UniAlt: A FRAMEWORK FOR TAILORING YOUR EDUCATIONAL AND EXPERIENTIAL PATH

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UniAlt: A FRAMEWORK FOR TAILORING YOUR EDUCATIONAL AND EXPERIENTIAL PATH

  1. 1. UniAlt:  A  Framework  for  Tailoring  Your  Educational  and  Experiential  Path          UNIALT:    A  FRAMEWORK  FOR  TAILORING  YOUR  EDUCATIONAL  AND  EXPERIENTIAL  PATH                      Problem    Our  society  practically  mandates  18  year  olds  to  attend  college.  A  degree  is  portrayed  as  the  main  objective  for  a  young  person  who  wants  to  secure  a  good  education,  to  obtain  a  decent  job,  and  a  comfortable  lifestyle.  The  American  path  is  being  standardized.  It  defies  the  tenets  this  country  was  founded  upon,  and  will  continue  to  limit  our  innovation,  diversity  and  experience.                    1      of  9        
  2. 2. UniAlt:  A  Framework  for  Tailoring  Your  Educational  and  Experiential  Path  Solution:  Write  your  own  learning  plan.    A  new  experience.  A  challenge  to  those  who  don’t  quite  fit  into  the  standard  categories  and  expectations.  No  two  people  are  alike  and  while  there  are  a  plethora  of  institutions,  one  of  which  must  offer  an  education  perfectly  suited  to  your  needs,  it’s  exceptionally  unlikely  that  one  will  fit  all  your  preferences.  Personal  development  is  a  moving  target.  Ask  anyone  -­‐-­‐  the  more  you  learn,  you’ll  discover  new  things  that  interest  you;  new  things  that  you  want  to  do.    Instead  of  spending  four  years  in  a  fixed,  stagnate  environment;  people  should  be  able  to  utilize  all  the  resources  our  communities  and  education  systems  have  to  offer  to  become  the  most  amazing  individuals  they  can.  Some  of  the  greatest  minds  in  history  never  attended  college.    Going  to  an  established  university  does  not  dictate  the  impact  of  your  contribution.  Groundbreaking  ideas  and  execution  will  change  the  world,  whether  you  walked  20  feet  for  a  diploma  or  not.    What’s  required  to  prepare  myself  for  the  world?  Commit  yourself  to  four  years  of  learning.  It  may  be  a  little  less  or  a  little  more,  but  take  advantage  of  the  fact  that  society  has  carved  out  a  fantastic  time  in  your  life  and  decided  that  is  the  time  for  your  unfiltered  exploration.  Then,  change  the  standards.    Set  your  expectations  of  what  you’re  capable  of,  how  you  will  learn,  and  what  your  life  trajectory  will  be.  You  are  more  than  what  they  expect  you  to  be.  Use  every  resource  you  can  find,  reach  out  for,  spend  time  with  every  person  whose  work/thoughts/existence  inspire  you,  and  GO!  Experience  every  bit  of  magic  you  can  find.  The  more  possibilities  you  see  in  the  world,  the  more  likely  you  are  to  invent  even  better  ones.                          2      of  9        
  3. 3. UniAlt:  A  Framework  for  Tailoring  Your  Educational  and  Experiential  Path  We  must  embrace  a  new  learning  method.    Higher  learning  objectives  should  be  self-­‐curated,  individually-­‐created,  and  interest-­‐driven.  Each  of  us  should  demand  only  the  most  relevant  coursework,  travels,  and  experiences.    The  knowledge  economy  empowers  each  of  us  to  capitalize  on  what  we  can  learn,  share,  clarify  and  create.  It’s  a  new  society  and  economy  where  each  man  can  make  his  life  and  his  livelihood  on  the  intersection  of  his  unique  interests  and  experiences.    James  Altucher,  a  clever  and  hilarious  writer,  suggests  making  lists  to  practice  creativity.  Take  an  hour  or  make  a  list  over  a  few  weeks  or  months.  Sit  and  really  think  about  the  things  you’d  be  interested  in  learning  and  doing.  Things  you’ve  heard  about  or  read  about  or  better  yet  –  things  you’ve  imagined.  Then  make  the  plan  to  do  them  all.  Hell!  Start  with  the  first  year  objectives  if  need  be.    You  are  the  first  generation  to  cite  Wikipedia  and  Quora.  You  learned  how  to  dance  and  play  instruments  by  watching  Youtube  tutorials.  This  program  is  a  continuation  of  your  curated,  individualized  life  plan.  Just  go  with  what  makes  you  happy,  passionate  –  what  challenges  you  –  and  you  will  find  your  purpose.    There  are  endless  tools  at  your  disposal  to  help  you  begin   a  life  of  learning.  Perhaps  the  most  miraculous  technological  advancement  in  education  recently  is  online  learning.  Distance  learning  has  been  developing  for  decades,  as  educational  entrepreneurs  work  to  cater  to  the  diverse  needs  and  lifestyles  of  students  everywhere.                      3      of  9        
