Tools for lifelong learners

Learning is one of life’s greatest joys. Think about a baby learning to take first steps. Applause, photographs, maybe even a few happy tears – they are all a part of the experience and show that learning can be momentous, life-altering, and lead to greater things. Whether you are hoping to improve in school, expand your workplace skills, or discover new interests, here are some free tools to help guide you in your lifelong journey of learning.

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading
This nonprofit organization brings together smart, influential, innovative, and charismatic people across a variety of interests – technology, entertainment, design, business, global issues – and provides them with a platform to present ideas that get people to think big. The talks, which are recorded and posted as high-quality videos on TED’s website, are very engaging. There is a social component to each video, allowing viewers to add descriptive tags, as well as participate in online discussions about the ideas presented in the talks. Also great to note, PPL often hosts independent TedX events, which encourages growth of ideas and conversations at the local community level.

Khan Academy
Founded by Salman Khan, a graduate of M.I.T. and Harvard Business School, this nonprofit website provides access to over 3100 tutorials for grades K through 12 and beyond, and covers subjects from the humanities and finance to the sciences and math. All classes are taught by Mr. Khan and are limited to what he calls “digestible chunks” of approximately 10 minutes long, with the purpose of watching on a computer. In addition to the video tutorials, visitors will find over 320 skill challenges to help test and reinforce what was taught in the videos. Khan Academy even supplies an extensive toolkit of lesson plans and statistical measurements for educators.

Free Online University Classes
Yes, that’s right – top-knotch education from the best universities – for free! Last week, The New York Times published an article discussing a new collaboration by Harvard and M.I.T. to offer free online courses taught by their own faculty. The venture, called EdX, will debut in the fall and is part of a movement by higher education institutions to eschew the barriers of university learning – cost, location, limited enrollment, time, and more – and encourage a global expansion of knowledge with access to the lectures, syllabi, PowerPoint slides, homework assignments, and exams devised by the best scholars in the world. There’s no need to wait until fall to start learning, though. Check out some of the services available already through the web:

There’s An App For That!
There are many downloadable apps that allow you to take your learning on the go. One that I would recommend is iTunes U, which provides mobile access to over 500,000 free lectures, videos, books, and addition resources that allow you to easily explore thousands of subjects. Participating institutions include Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, UC Berkeley, MOMA, and the New York Public Library. I would also suggest checking out Evernote, which allows you to easily transfer notes from your mobile device to your computer. The app helps you collect, organize, edit, and store information you come across via the Internet, as well.

Resources @PPL
Princeton Public Library’s mission is to connect people through words and ideas to enrich their lives and help them realize their dreams. Every day, we have cultural events, classes, new items in our collection, and services to make this happen. While it’s impossible for me to include all the amazing goodness we offer, here are a few I would encourage you to explore:

Learning a language can be easy, convenient, and fun! PPL offers Mango Languages, an online language learning database that teaches conversation skills through interactive exercises. It can be accessed from home with a PPL library card, and on a smart phone or tablet with the free Mango Mobile app. The 38 foreign language tracks for English speakers include Spanish, French, Italian, German, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese, and there are 15 English language tracks for foreign speakers.

Our Museum Pass Program offers free admission to twelve museums and education institutions within NJ, PA, and NYC. Library card holders are eligible to reserve a pass for a particular museum up to 90 days in advance of visiting. Museums include Grounds for Sculpture, MOMA, The Guggenheim, Academy of Natural Sciences, New-York Historical Society, Princeton University Libraries, Garden State Discovery Museum, and more.

With The Great Courses in our audiobook section, we have nearly 100 individual courses available on CD, through audio that has been captured by recording scholars teaching at top universities across the country. Listen to a full-course lecture on philosophy, music, art, religion, and history.

Lastly, I hope you make our Princeton Public Library Blog one of your must-reads of the day. Updated daily Monday through Thursday, and written by PPL’s wonderfully eclectic staff, here you will find a treasure trove of information on just about everything and anything! Books, films, travel resources, local interests, events, technology, perspectives on interesting subjects, opportunities to get involved – you name it, we’re writing about it. It’s a way to get to know the PPL staff and maybe even discover some new interests of your own!

(Photo of baby learning to walk courtsey of Flickr user Roger’s Wife.)

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