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I take a great amount of interest in people who devote themselves to the cause of educating others -- especially the underprivileged who lack the resources and opportunity to educate themselves or their children. And that may be because I’ve been lucky enough to receive a fantastic education despite many odds myself. It’s almost amazing that I have two Master’s degrees, one of them from NYU -- something I had never dreamed possible.
I’m a fan of people like Greg Mortenson, who’s devoted himself to educating children in Afghanistan and Pakistan and also Dr. Abraham George who started Shanti Bhavan that educates children from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. And of course, there are countless others who are working for this cause and whom I may have never heard of.
This week, I checked out Salman Khan’s TED talk on the use of video to reinvent education. I had heard of the Khan Academy a few months ago when I saw a tweet by Bill Gates, who is a big champion of the organization and who has called it “a glimpse into the future of education.” It’s a simple but powerful idea -- Salman Khan has produced nearly 2,100 videos and other test prep exercises that cover a range of subjects including math, science, finance and history -- all accessible over YouTube or the Khan Academy website for free.
All created by ‘Sal’ Khan himself, the videos are not only being used by home-schoolers but also as a supplemental teaching aid in classrooms. Of course, you would still need access to a computer and an Internet connection but I’m sure this has great potential to make a good education available to people who can’t afford it or even to those who need help with what they are learning inside the classroom. The videos offer a great library of resources for kids and allow them to learn at their own pace, replay something they didn’t understand or revisit concepts they had learned earlier.
Learning about the Khan Academy got me thinking about the potential social media holds for the cause of education – in making it accessible to many more people. On some level, we are, of course, already tapping into this potential. As a communications professional, I use Twitter to follow many peers and experts in my field and I continuously learn from them – from the blog posts and other information they share. It’s a way for me to keep myself on my toes and stay updated on latest trends in the field. I also ‘like’ Facebook pages of other media companies or communication-related news and that’s another way for me to continue my professional education.
But I’m sure that we are just getting started and by combining the power of social media tools along with a passion and commitment for helping to educate others will help us give many kids the opportunities they deserve. In the past, I briefly worked as a volunteer and teacher for a few non-profit organizations that worked to educate street children and other economically disadvantaged kids though I haven't been able to pursue that as much lately. I’m writing this post as a reminder to others, but mostly to myself, to work more for this cause.
I’m no expert but I wholeheartedly agree with Greg Mortenson that education is really the solution to many of the world’s problems (including terrorism) – it’s the only way we can help others break the cycle of poverty and give them the hope of a better life.
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