Free activities for life-long learners

I’m a big fan of free stuff I can do that teaches me something new and interesting.

Lately I’ve been relying a lot on MOOC (massive open online course) sites EdX and Coursera to keep my mind active and to make sure I’m learning something new every day. They have quality online courses that you can audit for free on topics ranging from Big History to the Science of Happiness to Everyday Thinking.

Podcasts are great of course. Two of my favourites are BEEP – behavioural ecology and evolution podcast, and Quirks and Quarks.

There are also a lot of good documentaries and documentary series out there, some of which you can find on youtube or borrow at the library.

Some I’ve found (maybe not as well-known as the ones like Planet Earth) are:

Crash Course (and mental floss). They’re very short but very engaging. One of my favourites so far is crash course philosophy episode 40, on Justice.

Connections – a vintage TV documentary series narrated by science historian James Burke. The series challenges the assumption that the history of technology progresses in a linear, ordered fashion, with deliberate steps towards discoveries and new ways of doing things. It’s kind of whimsy and enjoyable to watch, though sometimes a bit hard to follow. (There’s some nudity in some episodes, so it might not always be available publicly.)

In the Mind of Plants – A great hour-long documentary that will give you a new perspective on plant life.

Michael Mosley has some very good documentaries on medicine and health.

And I’m also addicted to some quirky quiz shows for edu-tainment. The best one I’ve found is QI (for Quite Interesting) which is a huge hit in the UK.

Volunteering at the right place can be one of the best ways to learn new skills or keep the ones you’ve got sharp. You might have to do repetitive or boring jobs at first before you’re trusted to do more complex and skilled tasks, depending on the place. A good resource to help you find the opportunity suited to you is at Volunteer Canada: 




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