Monday, April 6, 2009

Books on Self-Learning

My earlier post "Learning Journal and Record" besides my experience draws from The Independent Scholar's Handbook and This Way Out. And the opening quote from "Why Learning" is from the Prologue to The Independent Scholar's Handbook.

This way out;: A guide to alternatives to traditional college education in the United States, Europe and the Third World, John Coyne & Tom Hebert, 1972.

This book is divided into three sections, this review covers only the first, since the second and third, Experimental Colleges and Foreign Study, are too dated to be useful. The first section, Independent Study, is the best single source I have found on self education. It is geared more towards college age students (hence the title) with several chapters on moving out and for parents, but most of it deals with the nuts and bolts of learning and is applicable for everyone. As far as I can remember, it doesn't even mention computers, not surprising given its age.

The learning system in This Way Out is built around doing projects, though they also discuss tutorials and other ways to organize your study. I also found the brief description of an experimental program tried at MIT in 1968 interesting; instead of multiple regular classes per semester, they tried concentrated study, one class at a time, each for a solid month.

Two good quotes:

"Write lots of short papers. Long papers kill tutors and students alike. Write lots of short papers. It will teach you to write and that, as we will demonstrate later is essential."

"This is the big one. If you don't like to read, you'll have to stay in college. A college's faculty presumes that students don't read without threats of failure,. . . But if you like to read, if your natural desire to read wasn't thwarted in grade school, your education will take place, despite everything."

LIFELONG LEARNER (Touchstone Books), 1977, and The Independent Scholar's Handbook, revised edition 1993, both by Ronald Gross.

These are both largely inspirational with lots of vignettes of independent learners. Both also provide some techniques and resources for learning. The Independent Scholar's Handbook has more on techniques and is more up to date, which isn't saying much since even it is 16 years old. Neither, of course, has anything on the Web. The first half of chapter 2 in The Handbook has been the most useful part for me, the sections on keeping an intellectual journal and enterring new fields. The biggest drawbacks are the author's focus on the humanities, since I'm mainly interested in science and technology, and the liberal/Leftism peaking through his writing, especially in his choice of scholars to profile (e.g., Alvin Toffler and Barbara Tuchman).

Instead of Education: Ways to Help People do Things Better, John Holt, various editions 1976 to 2004, though as far as I can tell the later editions have only different introductions.

This has some practical stuff, mostly on finding people and resources for learning, mostly it's inspirational. It also has lots of anti-schooling stuff. Holt is also pretty liberal in a sort of mushy, feel good way, fortunately it doesn't get much in the way here. Holt's later book, Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story, is worth a read even if you're not particularly into music, but is almost purely inspirational.

I have seen books on "Distance Learning" on the Web, but have found nothing good on using the Web for study, witness my last post, "The Web Is Still Not Adequate for Serious Study". If you know of any good sources, on line or books, please leave a note in the comment.

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