I love to learn – don’t you?
Maybe I have a filtered view, but I believe most folks love to learn. And thanks to YouTube, domain expert sites like StackOverflow and community participation over social networks, how we learn has dramatically changed as the Internet moved mainstream. I see a striking difference from how I learned way back when to how my kids learn. My daughter is a surprisingly good make-up artist after watching and imitating way too many YouTube videos on how to do make-up. I’ve recently jumped into the deep end of learning how to develop iPhone and iPad applications. In the process, I devour site after site of “been there done that” or “I’m really good at this and want to share” programming lessons from iOS gurus. YouTube has been a unique experience. Several times I have been instructed through a video made by a kid whose voice hasn’t changed yet. My current favorite sites for iPhone/iPad development include:
Ray Wenderlich’s site
Along with the mobile app reviews of apps for kids by Common Sense Media, Moms With Apps is also a great site for kids iPad/iPhone educational applications.
Both my daughter and I anticipate and enjoy learning – whether they be make-up artistry in the case of my daughter or mobile interactive programming in my case.
Why does school have to be an Old Ball and Chain>
Unfortunately, my children’s engagement at school is similar to what mine was only with a 50 lbs. heavier backpack. Like I was, for the most part they are bored.
The challenge I faced when I was growing up was boredom and changing schools about every two years. Other than not moving – and in my children’s'- case very inappropriate dancing at a young age – not much has changed in school life. The key aspect of changing the behavior of learning from an act of boredom to one of anticipation has yet to be achieved. Of course, challenges bring opportunities.
Don’t worry – be optimistic
Yet – I am optimistic. One privilege I have had in the past years is getting a closer look at passionate people who come from all sorts of backgrounds figuring out how to best take the hairball of technology advances that are spread before us and turn them into aspects that will serve as a behavioral change in how our children learn.
One man’s vision to reinvent education
I found the recent Ted Talk by Salman Khan to be inspiring.
Stuff that got me excited included:
“You are HERE” map of acquired skills
Mr. Khan walks us through a view of data gathered from learners who used their content to determine what skill a learner is comfortable with and what skills a learner needs help. If we think of our kids as being CEOs of their education, these views are as important as balance sheets, Profit and Loss Statements and trend analyses are to a business.
Data driven results are nothing new of course. It was a cornerstone of NCLB (No Child Left Behind). What IS totally different is the business-like implementation. Through this kind of analysis, a community of learners and teachers can instantly assess where a child is excelling – and more importantly – where intervention will strengthen a learner’s skills.
Who better than an ex-hedge-fund manager – which Mr. Khan amusingly notes in the talk – to work out a meaningful implementation of a child’s learning data and its post analytical views into the data?
Approachable and Interesting Videos that Don’t Rat Hole
I went to Mr. Kahn’s site and was impressed with not only the volume of content available given the small amount of people working on it, but how the content was presented. I was struck with the “just the [approachable] facts” without rat holing into specific examples that have no real interest to the learner. I’ve had this happen in math. The teacher used baseball statistics as part of our exercises. The boys loved it. Us girls? well…sure there were a few…but there were far boys motivated by baseball stats than girls.
A behavioral change
What a great idea Mr. Kahn proposes in the TED Talk. Use the videos for homework and use class time for a faces-faces discussion of what was covered. This seems to be similar to how I am currently learning iPhone/iPad programming. I prowl Apple’s website for developers as well as any tutorials and videos. I then thrash around to find a conversation where I can bring up stuff I don’t know. Except in school there should be less thrashing since there is a teacher and classmates instead of strangers.
The platform Mr. Kahn has implemented includes a reward system that acknowledges the accomplishments of a learner. After all, it is far better to reward accomplishments than to label my kid as a “C student.” With that said, next post I’ll get into how we could improve on the reward system.
That’s NOT all…
Mr. Kahn’s platform of student progression and approachable content should definitely evolve and its efficacy tested. I’d adopt my games to fit in within their carefully placed content modules. I don’t see it as just a school platform, but rather a lifelong learning platform
Next post I’ll discuss aspects of that I feel are either missing or could be improved in all.
It is much easier to be optimistic knowing folks like Mr. Kahn are out there changing the behavior of how our children learn and providing a scalable platform so that great learning is not just available to a privileged few.