Alternative Education: Teaching Old Tricks to New Dogs

Personalized-LearningSoon, I’ll be devoting an entire page–even an entire Category–on this site to the subject of “alternative learning”.

Stay tuned!

What do I mean by alternative learning?

Well, for starters, I don’t mean just “non-mainstream pedagogical approaches” in general.

I’m talking about home-based education and online education in particular.  Both of these are the wave of the future.  They are also the rising tide of the present.  And both have their share of zealous supporters and bellicose detractors.

Both of these “unconventional” ways of learning — home schooling and online schooling — are different from each other in one important aspect: one is very old, the other is very new.

But, they are coming together in the Digital Age of the Internet and personal computers and content-delivery “devices” to forge an unstoppable educational alliance that is proving that old adage, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

You put these two parts together — these two seemingly disparate “pedagogical approaches” — and BAM.  It’s “Katie, bar the door!” Also, it’s “Katie, turn on the WiFi!”

Think about it.  In two short decades — from 1990 until 2012 — we went from the invention of the web browser by Tim Berners Lee to the launching of an online academic juggernaut called Coursera by two Stanford University computer science professors, where almost anybody anywhere can enroll and take college-level courses and degree programs without ever leaving home.  And it’s cheap.

Very quickly, in less than a generation, online education has “grown up”.  But its growth spurt is just getting started.

That’s on the institutional side of things.

On the home front, a more home-spun approach has prevailed: Khan Academy.

The MATH of Khan

Salman Khan started doing YouTube screencast videos in 2006, after he had started doing online videos in 2003 or 2004 to help his young cousin Nadia with her Algebra.  To say that his approach “caught on” would be like saying Gutenberg’s printing press “caught on.”  It has been more like a seismic shift in “pedagogical approaches”.  No turning back now.

Now Khan is helping tens of millions of students all over the world, thanks to Bill Gates and Google and other VERY BIG donors contributing to the development and global success of his now-gargantuan-sized Khan Academy.

Keep in mind, Sal Khan has no degree in education.  He is a Harvard MBA, with a BS and MS from M.I.T. in electrical engineering, computer science and mathematics.  So we know he’s SMART!  But we also know he’s shrewd because all he did was make use of some free and cheap digital technology that was readily available to anyone (like Yahoo Messenger Doodle and Microsoft Paint) to begin harnessing the power of the World Wide Web, at first in a very small way, but then, ultimately, to turn the academic world upside-down (or more accurately, inside-out) and usher in a “new age” of online education.

Now What

I’ve always been a contrarian when it comes to education.  At least since my college days.  I got as far as an Associates Degree and a couple of specialized certificates (Bible and Paralegal Studies–so I have studied both law and grace!).  Once I realized what a waste of time and money college was for me, I cut my losses and quit going.  Not that I found a different road to riches, but at least I got off the primrose path to massive student debt and further ideological indoctrination disguised as education (but I digress).

These days, my involvement with education involves being both course provider and cheerleader for online home-based learning.  Specifically, kindergarten through high school: K-12.  I developed some full-year math courses for grades 1 through 4 for a paid curriculum which was launched in 2013 and expanded in 2015, and also some free videos for a website I started which is dedicated to a certain old-fashioned but well-loved math instruction program.

So, what that means is, you’re going to hear me talk a lot, or at least mention on a regular basis, the benefits of private (meaning privately funded) online education to address the ills of our public (meaning publicly funded) system of learning.

This includes “higher” education as well as, uh, “lower” (pre-K through 12).

In my mind, the combining of this world-encompassing, game-changing digital technology that we now have — which is getting cheaper by the nanosecond — with the incredibly cheap and traditional “bricks-and-mortar” option that we’ve always had — your home — and what you end up with is something that is revolutionizing everything from the workplace to the marketplace to your place!

And that means, whenever I get the chance, I will bring news of these developments, updates and “breakthroughs” as they relate to contributing to one’s business and personal success, to your attention.

Old analog dogs will have no choice but to learn new digital tricks!

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