Tuesday, 30 September 2014

[here and there #16] yes, I'm proud

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Being self-educated isn't hard. It requires a lot of curiosity, some discipline and strong will. But it isn't hard. We all are autodidactes, in a way or another: we just don't realise that. Don't they say life is a school? So here you go!

When they want to learn something, people always seek for an institution. But why? They'd say it's mostly out of security - they know they're learning the right things in a right way (is there a right way?) - and they have a guide.

Well, I'd say it's because it's easier. You don't have to research as much, you don't have to compare information as much (or organise it), you don't need to overthink about it, you don't need to always be alert and use your critical thinking all the time. Yes, it takes a lot of time. And it's worth it.

I, too, have many guides while I'm studying "by myself". And it's much easier to take away all my doubts with them. They are forums and websites, self-learners like me, people that work in the field I'm studying, friends, etc. All of them give me a different perspective. And they show me new tools, new resources, new ways.

So, if you spend more time learning when you're mostly by yourself, if you are more careful with the sources you use, if you do a lot more of research, if you take more than one method/way to learn what you want/need, if you get more than one perspective on the subject, if you are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them - why society prefers a certificated person?

As long as I remember, some people cheat at exams. Or they have to please a certain teacher. And all they do is listen to that teacher, read the books he reccomends (or any other medium) and that's pretty much it. But, of course, you can be a self-learner while you're graduating and search for other information.

But if you could learn for free, at your own pace, studying only (all!) the subjects you need/are curious about, why would you pay for it? Because, let's face it, which school offers you (at a small price) the range of knowledge you'd really like to achieve?

You have Khan Academy, where you can learn about math, science, history and more. You have YouTube to learn how to play an instrument, a new language, fitness and beauty, to dance salsa or to cook (or the two at the same time) and many other things. You have TED to know about others experiences, lifestyles, researches and ideas. You have Quora to discuss anything you want. You have the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) in any field. You have libraries, and e-books, and podcasts, and blogs (and RSS readers) and Wikipedia! You have streaming websites. You have Skype, and e-mail platforms, and Moodle, and Facebook, and many other social network websites to communicate with people. You have Google to search for whatever you want. You have Pocket to store and organise online information, clouds to store and create new ones, Evernote to take notes as you go - even offline. You have endless tools to explore. You have smartphones, tablets and laptops to take all of this with you all the time. You have wi-fi hotspots wherever you go, so you can access all that information wherever you are. And if you prefer the offline way, you always have the good old letters and free courses.

You can learn anything, anywhere, anytime. You have the mind, you have the resources. You only need the curiosity and the will to learn something more.

Leonardo da Vinci is one of the biggest examples I can give you as a self-taught person. Saramago is another. I can add Jorge Luis Borges (and many other writers). Alan Moore. Goethe. Tarantino. Kubrik. Woody Allen. Bowie, Hendrix. Russel Crowe. Frank Lloyd Wright. Gustave Eiffel. Jacques Fresco. Edison. The Wright Brothers. Michael Faraday. Benjamin Franklin. Leibniz. Einstein. Marx. Lincoln. Darwin.

Who think they learnt the wrong way? Who doesn't admire them? Wouldn't you like to be part of this list?

Now, I'd like to tell you about my own path: you know I'm learning Mandarin "alone". I achieved the second level in just one year (I could have done the third level as well if I wasn't so nervous at the HSK exam). If I had take a course, guess in what level I would be certified right now. Correct, just the first one! (Now I'm planning to do the 5th level, at April/May next year.)

I also already gave classes in two different places and in one of them I had to teach English and Portuguese to Chinese people! We only communicated in Mandarin, so it was a great challenge for me, just some months after taking my HSK exam.

I believed that I could do it and wasn't afraid that everything would go wrong. And I actually did it! Me, a shy person, talking with Chinese people, teaching them, with a certification telling everyone my Chinese was only basic. And they loved me. And I learnt so much! And I'm so proud of myself.

I also have learnt yoga with YouTube videos. I don't have the money to pay for classes and, yet, I managed to learn the movements and poses and the breathing, but also meditating (which is being hard to achieve). As I'm pregnant, now I'll learn even more things and prepare myself to childbirth. Isn't it fun?

Through Khan Academy, I also started to learn math all over again. I was never good at it, so I started with the early basic - yes, counting to ten and stuff. Not ashamed of it. At the same time, I'm learning program language! Next, maybe I'll study physics. I was always interested in the subject, but my grades never showed it.

