Continuing Education

One of my goals for 2011 was to put more effort into continuing my education.  After graduating and transitioning to the work force it gets a lot harder to feel like you're learning and getting to grow mentally in directions beyond what your job dictates.  However, living in New York City, I am lucky that there are a lot of ways to take classes and attend lectures for relatively minimal money.  Here are 5 local ways I "get back in the classroom" (and one bonus on-line resource):

Ignite Sessions
Ignite is a unique event where you learn a little bit about a lot of things through a rapid-fire series of short lectures.  Speakers can apply to present on anything, and typically the collection of chosen lectures varies widely from technology, to the arts to society.  Each speaker is given 5 minutes to present a coordinated talk along with 20 slides that turn on their own every 15 seconds.  The structured nature of the event keeps the audience entertained whether the topic is NASA research, samurai swords, or anything else.  Events are usually around $10.  You can view all of the past Ignite NYC talks here: http://www.youtube.com/user/IgniteNYC#g/u

Creative Mornings
Creative Mornings are "a monthly breakfast lecture series for creative types".  Each monthly event is usually about :30 minute breakfast, :30 minute lecture and :30 minute Q+A discussion session.  Past speakers have been writers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and more.  They take place on Friday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and have been sponsored, so attendance is free (and sign-up fills up fast).  You can view all of the past Creative Mornings lectures here:

General Assembly
By day, General Assembly is a co-working space where teams of people can rent desk space and share collective office resources.   By night, General Assembly is a an educational campus that hosts classes to help teach new technology, business and marketing skills.  Classes usually cost around $25 per hour and are taught by employees from small start-up companies to Google employees.  This year I took classes on Gamification, API Programming and Website Wireframing.  Unfortunately, the classes have been a bit hit or miss because they're sometimes taught by smart people who aren't good teachers.  However, I'm optimistic and will continue to try more.

TEDx is an offshoot of the popular global TED conference, though on a local level.  The organizers of TEDxBrooklyn put together an annual all-day event mixing talks from local business leaders and artists with curated videos of the global TED conference.  This year's event was held at Brooklyn Bowl, and the topic was "redefining better".  Highlights included motivational speaker Jullien Gordon, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, Gotham Greens founder Viraj Puri and several music & art performances.  The event cost $100 for the full day, including lunch.  The event wasn't perfect, but I expect that the quality will improve each year as the founders gain more experience.

140 Characters Conference
140 is actually a series of conferences throughout the year that covers a number of topics.  This year I attended the tentpole #140conf ,  a 2-day event discussing how social media effects business and people, and #140edu , a 1-day event discussing how social media can improve education.  The first event was a series of short :10 - :15 minute presentations and panel discussions, and was very interesting in the same way that Ignite typically is.  The edu event was a more classic format, with fewer + longer presentations, and wasn't nearly as interesting.  I would make my decisions to attend future events based on the format and the costs- which varied from $1.40 to $140 per event (discounts to frequent attendees).

Next year, in addition to attending conferences and classes, I'm also committing to taking some online courses.  One site I'm really excited about is Codecademy.  The site is basically a collection of "gamified" courses on web programming.  Courses are broken down into small incremental assignments, and motivation is driven by badges and level completions.  Codecademy seems like an powerful, free, way to learn new subjects, one I'm very excited to spend more time with.  I'll update everyone soon on how it goes.

So what are the ways you learn?  And what are your other 2012 goals?