We’re witnessing the beginning of a movement that is changing education. Because all the other options are lame (e.g. Education 3.0), I propose to call it the Learn it Yourself movement. No, that’s not very accurate – this movement isn’t about learning in isolation – but it’s catchy. And it draws attention to the fact that if you want to learn, the direction and pace of education is firmly in your hands.
In the beginning, there was O’Reilly. They started out publishing Unix manuals, and then recognized the immense potential in “sharing the knowledge of innovators” by producing books and conferences that helped people use, understand, and master the technologies at the heart of what became (with O’Reilly’s participation) the Open Source movement. It was totally revolutionary to be able to pick up a few books on Linux, Perl, and Apache and – with a few weeks and a lot of caffeine – be well on your way to building working software.
Now an amazing thing is happening, as the “open” in Open Source is rapidly finding its way into education at large. And it will change everything. Here are just a couple early examples of this trend.
Free like beer. The brainchild of one man. About 2,600 video lessons (and counting). Infinite exercises. Subjects ranging from Algebra to Art History to Banking. And if the scope and quality doesn’t blow your mind, check out the tools Khan Academy is making available to mentors, parents, and teachers so they can keep track of what a student is learning, what they’re having trouble with, and how they’re progressing over time. What’s more, the way Khan Academy rewards positive learning behavior through badges and points focuses on the value of the process as well as the result.
As they continue to add subjects, lessons, exercises, and tools, I’m convinced that Khan Academy will do nothing less than change the way society thinks about education. In my view, their model is built on three principles that other educational initiatives (and institutions) will ignore at their own peril:
(1) open access to expertise
(2) feedback that’s fundamentally about encouraging & rewarding progress, and
(3) the ability to learn what you want, when you want.
A more radical departure from the way subjects were taught in 20th century can hardly be imagined. (As Singularity Hub pronounced almost a year ago, “Yes, The Khan Academy IS the Future of Education”)
Two elements of Codecademy’s approach are particularly exciting. First, the curriculum will be crowdsourced, allowing experts to create and share lessons the way developers already write and share code online. Second, Codeacademy understands that they’re building a community around learning, and that to empower that community they need to make it easy for its members to connect, communicate, and share with one another. I realize it’s too early for this sort of comparison, but I can’t help but think that if they execute on their vision Codecademy could grow into something like a GitHub for learning programming. Which is very f*%$@&! exciting.