Sunday, January 17, 2016

Weekly Inspiration 1/17: Online Learning Communities

Whew - a very busy week, with my son's 18 birthday, which made for one very hectic day and then needing time to recover! I have several blog posts planned, and I hope to have the time/energy to write some of them this coming week.

In the meantime, I wanted to share this fun, entertaining, and interesting TED Talk with you. A parent in our online Parents' group shared it, as inspiration for our sick kids who can't attend school, but I think it will be of interest to all of us with chronic illness (and anyone who is healthy, too, for that matter).

The speaker is renowned YA author John Green, who wrote such best-sellers as The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska (link is to my review) and whose books are being adapted into great movies, which is making him even more of a celebrity (I love when authors become celebrities).

In this TED talk, Green is talking about how he missed the interactive learning environment in school once he graduated and became an "adult." He says that this hole has now been filled with interactive learning communities online, and he provides several examples of hugely popular video series on YouTube (including his own, called Crash Course) that are educational, entertaining, and encourage their viewers to learn and discuss the content together. Many of these educational series - on physics, higher math, history, and more - have millions of viewers. It's all pretty fascinating. I'd heard about online classes and college courses you can participate in online, but this was new to me.

Here's Green's talk - and if you've read his books, you know to expect a good sense of humor:

While this is very, very useful for young people who are too sick to attend school (I wish I'd known about some of these more fun video series when my own son was struggling to get through high school from the couch), they are also a great source of education and entertainment for adults. Did you have to leave school early due to illness? Would you love to take classes at a local college but can't manage it? Or do you, like John Green, simply miss the intellectual stimulation of learning and discussing things together with other people? In any case, check out John's talk and some of his suggestions on YouTube, which are especially wonderful for those who are housebound and missing out on social interaction.

Here are some of John's examples of educational (and entertaining) video series available on YouTube:
  • Smarter Everyday, featuring Destin Sandlin
  • Crash Course, John Green's own educational video series produced with his brother (they also produce the very popular & entertaining video series NerdFighters aka Vlog Brothers)
  • Minute Physics - quick explanations of everyday physics examples
  • Doodling in Math Class - short, fun explanations of complex mathematical concepts in simple terms, through notebook doodles

How about you? Do you have some favorite websites or video series online for learning?


  1. I recently discovered online classes as well. It's so nice to have something interesting and enlightening that you can do in your occasional good hours and without leaving the house. The two I've tried so far were an "online book club" through EdX and a more traditional college-level course through Coursera. Mixed reviews, but both companies were professional and made course access easy -- it's just a matter of trying a few different courses to find the class style and community discussion that works best for you.

    1. Thanks for the tips, Tara! I have been wanting to try some of those online courses for ages and haven;t gotten around to it - maybe this year finally! I appreciate the two sites you mentioned - I will definitely check them out.