Autodidactic Ambitions

My Brain May or May Not Be Turning to Oatmeal (aka Brain Food Experiment)



Sometimes I miss being in school.

Isn’t that weird? I mean, I’m literally “in” school 50-60 hours a week, but being the teacher doesn’t exactly hold the same “in school” feeling as being a student does.

There are some things I don’t miss about being a student of course–I don’t miss staying up until two in the morning writing papers or having all my time at home hijacked by homework and studying. But I do miss the challenge of learning, the thrill of new information, the pride of mastering a new skill or concept.

And lately, while I feel that in some ways I’m getting smarter (like in how to tell if a 13-year-old is lying to me or not), I’m not exactly sharpening my mind daily like I used to be. I mean, as much as I love reading blogs, most aren’t exactly intellectual, and I find it sad that I spend more time playing Candy Crush most days than I do developing talents.

It’s for all these reasons that I’ve imposed a new daily experiment—every day for about two weeks now, I’ve set a little “brain food” challenge for myself : for at least ten minutes a day, I need to do something that will sharpen my mind. Some ideas of things I’ve done (or that I’m thinking of doing):

– listen to a clip on YouTube of a classical melody I’m unfamiliar with
– read the newspaper
– listen to a TED talk
– participate in a free online course at Coursera
– study a section in a textbook
– find five new words in the dictionary
– spend ten minutes studying an unfamiliar artist’s work
– read an article out of Time, National Geographic, or The New Yorker
– try out a few algebra, geometry, or calculus problems to refresh my skills
– next time I hear an interesting study mentioned in the newspaper or in a magazine, read the actual study report and statistics
– pick a religion I don’t know much about and Google it
– watch a clip on a historical event on PBS, the History Channel, or YouTube

I know ten minutes isn’t much, but many days, I find that I’ve far exceeded the ten minute limit because I become so absorbed in what I’m doing. And on the days I just get the ten, I figure that it’s better than having spent that time playing time-sucking games on the tablet, right?


Do you ever miss being a student? What do you do to become more autodidactic (self-taught)?