Self-Education Resources

Post-secondary education has never been more accessible to the average person.  We may have a long ways to go in terms of making courses more accessible for learners and reducing the financial barriers that keep students from being successful in school, but it is nevertheless an undeniable fact that there are more people who have been to post-secondary schooling than the entire history of people attending higher learning.

One issue with the proliferation of access is that it’s getting harder to stand-out in the workforce.  With so many people carrying credentials, the golden ticket that a diploma or degree used to confer has lost some of its value.  Your choices are to either go to industries where they are starving for workers (if you are looking for a solid career with good prospects, you should become a welder NOW), or figure out a way to become a better problem-solver to stand out amongst the crowd.

Another issue that complicates matters is that industry and technology is changing at such a rapid rate that you can no longer rest on your laurels that your program of study will adequately prepare you for work in your industry.  The techniques, technologies, and skills you learn in your first year may be obsolete by the end of your final year.

Therefore, it’s important to develop your ability to self-educate.  Knowing where you can find free or cheap resources can be a huge advantage when developing yourself in your career.  Here are some of the resources I use to teach myself.

Top Spot: your Public Library

In my humble opinion, the public library is one of the greatest inventions of all time.  Whether you are taking classes they offer, using resources in their catalog, or availing yourself of the free access to materials like online journals and portals, there is almost no limit to  the access your library card can provide.  When my HVAC system went on the fritz, I was able to check out an HVAC manual to help me learn just what the heck an HVAC system does so that I could understand what repairs were needed, and how to better care for the system in the future.

YouTube

YouTube changed the game when it comes to sharing knowledge.  Don’t get me wrong, books are great (the necessary precursor to the greatest invention of all time; see: public library entry), but unless your book has incredibly detailed diagrams, the video format will always be the superior resource for teaching hands-on skills.  When I had to fix my roof, I turned to videos to learn how to remove individual shingles and replace them myself.

Coursera

Coursera is all the benefits of attending lectures without the associated costs.  Granted, if you want formal recognition of completing Coursera courses, you’ll need to pay for the access.  However, nearly every Coursera course has the option for you to audit the course for free, which gives you access to the lecture content and some of the supplementary material.

Reddit (and other specialty discussion forums)

I suppose I should have used “Google” as the category here since I often will search for solutions through Google’s indexed results.  However, dedicated online communities are some of the best resources to learn from.  They often post comprehensive resources and how-to manuals, and are usually great about providing solutions when you are stuck on specific problems.  If you can find a good community that isn’t locked behind a paywall, you can lose yourself for hours in it’s wealth of information.

Lynda.com

While not a free resource, this is something that my employer has provided to its employees at no cost.  You should check to see if your employer offers any services for employees to self-develop because you might be missing out on a ton of non-financial benefits.  Lynda is a great resource for comprehensive courses on a wide variety of tech and business topics.  It’s a bit restrictive if you are looking for non-business courses, but it’s worth checking out for learning the basics you’ll need to navigate your early career development.

Udemy

Another paid service, I find Udemy great for high tech courses where I want to develop specific skills, such as in Python or in using Adobe software.  I wait for courses to go on sale, and I snap up courses up to 90% off their full price.

Ask friends

My final suggestion is to tap your friends to see if anyone can help you learn new skills.  Obviously, you don’t want to exploit your friends – you should pay for their services where appropriate.  However, in some cases your friends can be great resources to tackle projects.  Not only do you get to leverage their unique skills or experience, but you also get quality time together.  My entire podcast and music run for Woot Suit Riot has been some of the most formative experiences I’ve had, all because I was making stuff with friends.

All of this is framed as advice to help you in your career, however the truth is that you should be seeking to educate yourself for any project your’re interested in, regardless of whether you can get paid for the skills or not.  I took painting classes earlier this year at my local art store because I wanted to learn how to paint.  This isn’t a skillset that directly will get me promoted, but it rounds me out and allows me to explore my creative side.

The point of self-education or self-development is for you to become more of the person you want to be.  It’s often hard work, but the experiences are well-worth the effort.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

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Blog – Week Two of Teaching

I’ve received some feedback that my readers like my posts on teaching and want more updates on how I’ve been progressing.  Since this blog doubles as a record of experiences and things I learn, I’m more than happy to share more of my thoughts on teaching (so far).

