Learning to Learn (And Never, Ever Talk About NPR)

Learning to Learn (And Never, Ever Talk About NPR)

When I began thinking of how to make my cannonball splash into the ocean of blogging, I knew I needed an edge. I need to be the young-gun on the scene, ripe with fresh ideas and a hip new outlook. I need to be fresh, to step on toes, and not to talk about NPR.

I know, as a rising college freshman, that I’m too young to listen to public radio. I swear I’m no Terry Gross devotee and I certainly maintain that pledge drives increase road rage by 70%. But, darn it, they have some interesting stories. They get me every time.

Recently, in a bored a car ride, when there really was nothing on the radio, I was forced – finger shaking from resentment – to turn to radio-preset number six. National Public Radio. I was rewarded with an unusually relevant story.

Robert Siegel and Michele Norris were on the topic of elearning, discussing the Khan Academy. Besides founding the nonprofit learning system with the mission of “providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere,Salman Khan helped me survive biology. His series of YouTube videos on everything from finding the slope of a line to higher level calculus teaches patiently and inexplicably exudes an aura of safety.

The All Things Considered story described a pilot program in Los Altos, California, that integrates the Khan Academy into the traditional school day. According to teacher Kami Thordarson, for half an hour every day the fifth grade students are put in front of the Khan Academy. And what do they learn? Whatever they want. The students get to explore whatever mathematical subjects they choose at their own pace.

The program went on about the effectiveness of this particular program, but my mind was elsewhere.

Are you more tech-savvy than a fifth grader?

While it’s great that the students are getting to learn what they want in an unstructured setting, I think the more important lesson is learning to learn from the Internet. In my opinion there’s a huge generational discrepancy around elearning. For example, the day I showed my mother how to use Yahoo answers and YouTube tutorials was a great day; no longer was I peppered with questions about how to crop in Microsoft Paint or make a hyperlink.

The thing is, she would have never thought to access those resources without me. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, I’m just saying that her whole concept of how to learn is so firmly rooted in the past that she would have consulted a teacher or reached for a textbook before Googling an answer.

While elearning continues to expand, becoming more prevalent in education and business I think there’s going to become an increasing need for a sort of meta-learning. We need to learn how to learn from technology. I say all of this thinking I’m pretty smart, pretty good with computers, but who knows? Maybe I’m too late in the elearning game, and when I’m old listening to NPR those fifth graders will be showing me how to use Yahoo answers 4.0.

Image Credit: Freeny at deviantART.