This week’s guest, Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., is the female Indiana Jones - a truly innovative and independent spirit. Professionally, she’s an award-winning professor of engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan and the Ramón y Cajal Distinguished Scholar of Global Digital Learning at McMaster University. Her research focuses on bioengineering with an emphasis on neuroscience and cognitive psychology. She’s also the creator of the massively successful Learning How To Learn online course, which she teaches alongside legendary neuroscientist Dr. Terrence Sejnowski. Dr. Oakley makes the neuroscience of learning both practical and accessible for the rest of us.
In today’s episode we talk a lot about learning and MOOCs, or for the uninitiated, massive online open courses. With all of Dr. Oakley’s credentials and professional experience, we also discuss some adjacent topics like how to hang-up your workaholic spurs, how to avoid task-list intimidation (yes, we touch on task lists!), and how we might leverage Imposter Syndrome for our advantage. As I said at the top of this episode: If a Swiss Army Knife came in human form, it would be called a Barbara Oakley, Ph.D. Like a Swiss Army Knife, there are a multitude of tools and ideas woven into this conversation which can be applied to what’s going on in your own life. Dr. Oakley contributes a wealth of knowledge and implementable inspiration.
Listen to the episode in any of the fine places listed below. Oh, one last thing, we share A SHIZZLE-TON of resources in this episode. If you’ve been itching to learn something new or close a skill gap, I strongly invite you to come back and explore all of the books and resources in this post. #yourewelcome
Selected link love + resources from the episode:
Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential by Barbara Oakley, Ph.D. (book)
MOOC (Massive Online Open Course definition)
Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens by Barbara Oakley, Ph.D. (book)
A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science by Barbara Oakley, Ph.D. (book)
Pathological Altruism by Barbara Oakley, Ph.D. (book)
Structures of Science Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn (book)
Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner (book)
Idan Segev - Neuroscience MOOC professor
I am Jackie Chan: My Life In Action by Jackie Chan (book)
The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papsan (book)
Barbara’s NYTimes Opinion Feature, “Make Your Daughter Practice Math. She’ll Thank You Later.”
MOOC Resources from Barbara’s Book, Mindshift:
Find a MOOC! Go online and find a MOOC on a topic you’re interested in. The easiest way to do this is to go to Class-Central.com to run a search. Be careful, though—the subject matter in MOOCs is so broad that you may not even think to look for a MOOC on your favorite minor novelist or television drama—though such a MOOC may very well exist.
You can also go directly to some of the main MOOC and online learning providers and poke around. The following are some of the biggest providers (U.S.-based and university-affiliated unless otherwise noted):
Coursera (the largest provider)
Kadenze (Special focus on art and creative technology)
NovoEd (Focus on collaborative learning approaches)
Udacity (corporate- and university-affiliated provider; focused largely
on high-quality vocational courses and Nanodegrees for professionals)
Lynda.com (private company owned by LinkedIn that provides access on a fee-per-month basis to top-quality professional courses taught by industry experts; excellent reputation)
Udemy (private company for self-selected experts of any kind to offer their training)
There are also MOOC platforms that specialize in certain languages and cultural spheres. These are a few examples:
China: XuetangX, BistuX
Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world: Miríada X
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Turn your old task list into art! 33K Task List Project
Quotes + selected highlights from the episode
All of this wisdom is from Barbara herself (with some minor edits for readability).
[00:08:36] I think that just being comfortable with discomfort helped me to try lots of new things and keep going even despite the fact that sometimes I would feel very uncomfortable.
[00:11:03] I learned to be a person that doesn’t follow the crowd. I watched the crowd, but I wasn't part of it. Even in my adult career today, I watch what's going on with the flow of the conversation nationally, but I'm not necessarily swept up by the thoughts of that. I can think a bit more independently.
[00:12:15] A lot of professors of education are not aware of, for example, the latest insights from neuroscience and how you can apply these ideas to your everyday life to help improve your ability to learn.
[00:13:20] There’s much to be said for looking at a discipline with fresh eyes.
[00:17:02][Regarding MOOCs] Nowadays, you have access to great college courses online. You don't necessarily have to just stop your life and go back to the university.
[00:32:13] To some extent, learning shows, as the Russians would say, repetition is the mother of learning.
[00:44:35] The reality is that I love working. I just get very excited about what I'm working on, and I would call myself a workaholic.
[00:47:48] [On learning to let go of her workaholic tendencies] My husband really tolerates my workaholic tendencies. What that does mean is when he says, “I'd really like you to go to dinner with us.” Well, it's time for me to hang up my workaholic spurs and get out there with the family. I do try to really listen.
[01:16:57] I think the imposter syndrome is a powerfully positive force. Feeling really uncomfortable is a super good thing. Because the problem in society today, it's not under-confidence; it's overconfidence
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