  4. 4. UniAlt:  A  Framework  for  Tailoring  Your  Educational  and  Experiential  Path  Open  Learning  and  Self-­Directed  Curriculum.  What  makes  this  program  feasible  is  the  Open  Educational  Resources  (OER)  movement  (also  known  as  Open  Learning).  You  really  can  get  a  tremendous  education  of  selected  coursework  from  the  very  best  universities  and  learning  institutes  in  the  world.  Create  a  tailored  curriculum  to  fit  your  goals  and  aspirations.  You  choose  everything,  so  it  behooves  you  to  pick  the  studies  and  experiences  that  will  set  you  up  for  success.  No  one  should  be  more  completely  invested  in  your  education  than  you.  A  self-­‐curated  study  plan  is  the  core  of  this  learning  program,  supported  by  universal  access  to  technology  and  an  emblazoned  spirit  for  learning.    The  open  classroom  has  liberated  the  access  to  phenomenal  teachers  like  Patrick  Hunt  of  Stanford’s  History  Department  and  Programming  from  Prof.  Grimson  of  MIT.  Simply  with  access  to  a  computer,  you  can  learn  from  some  of  the  most  tremendous  minds  in  the  field.  And  it’s  all  free.  A  starter  list  of  resources  is  at  the  end  of  this  document.  The  other  major  benefit  of  Open  Classrooms  is  that  you’re  able  to  study  a  diverse  set  of  subjects.  Many  people  who  study  Art  History  are  not  often  driven  to  study  Physics,  but  if  you  are,  you  should!  Majors  are  for  chumps...  or  people  of  singular  interests.  You  are  neither.    If  you  were  to  look  at  lists  of  majors  from  various  institutions,  some  schools  offer  general  degrees  like  Computer  Science,  while  some  offer  specialized  degrees  in  Human-­‐Computer  Interaction  or  Computational  Biology.  It  doesn’t  really  matter  what  you  study,  so  long  as  you  learn  about  things  you’re  passionate  about  (because  you’re  likely  to  do  better  at  them)  and  that  you  learn  to  structure  thinking,  to  look  for  relational  interactions,  and  come  up  with  creative  applications  to  problems.                      4      of  9        
  5. 5. UniAlt:  A  Framework  for  Tailoring  Your  Educational  and  Experiential  Path  Mapping  your  movement.  I’ve  always  been  attracted  to  cities.  Different  cities  for  different  interests…  Nobody  does  BBQ  like  Texas  and  if  you  want  to  learn  Spanish,  why  aren’t  you  in  Argentina?  For  whatever  you  want  to  do,  there’s  something  tremendous  and  wonderfully  influential  about  being  surrounded  by  a  critical  mass  of  people  motivated  towards  the  same  goal.  I  compel  you  to  align  your  geographic  location  with  leaders  in  that  industry/field,  artistic  movement,  resources,  etc.  Don’t  be  tied  down  to  a  place.  Be  tied  to  experiences  and  opportunity.  The  benefit  of  being  institution-­‐indifferent  is  that  it  opens  you  up  to  learn  from  the  most  amazing  professors,  experts,  and  minds.  We  learn  from  people.  Go  learn  from  the  best.  Whether  you  study  online  or  sit  in  on  a  semester  of  lectures,  make  it  your  mission  to  engage  the  professors.  It’s  a  lesson  few  college  students  learn  until  it’s  too  late.  You  will  be  challenged  if  you  sit  down  with  a  professor,  feel  the  pressure  of  their  stare  and  stand  on  your  own  feet  to  articulate  a  more  developed  understanding.  Want  to  study  the  economics  of  political  insurrection?  Visit  Paris,  walk  the  streets  and  read  Murat’s  thoughts  on  socialization  in  the  square  where  King  Louis  and  Marie  Antoinette  lost  their  lives  to  the  guillotine.  For  a  more  modern  perspective,  why  not  take  a  class  at  Cairo  University.  Being  part  of  a  community  also  allows  you  to  immerse  yourself  in  a  movement.  This  will  set  you  apart  from  your  peers  that  are  stuck  in  the  classrooms,  even  those  who  study  abroad.  Whether  trying  to  learn  a  language,  working  an  apprenticeship/internship  in  a  growing  industry,  or  studying  a  historical,  political,  or  economic  movement,  be  all  about  it.  It’s  simple  –  it’s  passion.     • Consume  every  book  or  article  that  interests  you   • Practice  speaking  about  it:  listening  and  sharing  your  ideas  with   another  well-­‐informed  person  will  strengthen  your  understandings   and  allow  you  to  synthesize  what  you’ve  learned   • Work  at  it.  Unfortunately,  getting  more  often  requires  more  work  You’ll  definitely  have  to  be  more  disciplined  in  your  development,  but  ultimately,  you’ll  gain  a  much  more  fulfilling  experience.    If  you  can  imagine  it,  then  make  it  happen.  Ask  people  for  their  help.  Define  and  explain  your  educational  mission  to  them.  What  are  you  trying  to  learn?  What  resources,  guidance  and  experience  do  you  need  to  accomplish  it?                      5      of  9        
