By Karen Anderson
Got a few minutes? Want to see a really cool thing? Take a look at this video by Forbes magazine on how the Kahn Academy is increasing access to education (and self-paced education for maximal absorption of foundational principles at that) for the citizens of our globe. http://landing.newinc.com/forbes/video.html?freewheel=91218&sitesection=forbes&VID=23866091
I love it when someone comes along with a fresh take on a paradigm. Doesn’t it feel like we’ve been locked into our views on education for decades, centuries or even millenia? Original thought on an accepted mode of practice is what is commonly called thinking outside the box. But how many of us have the gestalt on a subject, the mastery, the grasp and overall perspective to rise above it and do such a thing?
Think of how revolutionary fire and the wheel must have been for our ancestors. Imagine how these new ways of looking at objects changed our ability to not only survive but instead thrive. As a food lover and cook, I’m glad I lived to see transparent Tupperware for goodness sake. My point is, that once that one brilliant person makes a “revolutionary” change, the rest of us wonder why did someone not think of it earlier and how have we gotten this far without it? Okay, maybe the see-through food storage systems is not exactly up to par with the wheel and educational access for all but it makes me very happy everyday all the same.
While technology is often made out to be the villain of our societal woes, I believe we are on the verge of seeing its benefits to humanity demonstrated exponentially. In my former career as a nurse I saw examples daily – from things we take for granted like a blood transfusion, to the delicacy of inserting stents in arteries, to a far out idea I heard about at www.TEDxyyc.com this year – micro-chipped embedded foot pads for diabetics – they connect to the spine so a person with diabetic neuropathy (loss of feeling) can experience the sensations in their feet they would have otherwise lost – by the brilliant medical inventor Dr. Breanne Everett of www.orpyx.com
I love it when someone harnesses the power of technology for the good of all. Tim Berners-Lee inventing the world-wide web springs to mind as the single technological advancement that has had the most profound effect in my life time.
Berners-Lee is one of my greatest heroes because he believed (and still believes) his invention needed to be free and that sharing it was its purpose. He has never made a cent from inventing the world-wide web and he continually thinks of more applications that will help us even more. Have a look at this video and see how excited he gets about data sharing.The world-wide web has provided the platform for so many great ideas to be shared. I’ve always believed that’s what’s most exciting about education.
And now, it appears Sal Kahn of http://www.khanacademy.org/about is giving education’s entrenched system of delivery a global sized nudge off its inflexible ivory tower. Fortunately, he’s using the intricate, ever increasing threads of the world-wide web to catch it and reinvent it softly and securely. The web may be the ultimate model of decentralized education delivery if we can get the web to all. Kahn, this one teacher, as of today, has delivered 204,788,486 lessons in about a two-year time span. Kahn’s model has many strengths but one of my favourite aspects is that a student does not move on until they have grasped the foundation principles they need to progress. They are not just getting by they are “getting IT!!!!”. The light being spread by those tiny bulb’s going off over millions of students heads has got to be fantastic for the world.
But, there are many people still in the dark. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “low education levels are linked with poor health, more stress and lower self-confidence”. Both UNESCO and the WHO now focus many of their education initiatives on educating women because this strategy has been shown to have the most positive impact on eliminating poverty and achieving the other determinants of health.
Another brilliant education delivery system is called Barefoot College by Bunker Roy. You can watch this TED video to learn about itThis is another great example of shaking off the usual modes of practice to achieve education. If you watched that TED video you’ll have seen the light of education spread very literally via the solar panel technology. You’ll have seen the power that the beam of light achieved because it was directed at women.
I am very grateful for the education I have. It has taught me to question, to research, to synthesize, to gain perspective and mostly to savour the tremendous gift that my life is. I’m taking a group of women to India soon for a lovely food and culture tour. I know my group will see all of life in India, not only the beauty we are so privileged to be seeking but also the most base aspects. India is an example of a society being reborn and poised to break out of cultural paradigm’s its held for centuries. Education and independence have given its citizens a chance to redefine its identity and with it, its caste structure. I hope for my group to glimpse the transformative power of education on our journey so I have arranged a visit to a women’s empowerment unit in Kerala www.kudumbashree.org The goal of the empowerment unit is to achieve prosperity (shree) for family (kudumbam) via education and skills acquisition. The units which are spread throughout India are another great example of a decentralized enlightened accessible model of education delivery that’s making a difference.
I suspect that those of us who already have so much will be taught much about savouring education, skills and life by those who have so little. I have said I hope for my group to get a glimpse of education. I did not necessarily say who will be educated by whom. We share one global classroom. The lessons we learn are individual but access to the gift of education is one of the keys to everyone’s chance to savour their life.