA and WIKIVERSITY
Wikipedia and Wikiversity are two more sources of free information on just about every subject imaginable but a word of warning is needed here. Anyone can sign up for a free membership to these sites and are then able to edit any page on those sites or add new content to the site without having to prove their expertise in the field. There are no fact checkers that verify the information before it goes live on these sites so always verify the information you glean from these sites with other known reputable sources. Every professor I had when taking online courses through the U. of Phoenix warns us to not use either of those sources as a sole source of information. Here are the links http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page and http://http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Wikiversity:Main_Page. The Wikiversity also allows you to sign up for receiving the daily article directly in your email box.
- Free college textbooks. This site is ran by two students, Joshua Gay and Derek Kaser who purpose in starting this site was to make expensive college textbooks on a multitude of subjects available free online or free as pdf downloads to other students and professors alike. Check it out. Heres the link http://www.textbookrevolution.org/index.php/Book:Lists/Subjects
- Project gutenburg has over 28,000 free ebooks available in their online catalog. Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books, or ebooks. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented ebooks in 1971 and he continues to inspire the creation of ebooks and related technologies today. If you explore this site you are sure to find something that interests you
- LibriVox is a site that makes many audio book available free of charge to the listener. Currently there are approximately 2 000 titles available in the public domain.
5.) Learn a foreign language.
The sources that I have introduced you to here are just the tip of the educational iceberg. There are millions of other pages available to you and you can use the links that I gave you here as a starting point in your search for others.