Where’s the Passion for Learning?

For this post I was initially going to discuss women’s rights issues in the United States, but my friend and classmate Meredith beat me to it. While I am definitely able to talk about another facet of this very important issue, I am going to refrain from bombarding this blog’s readers from too much feminist content (if that is even possible).

Instead I am going to share my love for learning. Yes, I realize that is a great cliché, but I am going to ask you to deal with it for the time being. Like my classmates, I love feeling the rush of curiosity, and oftentimes confusion, that comes from trying to learn something new. Thankfully, my parents have recognized that education is incredibly important and are fortunate enough to send me to a very nice private school where the teachers, like Mike Gwaltney, are passionate, supportive, and very smart. Unfortunately, not all students have the same educational opportunities that I have. The American education system is falling behind. Even though the U.S. ranks fifth in spending for each student, it only ranks 17th in developed world for education (The Atlantic). The U.S. system is deepening the achievement gap and failing its young citizens.

Though America’s failing education system is an important political and social topic, I don’t want to concentrate on the negative for this blog post. Instead, I want to share what I believe is, and will further become, a necessary tool in education: the Internet. Although fancy computers and high-speed Wi-Fi can be expensive and therefore unavailable to some, the amount of engaging educational content accessible for free these days is astonishing. The readers of this blog are obviously well aware of the many benefits incorporating social media and digital content into the classroom has on students, but I wanted to use this time and space to appreciate this modern phenomenon.

I’ve benefited greatly from the empire that Salman Khan has created through his non-profit organization Khan Academy, through simple videos about redox reactions and prehistoric art.

This summer I took a six-weeklong online course in Social Psychology through Wesleyan University for free through Coursera.org. It was fantastic. I was able to access famous psychological studies, documentaries, and TED talks as well as interact with thousands of students of many different backgrounds, from over the world, on my to path new to knowledge.

Even the enormous social media platform of YouTube has its own brand of educators. My favorite being the fraternal duo of Hank and John Green (the author of the ever so popular The Fault in Our Stars), who have created a collection of channels dedicated to education through witty and engaging videos. Their content ranges from scientific news and concepts, to literature, world history, healthcare policy, explanations for current issues, and even to sexual education.

I have named a minute fraction of the many free educational resources available on the Internet, but I wanted to share with this audience these fantastic resources that are dedicated to sharing knowledge in a fun and accessible way. I will be excited and optimistic about the future of education in the modern world, if our system can adapt to include some of the passion the founders of these resources have. This subject may not seem relevant to issues regarding Government, Politics, or Citizenship. However, I believe that the solution to any problem is through knowledge, and so I see these online resources as being crucial for governmental, political, and social change.

Mentioned Sources:

The Atlantic: American Schools vs. the World

Coursera

Khan Academy

VlogBrothers

 

 

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6 comments

  1. Hi Elizabeth,

    What a great article! Your love of learning shines through as does the thought you’ve obviously put into this.

    While I agree that the internet is a fabulous tool for facilitating learning and has the potential to make education accessible to a much broader audience, I am always left concerned that the cost of access means that many still remain shut out.

    I also thought it was great that you identified the role your parents have played in your education. Obviously they have sent you to a wonderful school, but even more importantly, they have encouraged and facilitated your learning. Does the internet overcome these important factors for those whose backgrounds may not encourage education?

    Is there a chance that the internet will just reinforce existing structures?

    Regards,
    Nicole Mansfield
    (History teacher, Sydney)

    Like

    • Hello Nicole,

      Thank you for commenting on my post. Your point has definitely encouraged some deeper thinking on my part.

      I absolutely think that due to cost there is an unfortunate divide between those who can and cannot access the internet. However, I think that the trend of advancing technology at lower costs, making it more accessible, will continue. To the point where everyone has access? Unfortunately not. But, as technology and social media expands in the future, I believe that if there is (hopefully) also an increase in fun and engaging educational content, more people will be reached.

      No matter how advanced technology and social media becomes, there will be impoverished people who will not reap the benefits. However, I see the Internet playing a key role in the lives of people who have access to it, but have not been encouraged to pursue and be passionate about their education.

      I don’t think the Internet can raise everyone up, in terms of education, but I think that it is definitely has the power to benefit and inspire a new demographic.

      Thank you again for your comment. Hope my response is helpful.

      Elizabeth

      Like

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful, well written post, Elizabeth.

    My question is, given the huge quantities of information online, and the ease with which users can be distracted, what can we do to verify that the information we find is true, and valid as a basis for any action we might take based on it?

    Like

    • Hello Bill,

      Thank you for your comment and I am sorry for my delayed response.

      Your question is definitely a difficult one and after mulling it over for a while I still do not have a clear opinion. However, it’s always a good idea to cross reference sources and properly cite information, but to me that seems like too obvious of an answer. I think that in the future of online education this question of validity will be incredibly important. I don’t think a sound solution would be to have some huge database or system to monitor the accuracy of educational content because a) that would be too much information to process and check and b) it could violate some freedom of speech rights.

      Thanks again for commenting, and I’m sorry that my response is not incredibly new or insightful. I welcome any further clarifying questions/comments, if you have them.

      Elizabeth

      Like

  3. I really enjoyed this post. You have great voice in this and I can really understand how you feel about education in America. I heard that the U.S. was 17th in education, but I didn’t know about the 5th place for spending.

    I agree that it is amazing how many useful sources there are on the internet. I myself have used Khan academy for chemistry and physics.

    Something that I have been wondering about is what about people who don’t have internet access? It seems like there will be an increasing gap between kids who can easily access the internet at home and those who can’t. Unfortunately there will be kids who will be left in the dust. But knowing the internet, someone will find a way to make it more accessible, hopefully soon in the future.

    Like

    • Hello Reed,

      Thank you for commenting!

      Like you, I also see that there is an unfortunately widening gap between those who have access to internet, and therefore an education, and those who do not.

      Like I said in my comment to Nicole Mansfield, I believe that the internet, and all of the new and engaging educational resources available, are raising up and inspiring those who have been in a kind of “middle ground”. These people may not have been given great opportunities through formal schooling, however the internet is now allowing and encouraging them to pursue an wonderful (and free) education on their own.

      Thanks again for your comment.
      Elizabeth

      Like

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