With the Linguistic Team International, I learned how to create subtitles and compare them to previous versions, how to translate content, how to store and share information, how to manage a Facebook group, how to use language in a positive way, how to search for information and use it, what hydroponics is, sustainable living and so many other things. All of this by sharing knowledge with other people, and getting feedback and good reinforcements!

After taking some free courses on organising information, time management, motivation and commercial sales, I started to look for more information about it. Sometimes you only need a little push.

Are you inspired already?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

[here and there #15] nine circles of hell

Watching this video and reading the comments beneath it revealed so many bad feelings within me that I just want to cry. I don't like to feel this way, but worse than that: I can't believe there still is this kind of people in this world: so full of hatred.

I don't even speak of following religion blindly, thus not making our own opinions. People are brainwashed all the time by their church (or any other religious authority they might have), the tv-shows they watch, the books they read - the environment they were raised in and established their life on. These people need help. Right now.

We live in a world full of information, - and disinformation too! - I know that, but it does not mean we'll search for it. I believe brain-washed people are so closed in their own world that even if they were in touch with that kind of information, they wouldn't believe it.

      [Plus, having access to information and delving into it doesn't mean we:

      1) Believe it;      
      2) Understand it;
      3) Search for its sources and realise if its statements are true or fallacies;
          3.1) Know what a fallacy is;
          3.2) Can discover where the fallacy is;
      4) Contrast it with different sources;
      5) Relate to other information we already know about;
      6) Have a developed critical thinking that let us do all the above in a successful way;
      7) Make our own opinion about it;
      8) Change our opinion or behaviour in face of new information;
      9) Search for information that's outside our comfort zone.]

I was speaking of not loving your own child - this is what hurts me the most as we don't need to study in order to have a heart. Even if it was his decision to be gay (which it wasn't), why wouldn't they support him? Don't they care about him? Don't they want him to be happy?

Why people need to impose themselves to others, to tell them they're wrong? Why people don't accept others the way they are, even if they don't understand them?

On this video, I've read a lot of mean comments. But this one caught my attention:

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I was so appalled with this that my reaction was quite simple:

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Yes, I know I was a bit harsh. But this kind of people make me so angry. I hate to feel this way, I really hate. I usually try to bash away all my negative feelings. However, when faced in such situations, I can't.

A human being (even if it was an animal!) treated like he deserved nothing, like he was nothing. Treated in such a disheartened way. Like shit. {sorry for the language} No, I can't go easy with people that mistreat others so much.

I don't understand. This can't be a person talking about another person. Without any regard for her feelings and integrity. How can a human humilliate another? How can they think they are superior to anyone else, that they can do whatever they please no matter the consequences? How did we reach this level of arrogance? How did we get to the bottom? How come we visited already all the circles of hell?

Please, watch this last video of marvellous Cristina Rad about the subject. She's funny, insightful and touching.

{I need to thank Bahanur and her great idea of creating a Kindred Spirits Cafe on Letterworms (a Facebook group for long-letter writers). Through our discussions, I'm back to writing about meaningful subjects and expell my own demons about what scares and disturbs me.}
Tell me what you think about this behaviour, bullies, homossexuality and other topics covered on this text. I'd love to learn about your experiences!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

breathing #16 [#YouCanLearnAnything]

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My dear dreamers,

This is a campaign by the Khan Academy, inspiring us - again - to be the best we can want. There are no limits to what we can learn, I believe in that {read this amazing article, by Sal Khan - Khan Academy's founder}. I also believe that, no matter how your grades at school are/were, it doesn't mean you aren't smart enough or capable to achieve a certain (level of) knowledge.

This has more to do with the way we learn than to what we learn. Everyone has different interests and ways to memorize information. The difficult part is to realize how we personally do it.

I've started learning Chinese a couple of years ago. Some say is the most difficult language in the world, but once you know how it works and what are the best tools and time for you to learn, it becomes incredibly easy. I still make a lot of mistakes and did not achieve the level I wanted yet (put lack of effort here), but that's what learning means. I don't force it so I don't drop it.

We often judge people by their grades, or how fast or slow they learn or even for how many mistakes they make in a certain period of time. We tell them they're smart or dumb according to that. Well, that's stupid. Yes, ironic.

I don't believe in smart, or dumb, people. I believe that some of us use our brain and others don't. Some of us seek challenges, while others hide on their comfort zone. That's what makes the difference.

 (...) by struggling, your brain grows. 

It seems common sense, but the truth is we always punish people when they do something wrong, even when they made the effort to do it right. This kind of behaviour only has one reaction: it keep us from trying again, and hence learn, because we're afraid to fail again, to feel dumb again and to disappoint others, once again.

So remember, you can learn anything if you try hard enough.


|| All images and videos are credit of  Khan Academy.

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