  6. 6. UniAlt:  A  Framework  for  Tailoring  Your  Educational  and  Experiential  Path  Mentorship  is  key,  as  is  learning  to  rally  support  for  your  cause.    Even  the  most  brilliant  minds  need  mentors.  You’ll  need  coaches.  A  disruption  to  modern  education  won’t  just  happen,  even  if  every  single  18-­‐year-­‐old  decides  to  forgo  traditional  institutions.  In  order  to  be  successful,  individuals  who  set  out  on  their  own  personal  journey  need  to  have  a  point  of  guidance.  Nay  a  clan.  In  the  earliest  human  history,  when  humans  began  to  expand  from  the  small  protected  lands  of  their  tribes,  clan  members  would  give  them  advice,  provisions,  and  introductions  to  help  them  along  their  journey  and  set  them  up  for  their  explorations,  knowing  that  they  likely  would  not  return  to  the  tribe.  In  order  for  the  colony  to  grow,  to  hope  for  a  better  future  existence  they  forced  their  younger  generations  to  venture  out.  (Source:  Robert  Bates,  Prosperity  and  Violence)    In  order  for  students  to  get  the  most  fulfilling  education,  we  need  to  create  a  support  infrastructure  for  them.  Traditional  universities  provide  counselors  that  provide  as  little  (most  common)  or  as  much  (uncommon)  guidance  as  a  student  requires.  But  for  students  that  are  exploring  on  their  own,  it’s  critical  that  they  have  regular  access  to  people  who  can  help  them  ask  the  tough  questions,  make  connections  to  people  and  resources  that  will  help  them  accomplish  their  learning  goals  and  navigate  vast  social  and  organizational  networks.  Students,  the  burden  is  on  you.  It  is  your  risk  to  find  people  who  will  invest  time,  resources,  reputation,  and  energy  into  your  growth.    1)  The  incentive  is:  your  life  that  wins  all  the  rewards  of  your  initiative.    2)  Don’t  be  afraid  to  ask...  for  anything.    People  enjoy  feeling  the  power  and  achievement  that  is  associated  with  promoting  and  developing  an  up-­‐and-­‐commer’s  career.  Do  for  them  first.  Earn  their  interest  by  being  hard-­‐working,  following  up,  and  being  considerate.  You’ll  be  amazed  at  what  people  are  willing  to  help  you  with,  the  opportunities  they’re  willing  to  present  you  with  when  you  are.  Surround  yourself  with  great  people.  Get  them  on  your  team  and  run  with  it.                          6      of  9        
  7. 7. UniAlt:  A  Framework  for  Tailoring  Your  Educational  and  Experiential  Path  Who  would  want  to  do  this?  What  are  some  of  the  tradeoffs?    A  flexible  program  of  learning  conducted  in  as  many  continents  and  localities  as  the  student  desires  /  requires,  in  essence  will  only  benefit  students  who  recognize  its  value.  Each  person  must  develop  his  or  her  own  values,  a  system  of  preference  based  on  what  you  learn,  read,  hear  and  experience.  The  difficult  part  of  human  life  is  that  we’re  given  a  finite  amount  of  time,  and  no  doubt  you’ve  already  begun  to  decide  what  type  of  activities  you  enjoy,  what  kinds  of  people  you  respect  and  enjoy  being  around,  and  how  you  wish  to  be  perceived  among  your  community.    Obviously,  this  isn’t  for  everyone.  Or  even  most  everyone.  Society  still  expects  most  people  to  go  to  college  and  in  turn,  most  employers  will  want  to  hire  people  with  college  diplomas.  However,  there  are  companies  and  jobs  that  do  not  look  to  which  diploma  applicants  received,  but  instead  to  the  skills  and  experience  they  were  able  to  demonstrate  along  the  way.  For  those,  who  are  interested  more  in  what  they  can  do,  then  where  they  could  be  accepted,  it’s  an  opportunity  to  start  on  your  path  now.  There’s  no  reason  to  delay  in  figuring  out  what  we  want  from  our  lives  or  asking:  how  do  we  become  the  people  we  want  to  be?    Gloria  Steinem  advises,  “Whatever  it  is  you  want  in  the  future,  build  it  into  your  day  today.  If  you  want  music  and  poetry  and  humor  and  revolution,  build  music  and  poetry  and  humor  and  revolution  into  each  day  and  you  will  get  there.”  No  doubt  the  “college  experience”  would  be  a  potential  trade-­‐off  of  such  a  nomadic  program.  