Learning


Swimming Instruction

Last post I wrote about some fabulous projects that bring sharing and learning into communities, making our cities more vibrant places to live and work. This post, I’ll be sharing a few online initiatives. These fabulous websites feature a plethora of resources that you and I can access, anywhere, anytime, completely free!

The Khan Academy was just recently announced as a (very worthy) winner of Google’s Project 10^100, a two-year search for creative, crowd-sourced solutions to improving the planet:

Idea: Make educational content available online for free
Project funded: The Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that provides high-quality, free education to anyone, anywhere via an online library of more than 1,600 teaching videos. We are providing $2 million to support the creation of more courses and to enable the Khan Academy to translate their core library into the world’s most widely spoken languages. (read more about the winners in GOOD)

What is brilliant about this site is the content, which is really top notch, covering subjects that appear in various countries’ standardized tests. Even better, each lecture is delivered in a nice bite-sized format but without “dumbing down” the content.

Wiki’s offering, World University, has a mission to

provide a free, wiki-based education platform and, through facilitating the development of broadband worldwide, to make our service accessible to under served parts of the world.

I can’t comment about the quality of the content on this site, but it looks a bit rough and unpolished, and I couldn’t work out how to navigate to any of the subject offerings on my particular area of interest, the visual arts.

A less formalised way of learning is the Forum Network, a collaboration funded by PBS & NBR public media service. This site is less about getting a formal education, and more about

protecting and projecting the public voice and…informing and inspiring that public voice to foster deeper understanding of and engagement in the culture, education, politics, science, and literature of our time.”

A quick search on “visual art” brought up several really interesting lectures which I’ve bookmarked for watching later.

Finally, the mother(father?) of all that is the online lecture, TED. TED’s mission is to

build…a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

TED started out as an annual conference, and has grown hugely since 2006 when lectures (largely focussed on technology) were first published online. Over 700 talks are available on the website, and once you have endured the ad that appears at the beginning of each lecture, you are in for around 18 minutes of intelligent and inspiring entertainment. Some of the lectures may even blow your mind.

There are many ways to share what you know with others. Here are some alternatives to traditional education that are either free, extremely cheap, or rely on some form of barter or trade.

Shareable features an article this week on a Freeskool in Ithaca, NY:

With classes like Mushroom Hunting, Bike Repair, Know Your Rights with Debtors, and D.I.Y. Movie Making, it’s a refreshing variety of completely free classes for people of all ages. Started only a few years ago and run entirely by volunteers, the Freeskool gives the community an opportunity to share their skills and knowledge.

Another venture, also featured on Shareable, is described as a ‘pop-up’ school, which for a month offered classes for barter. Anyone can sign-up to teach, and the list of classes is esoteric and exciting. Even better, each class has a corresponding blog post, which acts as a perfect refresher if you’ve forgotten some of the basics. From organising an arts festival to caviar. Here’s a quote from Elizabeth, who taught the Caviar Demystified course:

I think Trade School is beautiful – from a design perspective, from the curation and execution. It should live on as a platform for individuals who can’t afford school to have a place to be inspired and then potentially teach too. Or think critically about what they can talk about – It successfully inspires human engagement and education.

Other formats that I have seen include the School of Everything. I signed up, but I haven’t had any bites yet. It may be simply because the site hasn’t had much exposure in Australia (be warned, it loads very slowly). Or maybe the concept is still a bit out there for Aussies? Here’s a lovely posting from their site anyway, which will go some way to explaining the ethos behind the concept.

As we decide what next for School of Everything we’ve been doing a little bit of soul searching and thinking about what we truly believe in (as well as working hard, being nice to people and the power of good chili sauce). Here’s what we’ve come up with – would be great to know what you think.

We believe…

  • The real world is better than the internet. Step away from your computer please. Getting out and trying new things is better than being sat at a desk all day.
  • All subjects are important. Learning is learning, and learning is good. Knowing how to rewire a plug is just as valuable as understanding inverse trigonometric functions.
  • Everyone has something to teach. Everyone, yes everyone, has something they can teach someone else.
  • Everyone has their own way of learning. It’s better to learn in the way you want to. You know what suits you best.
  • Learning is better with friends. People are brilliant, inspiring, generous and smart. Being with others makes it easier and enjoyable to learn more.
  • You should never stop learning. You can keep learning whatever your age, far beyond your school days.
  • Education shouldn’t be expensive. With a bit of ingenuity you can learn new things without spending lots of money.
  • Qualifications are overrated. A good education is about the things you learn along the way, not a fancy bit of paper.
  • All of these projects and initiatives are inspiring. I’d love to start some sort of venture based on these models here in Hobart.