General Reflection

Week two ran a lot better in my mind than week one.  I felt more prepared and more excited for the lecture material, which I think translated into a better experience for my class.  There were some concrete steps I took to make things better this time too:

  1. I practiced better self-care.  I slept a little better, ate lunch before teaching, was better hydrated, in more comfortable clothes, etc.
  2. I had a guest speaker, which changed up the pacing a bit.
  3. I showed clips from YouTube to make my points, rather than using lecturing alone.
  4. I had a better sense of the lecture flow I wanted to achieve.

There were, of course, elements that I want to improve on, such as practicing my transitions in speech a few more times, or being ahead of the game in terms of my preparation.  However, I think I am overall doing well.

Shadow Work

I also graded my first round of assignments this past weekend.  I have to be mindful of how much non-teaching time I devote to the course because I’m only, technically, paid for the 3-hours of teaching I do per week.  The rest of the work is factored into my wages, but not actually paid out as hours logged.  I’m not overly worried at the moment because the items I’m marking took me around 2-hours to complete Sunday morning, so it’s not a huge burden at present.  It will, however, become a concern when I have to mark essays and the final exam.

Connecting with Students

I’m receiving positive feedback from students that they are enjoying the class so far.  I’m hoping to gather more formal feedback in an upcoming poll/questionnaire.  As a person who values real-time feedback for self-improvement, I feel waiting until the end of the term to get feedback is a missed opportunity.

Lecture Material

I was super jazzed about my lecture content last week.  I challenged the students’ conceptions concerning health and disease/disability.  I wanted to open their minds to the idea that health and disease are not mutually exclusive.  Disease gets cached out as a deviation from “normal,” but normal is fairly hard to pin down outside of fuzzy concepts like “statistical normality” aka, bell curves.

I opened the chain of thought by discussing how our biases of viewing the world will often distort our thinking, whether we are aware of it or not.  As a fan of The West Wing, I showed the class this clip as a fun but straightforward example of how we react and value parts of our reality without consciously thinking about it.

 

I then moved into real world examples of how biases in our thinking affect how we interact with other people, and how it can have devastating consequences.

 

 

Then, because I thought the clip above brought the mood down a bit, I ended with a fantastic video that challenges our ideas of ability and disability.

 

 

I was pretty happy with how this section of the lecture seemed to land with the students, and I hope it had the intended effect – that our approaches to problems are often bound up in unconscious biases that can limit our thinking.

Anyway, I should get back to prepping for this week’s lecture.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

Video – Dangers of the Job

Despite my recent spate of posts on teaching and education, I still want to use this blog as a platform for self-improvement as it relates to medicine.   I don’t know, yet, whether I will follow the path to paramedicine to the finish.  Teaching is occupying a fair amount of my time, so I will give priority to the things that seem most pressing.

Having said that, this video came across my social media feed last week and serves as a painful reminder that no matter how noble your job is, no matter how badly you want to help people, those very people you serve are also (sometimes) your greatest threat.  Crisis and trauma cause people to react in wildly different ways, and if you are not prepared for it, you could very easily fall victim to its chaos.

I have many medic and security friends who have their own horror stories from getting caught flat-footed on shift.  I’m glad to see agencies are seeking to remain proactive in arming medics with the tools and experience to protect themselves.

Remember, you’re no good to anybody if you are incapacitated, so watch your back.  That’s why the first step you are taught as a medic and responder is to mind your environment.  Constantly scan and re-assess for danger.  No one will look out for your well-being better than you.

Stay Safe,

Ryan

Problems with EMS Infrastructure and Technology

This episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver aired last week, but I thought it was worth sharing as an irreverent but also serious aside.  I am still early in my attempt to navigate the world of emergency medicine, so I am broadly exploring all sorts of topics.  While my aim is to become a paramedic, I also acknowledge that taking a silo’d approach often leaves gaps that harm people.  When there are serious issues with how a service gets deployed to help people, you end up with a lot of avoidable mistakes, like those highlighted in the video.  I hope you had a great long weekend!

 

Stay Awesome,

Ryan