Be an active learner

How to stop worrying and learn to love modern education.

Learning is something that we all do, whether it’s as a baby learning to take our first steps or a senior citizen taking an evening class in a foreign language. We spend our lives absorbing information, it’s part of what makes us human, our endless capacity for learning. Nowadays it’s even easier than ever, with the advancement of technology we have access to information from all over the planet at our fingertips. You can take a course in yoga, learn about the ancient Greeks and take a masters course in philosophy, all without even getting off the sofa.

But are we really making the most of this technology? How could we maximise our learning?

There’s a multitude of courses online, in academies and at universities all available for us to sign up to. As these become more common, new systems are created to funnel people into classes. Unfortunately, the downside of this is that learning has become a business. Education now has a price, learning institutions have sales teams and payment plans. This means that more time is spent thinking about getting you to stay on the course for the full academic year or even longer.

If we take learning English as an example. Students start learning in some countries as soon as they are born. Parents desperately want them to pick up a native accent and pay for expensive babysitters and language schools to give their children the best opportunity possible. This sounds great, but are these learning institutions really giving the best education possible?

Often times people are put into systems and every year they take an exam, receive a certificate and move up a level. This means it can take years before a person is actually able to have a decent conversation in the language.

So why do we do this? Why do we give ourselves over to these learning institutions and passively go through the levels? Isn’t there another way of learning?

Again thanks to the internet, we have a wide range of private tutors and free language exchanges that people can go to. A lot of the exercises that are given in academies and online courses can be studied at home alone or in a small group of friends. You don’t need a native English teacher with a degree in philology to play you a “listening”, these are available for free online. Grammar explanations, vocabulary exercises, phrasal verb games, all of these can be found online.

Does this mean that teachers are now obsolete? No, of course not. But it does mean that we should be more proactive in our learning. When you go to an English academy, make sure you tell them exactly what you want. If you’re thinking about taking an exam, then research which exam is best for you online. If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the academy then try to find a private teacher and explain to them what you want. You need a teacher to give you new information, correct you when you make mistakes and to guide you in your learning journey.

The key is to be an active learner not a passive learner. Don’t just accept whatever course book you’re given, take the initiative and tell your teacher what you want to learn. Bring material to your teacher ask them to explain things that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, just make sure that you don’t repeat them.

Education should be a journey, it takes a lifetime to truly learn something but we should enjoy that journey and we should take each step purposefully knowing that we are in the hands of experienced educators, not companies.

So, be an active learner.