The  social  connections  and  unified  experiences  that  a  collegiate  institution  offers  will  be  exceptionally  difficult  to  replicate  for  an  individual  frequently  relocating  to  discover  a  whole  world  of  knowledge.    I  invite  all  potential  renegades  to  meet  in  real  life  or  on  the  interwebz  by  connecting  to  each  other  through  our  group.  Additionally,  development  requires  functional  practice  and  need  to  feel  sense  of  accomplishment  that  comes  from  starting  and  creating  impact  within  the  global  communities  and  environments.  Push  yourself  to  start  clubs  and  businesses  and  non-­‐profits  and  then  help  each  other  make  each  project  a  success.                          7      of  9        
  8. 8. UniAlt:  A  Framework  for  Tailoring  Your  Educational  and  Experiential  Path    What’s  the  problem  with  going  to  a  standard  university?  Can’t  I  do  all  this  at  a  single,  established  higher  learning  institute?    There’s  nothing  wrong  with  attending  a  four-­‐year  secondary  education.  A  degree  from  an  accredited,  even  prestigious  four-­‐year  university  is  a  reasonably  sure  way  to  secure  a  good  education,  a  good  job  and  a  happy,  comfortable  life.    This  program  is  not  for  everyone.  For  some,  college  is  not  the  right  or  even  the  only  choice.  If  money  is  an  issue,  you  don’t  need  to  spend  thousands  of  dollars  on  a  single  course.  Get  a  job  linked  to  what  you  want  to  do.  Situate  yourself  in  the  epicenter  of  your  field.  Seek  out  mentors  who  will  help  you  rise  up  the  learning  curve  faster.  Community  libraries,  cultural  centers  and  museums  can  be  your  classroom:  “Good  Will  Hunting”  yourself.    The  majority  of  the  examples  expressed  in  this  document  assume  the  students  who  adopt  this  challenge  are  exceptionally  self-­‐motivated.  If  they  did  go  to  college,  they  would  get  the  lay  of  the  land,  start  making  a  mental  list  of  resources  and  opportunities  at  their  disposal,  and  take  advantage  of  the  ones  they  find  interesting  –  study  abroad,  internships,  high-­‐profile  entry-­‐level  jobs.    As  someone  who  went  to  college,  I’ll  be  the  first  to  tell  you  ‘it  was  awesome’.  But,  what  if  you  want  something  different?  Something  more?      You’d  be  walking  away  from  or  delaying  “the  norm,”  the  expectation  -­‐  that’s  the  only  risk.  Instead,  why  not  take  advantage  of  the  roughly  36  months  society  sets  aside  for  people  ages  18-­‐22,  to  truly  explore  and  cultivate  a  knowledge  base  that  will  prepare  you.  Not  for  a  job,  but  for  your  contribution  to  society.    Established  institutions  are  not  devoid  of  value.  Like  many  large,  conventional  organizations,  it  becomes  increasingly  difficult  to  offer  a  customized  educational  and  experiential  learning  plan  in  the  face  of  a  regimented  set  of  standards.  Additionally,  educational  institutions  must  fight  for  resources,  such  as  funding,  instructors  and  students.  The  competitive  distribution  of  resources  creates  a  disparity  of  educational  opportunities  for  enrolled  students.    No  matter  your  path,  work  the  system  to  create  a  truly  special  four-­‐year  experience  for  yourself.  Seek  out  the  best  resources,  real-­‐world  opportunities  to  work  and  learn  and  share.  You  cannot  afford  to  dally.  You  are  young,  capable,  and  driven.  Find  a  better  way,  wherever  that  may  be.                          8      of  9        
  9. 9. UniAlt:  A  Framework  for  Tailoring  Your  Educational  and  Experiential  Path  A  Preliminary  List  of  Online  Learning  Tools     Codecademy   Coursera     Udacity   Udemy   TED:  Ideas  Worth  Spreading     Open  Learning   Stanford  Online   Stanford’s  eCorner   MIT  Open  CourseWare   Carnegie  Mellon’s  Open  Learning  Initiative     Books  (by  subject)   Book  recommendation  engine  –  http://bestintrobook.com/   Barnes’  &  Noble’s  Daily  Top  10  by  Subject   Less  Wrong’s  Best  Textbooks  on  Every  Subject     Experiential  Resources  and  Grants   There  are  a  ton  of  great  resources  and  programs  available  to  those  who  are   interested  in  study  abroad,  research  projects,  work  and  service  programs.    Whether  you’ve  always  been  curious  about  Japan  or  Ireland  or  wanted  to  get   in  the  thick  of  current  events  or  simply  work  in  a  foreign  country,  there’s  a   ton  of  different  opportunities  to  make  that  happen.                              9      of  9        

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