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Go Learn Something

Education is a fundamental ingredient in individual, organizational and societal success.  In a world fueled by global competition, technological innovation, and high speed communication, education matters now more than ever.  Recently I discovered something called The Khan Academy, an amazing online resource for education. The site is free and features instructional videos and interactive exercises on topics ranging from basic mathematics to Thermodynamics.  The videos are led by Salman Khan, who in 2006 was tutoring his family and decided he needed a better way to scale up his lessons.  So he started creating videos and then thought it would be worthwhile to share them with the world.  These videos have grown into what is now a comprehensive library of educational materials and interactive exercises.

The platform he created is so impressive to me.  It allows for students to log-in and perform exercises, earn points, and gain instruction when needed.  This simple platform makes education both more accessible and more enjoyable.  For teachers and parents, it has the potential to provide a real time dashboard of what a child is learning, how much time and effort they are putting into education, and when and where help is needed.  I am fascinated by the potential this tool has to help educate human beings.  The instructional videos can enable parents, teachers, and students to work together toward the goal of education – getting everyone more actively involved in the process.

With all of our recent emphasis on standardized tests and our obsession with measuring outcomes, this brilliant platform makes it possible to measure the activity that drives the outcomes.  It is not enough to simply say “we have to make teachers more accountable based on test scores.”  That logic is flawed in so many ways – mostly because it ignores the need for students and parents to take ownership and puts all blame on teachers.  Teachers are overburdened, underpaid, and under appreciated.  Yes, outcomes matter, but they are the result of a system.  This platform can give us better insight into the educational system of each and every student, each and every day.  Where are individual kids struggling?  How much time are they spending on a subject both in and out of the classroom?  What help do they need to learn more?  How do we keep them from getting stuck, falling behind, and losing hope?  The ability to gather data on the day to day process of education allows us to truly focus on where attention is needed.  What a great resource for teachers to be able to use in the classroom.

Another exciting aspect of this platform is that it empowers parents to learn or relearn material along with their children and to be more involved.  This profoundly changes summer vacation.  With a tool like this, parents can help kids to continue learning all year round – even if just an hour a day during June, July and August.  Just keeping kids from forgetting what they learned the year before could radically improve their performance come September when they return to school.

Personally, I am interested in learning more about so many of the topics on the site.  Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics.  Moving forward I plan to spend considerable time exploring the material on the site and expanding my own intellectual capacity.

It is amazing to imagine the potential this platform, and others like it have to spread education around the globe.  The world is getting smarter before our eyes.  We live at the most amazing time in human history.  Like never before the human race has access to knowledge, the capacity to learn, and the ability to change the world.  May we have the wisdom to use it all wisely.

I encourage you to go check out the site along with other emerging sources of education that are available for free on the web.  Go learn something.