By Samina Saifee, Grade 8
Our lives are highly inundated with technology and it has becoming increasingly hard to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. A person can spend all of their precious time on social media gossip, but if you think there is more to life than posting photographs and gossip online, then letâ€™s talk about how to use the technology to learn new things or enhance our learning.
What Iâ€™m referring to are online learning sites that are available for free to anyone who has an Internet connection. Letâ€™s start with a pioneering site in this field, which was interestingly started by a Muslim, name Salman Khan (not the Bollywood hero). The site he created is Khanacademy.org. It carries over 4,000 videos from everyday school topics, such as math, science, world history economics etc. to college math prep videos. All you is need a Gmail or Facebook account, and you can be on your way. I have used it to learn and clarify several math concepts. Sometimes I watch his video before the teacher teaches the concept in school and I find myself knowing more than anybody in my class and I end up have a lot deeper understanding of the topic than my classmates. My younger brother had trouble with percentages and all it took was a few 4-5 minute videos to get the concept through to him. Khanâ€™s videos are natural and start with the basics, working through each individual step. He not only has topics that you would find in elementary school, middle school, high school, or college. Also there are topics which even adult would find interest in. These topics range from life existing on other planets all the way to English royalty. My dad found interest in his videos on the 2008 stock market crash.
Another site for college courses (though nobody stops you from taking the courses here even if you are in middle/high school) is Coursera.org is a site that offers hundreds of free college courses, ranging from cryptography to logic. These courses are offered by professors from many prestigious universities, including U of M, Stanford, Duke, John Hopkins, and Princeton University. They arenâ€™t just a set of videos, they also include quizzes, tests, and a final exam all of which are taken online and graded there as well. There are certain deadlines for assignments that you must meet in order to successfully complete the course. From experience, I can say that anyone can benefit from these courses. My dad, although an engineer by profession, took a course on philosophy (â€œKnow Thyselfâ€ offered by the University of Virginia) that he found really eye opening and interesting. Iâ€™ve tried out a few of the courses myself, and although they require some effort, they can be entertaining all the while. A few other sites that offer free courses are Udacity.com and Edx.org.
Thereâ€™s no excuse for not being able to learn because you arenâ€™t in school. In fact, Mark Twain said, â€œI have never let schooling interfere with my education.â€ School is only a supplement to our education. Summer is coming up, and all of us are going to have plenty of free time. We all tend to get bored when we have nothing to do, but as long as you have available internet connection, the world of learning is at your doorstep. Happy summer learning!