Tag Archives: adult learning

Continuing Education: The Importance of Experimentation

I went to a three-hour lesson on pod-casting on Sunday afternoon. It was the first in a two-part course I’m taking at London’s adult learning centre, CityLit. The course is designed to introduce beginners to the art of internet broadcasting.

I’m a big fan of taking classes in adulthood. Since moving to London four years ago, I’ve taken classes in fiction writing and acting. In Chicago, I took classes in freelance writing and memoir. And once, many moons ago, I took a class in beginning Hebrew (not to mention the continuing ed. class to end all continuing ed. classes: I’m Jewish, You’re Not.)

According to a report released jointly by the Penn State University Office of Outreach Marketing and Communications and University Continuing Education Association in 2006, up to 45 percent of colleges and university enrollment in the United States is from adult learners. Revenues for continuing education rose 67 percent at the institutions surveyed in this report from 2004.

People go back to school as grown-ups for lots of different reasons. Sometimes, it’s to pursue a hobby. You try something new (or return to something old.) You meet new people. You get out of your comfort zone. Above all, you have fun. (And yes, for the record, I’m still eyeing that course at CityLit entitled Actors Singing From West End to Broadway.)

Sometimes you go back to school because you need to re-tool professionally. From 2008 to 2018, the labor force is projected to grow more diverse and have more workers age 55 and older. Simultaneously, the highest-paying jobs – those that require at least a bachelor’s degree – are expected to increase at a rate faster than that of overall job growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. So it’s  a good bet that we’ll be seeing more Americans – particularly boomers – sharpening their pencils and buying new notebooks as they gear up for a second or third career.

But the main advantage of adult education is that it enables you to experiment. Chris Brogan – guru of all things social media – talked about this recently. Brogan thinks about experimentation in terms of labs. (He’s currently experimenting with a new travel site called Man On The Go.)

His main point is that experimentation is crucial to growth. Why? Because you test drive new ideas. You collaborate. You enjoy the fun of failure, as Gretchen Rubin likes to put it. Above all, you create ideas of your own, rather than just reporting on the ideas of others.

Which is why I’m learning how to podcast. I’m not yet sure exactly how I’ll incorporate podcasting into my life, and whether it will be more of a hobby or something that I use in work. But I have a few ideas. More importantly, I know that if I don’t start experimenting now – creating a lab, as it were – I’ll never find out.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll be the next Cezanne

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Apologies that my weekly tips for adulthood post did not appear yesterday. Due to the editing schedule over at www.PoliticsDaily.com, that particular post will come out next week.

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And speaking of Politics Daily, be sure to check out my post today on the new Pro-Islam ads running in London. It’s kind of the UK’s answer to the whole “What Would Jesus Do?” campaign. Except that it’s “What Would Mohammed Do?” Check it out…

Image: Podcasting by hawaii via flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Hobbies in Adulthood: West End Here I Come!

The writing was on the wall when I found myself lingering in Tesco (a major British supermarket chain) just so that I could sing along to the soundtrack playing in its aisles. I mean, c’mon folks. How often do you get to listen to Men At Work’s Land Down Under and Celine Dion’s  My Heart Will Go On in one 10 minute interval?

Then, last Friday night, I found myself squirreled away in a recording studio in the seedy end of Camden Town. About eight of us middle-aged parents decided to forsake shame and concoct a mums and dad’s band to perform at the upcoming school summer fair. We called ourselves The NERMADS, which was short for New End Rock Mums And Dads (Our children attend New End Primary School in London. I personally preferred the moniker “Nermaids” but it didn’t fly…or swim). Some of us played guitar; others the saxophone; most of us sang.

The studio had all the requisite features if you wanted to fancy yourself a rock chick for  – oh, about three hours or so:  the nearly invisible entrance hidden beneath the railroad tracks…the chipped paint and dark lighting…heck, I half expected someone to be shooting heroin when I walked in. (Only the bathrooms disappointed. As one friend noticed, they were unfailingly clean. Sigh).

And it was a blast. We sang that old favorite Stand By Me, that folk lover’s dream Put a Little Love in Your Heart, as well as assorted rock tunes. (Check out some of us at the actual fair here and here.)

I’ve always loved to sing. I was in a women’s a capella group – The Ursa Minors – back when I was an undergraduate. And I briefly sang with a group at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago when I first moved there. But that was like 15 years ago and since then, I haven’t really sung with anyone (well, outside of those poor souls haunting the cereal aisle at Tesco).

I’m a big fan of pursuing hobbies in adulthood. I think that – as adults – we sometimes feel that hobbies are for kids: you learn to shoot a bow and arrow. Maybe you take some piano lessons or do an art class here and there. And you have fun. But once you grow up, that’s when the serious stuff kicks in: work,  family, LIFE.

But I think that’s a huge mistake. Because there’s something exhilarating about taking up something entirely new – or perhaps returning to an earlier interest – when you’re grown up. Perhaps you even take a class and discovered other like-minded souls. I did this with an acting class last fall.

It’s just…fun. And it keeps you feeling alive.

Which is why I’m incredibly psyched that – right after said performance at the school fair and after running the school raffle for a mere three years – I finally won a raffle prize. And guess what it was? A half-price coupon at London’s adult learning centre, City Lit.

When I got home, I sped through the course listings and happened upon this gem: a *brand new* course offering next year called – wait for it – Actors Singing From West End to Broadway.

An entire six weeks of show tunes? And you don’t have to have any formal training?

Bring it on baby. And Give My Regards to Broadway, because I’m bound for the West End…

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Speaking of show tunes, I came across this internet-age tribute to West Side Story – Web Side Story – courtesy of Middle Aged Women Blogging.

Image: Singers by Mr Mo-Fo via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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