How We Learn

Josh learning to make a cutting board.

Josh learning to make a cutting board.

When Josh and I were in the early stages of throwing around ideas for this blog we knew that one thing we really wanted was for it to be a place that we could document our learning. We both define ourselves as lifelong learners. One of our absolute favourite things to do is to learn something new. There’s nothing quite like the trepidation of trying a skill you’ve never used before and the fulfillment that comes from achieving some level of mastery or the curiosity that arises from delving into some unknown topic and adding something new to your stores of knowledge.

Because we both actively seek out new things to learn we just assumed it was something everyone does.  If it was normal for us wouldn’t it be the norm for everyone? Slowly though through working and formal study we’ve realised that actually isn’t the case. A lot of people find learning something new really daunting and often don’t know where to start. With that in mind I thought I’d compile some of our favourite resources, the ones we find ourselves mentioning to people again and again. Some of them are probably really obvious but it’s amazing how we can often overlook what is right in front of us.

Signing up to the library is always on top of my moving list now.

Signing up to the library is always on top of my moving list now.

When it comes to overlooking the obvious I have to start with the library. I don’t know why but before moving to the US I almost never went to the library. I’d probably even go so far as to say it was a place I actively avoided at university (I’m still puzzling over why). I would have to say I still don’t take full advantage of libraries. I always forget to check what events they have on, and they have A LOT of free events on. Libraries run workshops on everything from gardening to small business to crafts to writing to just about anything you can imagine. What I do access at the library is physical books, mostly non-fiction and textbooks. If there’s a book you really want to read and it’s not on the shelf the library will either source it at another branch or they will buy it for you! This is especially great for specialist textbooks that often cost over a hundred dollars.

Another great learning aspect of library is their digital resources. Not only do they have access to digital books and audio books, many libraries also have subscriptions to online learning resources such as Lynda.com (more on Lynda later) and digital editions of magazines and academic journals. I’ve found that a lot of Australian library websites aren’t as user friendly as those in the States so your best bet if you’re trying to work out what resources you have access to is to talk to the librarians. They’re an abundance of knowledge and will be able to point you in the direction of some great resources.

Paper piecing, a quilting skill I learnt from YouTube.

Paper piecing, a quilting skill I learnt from YouTube.

Usually the first place we go to when we want to learn something though is YouTube. I find this to be especially true for craft and DIY projects. There hasn’t been a single skill that I’ve wanted to learn in crafting that I wasn’t able to find a great video on YouTube. I learnt how to crochet, how to sew invisible zips even how to thread my overlocker. YouTube isn’t for everyone, I know a lot of people who get frustrated by it and want to learn something in person. But for me with a learning style that is a strong blend of visual and verbal it’s perfect.

The fashion summit was sold out… And also in Copenhagen… But it was live streamed so I could watch the whole thing!

The fashion summit was sold out… And also in Copenhagen… But it was live streamed so I could watch the whole thing!

But of course you already know about the library and YouTube. What are some of the more unusual places we learn? One of them is conferences. We don’t physically fly all over the world to attend conferences (although that would be amazing!) we access them online. It is amazing how many conferences and summits make their content available online, and usually for free, nowadays. You can often access papers that were presented and even better, recordings or live screenings of the talk themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed the Copenhagen Fashion Summit this year and was able to watch many of the talks and panel discussions on sustainability in the fashion industry live. I’ve watched talks on cotton from Cotton Works and about travel blogging and entrepreneurship  from the RV Entrepreneur Summit. Josh has been enjoying learning all the latest on the React framework from ReactConf and has Apollo’s GraphQL Summit lined up for the Christmas holidays. You can even watch Josh present at REA’s TKO conference this year where he talked about implementing GraphQL.

I can build a Wordpress website from scratch now…But I still chose Squarespace.

I can build a Wordpress website from scratch now…But I still chose Squarespace.

Another way that we learn a lot of tech based skills is through Lynda.com. When Josh started out learning to program he used a lot of their courses to start learning programming languages. I used their videos to learn to use Illustrator and Photoshop for fashion design, how to improve SEO, build a Wordpress website (note after learning that I opted for Squarespace haha) and social media marketing. Over summer I’ll be using it to learn Final Cut Pro for our YouTube videos.

Line drawings after watching Skillshare videos.

Line drawings after watching Skillshare videos.

In a similar vein I’ve also enjoyed using Skillshare to learn more creative skills such as developing print patterns in Illustrator, simple ink drawings of plants and watercolour painting. Whilst a lot of these skills can be found on YouTube I found that Skillshare offered a more structured learning experience with better quality videos and a more streamlined approach to teaching a skill than many YouTube presenters use. Like Lynda they also offer a range of tech, business and photography courses but I feel it’s their creative courses that really sets them apart.

This cookie decorating class was a great birthday gift from my sister.

This cookie decorating class was a great birthday gift from my sister.

One of the final ways we learn is in person. We take classes in things we’re interested in learning and we also try and join groups and ask people who have a skill to teach us. Living in Austin we took a woodworking class together and I took a crochet class. When we first got back to Australia Josh joined the local Men’s Shed and I joined the weavers and spinners, groups we’re both hoping to rejoin this summer. I’ve also joined church and community craft groups in the past. People are so willing to share what they know with you and there is a wealth of knowledge in these groups. This summer we’re both hoping to learn to weld so we’ll be asking Josh’s dad Vaughan to teach us and I’m looking to learn more about gardening and horticulture so I’ll be looking for work in that field.

There are so many more ways to learn things but these are the means we use most often. There isn’t an age you suddenly hit where you stop learning. It isn’t something that ends when you end formal education. What it comes down to is having a growth mindset and knowing that no matter your age or circumstances or supposed level of intelligence you have the ability to learn something new. We’re forever adding new things we want to learn to our list, it’s ongoing and I doubt we’ll ever stop wanting to learn something new.

There are so many ways to learn! Here’s how we learn new skills.

There are so many ways to learn! Here’s how we learn new skills.