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Learning in the Cloud

December 14, 2010

Structured education will never go away (nor should it), but the current “Learning in the Cloud” will soon begin to snowball and be recognized by educational czars.

Learning in the Cloud (LC) has always existed; it just used to be harder.  Some people (like myself) are more interested in knowledge than grades. Structured education felt like a prison (praise God so many of my teachers understood this and let me go to the library or wherever).  LC is non-linear learning guided by the student’s interest.

Way back when, LC meant one of two things for me: holing up with a set of encyclopedias, reading an article and going to a different article that caught my interest, or going to the library and checking out a bunch of books on whatever had my attention at the time.  You also might tap other resources like historians or professionals in the field of interest.

Today, Wikipedia makes it so much easier.  For example, I’ve been experiencing a lot of pain in my neck and head which has me reaching for a bottle of pain killers–so many more options than when I was a kid and only had aspirin. Which got me wondering about how they discovered aspirin.  So off to Wikipedia for a search on Aspirin. From there, a link to the Spanish Flu Pandemic that killed 50 million people in 1918, and from there to other pandemics and then to natural disasters, and then to Chinese government (from the Great China Famine).  An hour later I was fairly knowledgeable about things that in structured education would have been in three or four classes, never at the same time.

The result of my own LC education was a 3.7 GPA instead of a 4.0, and the ability to challenge dozens of 100- and 200-level classes in college (meaning if you could pass the final before the class started, you didn’t have to take the class and you got the credit nonetheless).  This allowed me to get 3 BAs and 3 minors in 4 years (that and being able to take a ton of credits per quarter without paying extra).

Obviously, there are drawbacks.  An individual can become a gifted engineer through LC, but requires a structured education to get the degree.  Also, large holes can crop up in an LC education (though large holes exist in any education).  Still, I recall a grade-school classmate that got terrible grades but could literally tear down and rebuild an engine by himself.  No idea if Jeff graduated or not, but his LC path gave him a trade while his education just made him feel stupid.

Learning in the Cloud:  If you don’t already have the practice, spend a half-hour to an hour every day in Wikipedia being guided by nothing but your interest.  See how it impacts your life (you may become as annoying as I am).

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