Social Learning Made Easy with Sophia

Sophia Flips the Classroom with New Social Education Platform

Are there topics that you want your kids to learn that haven’t yet been (or aren’t) covered in their school’s curriculum?  Are you a teacher looking for online information to supplement your student’s textbook or classroom notes, or a place to share your own curriculum?  Are you a homeschool or unschool learning facilitator wishing you had a map of topics in multiple disciplines? Sophia, an online learning resource, offers validated crowdsourced educational material that supports all these needs, and much more!

The site (www.sophia.org) offers a wealth of information – presented in a way that is social and conducive to learning – and is divided up into categories based on discipline, then broken down by specific topics and grade level appropriateness.   You can find anything from a unit on molecular structure for 10th-12th graders to a tutorial on the preterite and imperfect tenses of the Portuguese language!

Each topic section is also divided into units (arranged in a logical order) that, if followed closely, can lead a learner to a much deeper understanding of a topic.  The site isn’t, however, just another online textbook-style resource.  Within each topic are a variety of ways to learn, and users are able to choose which structure best fits their goals and/or learning style.  Within the website’s solid structure is a surprising amount of freedom!  Users can simply read up on a topic, or dig deeper by taking quizzes, playing games, create their own flashcards, etc.  The site is a great resource for parents, teachers, and students – especially as a supplement to other learning materials!  Check out this video to learn more:

Flipping the Classroom: Western MA Teacher Offers Support Through Online Videos

Education Reform, One Video at a Time

Hollington Lee of Hatfield, MA writes:

You never know what crazy thing listening to someone else’s ideas will inspire. In my case, as a public high school teacher, it inspired me to produce close to 60 short videos (yes, 60!) of MCAS math practice questions for 3rd and 4th graders.

A fellow teacher and friend asked me what could have possessed me, a science teacher, to do this. The short answer is not what but who. Salman Khan, founder of the nonprofit online Khan Academy “school” inspired me. It all started with his presentation on TED.com.

If you’re not a subscriber to TED.com’s weekly email newsletter, you should be. TED.com is a site that features video presentations – mostly less than 20 minutes long – from original thinkers around the world on subjects ranging from education, nutrition, science and technology to music, poetry, art and social activism. It’s a place to expand your thinking about… well, everything.

I received my weekly email from TED announcing newly posted presentations, and one talk by a guy named Salman Khan was entitled: “Let’s use video to reinvent education.” As a 14-year science teacher who’s been thinking a lot lately about how I teach – and whether it’s really the best way to reach my students – I was intrigued.

I watched the video, then I went to khanacademy.org and all I could say was WOW! Here’s his story in brief: After earning degrees from MIT and Harvard, Sal was working as a hedge fund manager. He began tutoring his cousins in math, first in person and then long distance. To make his efforts easier, he ended up putting his lessons on YouTube, after which he received two surprises. The first was that his cousins preferred interacting with the YouTube version of him because they could stop him, replay or fast-forward him, without Sal looking over their shoulders to ask if they “got it.” The second surprise was that other people around the world were finding his lessons and sending him thank you notes.

Khan Academy is truly impressive – the scope of lessons, the exercise and progress tracking software (for math), and the fact that it’s all FREE! At this point you should watch the talk. It’s just 20 minutes long and I think you’ll see what the excitement is all about:

The whole thing really made sense to me. His delivery, his method, his vision. I came away from his lecture inspired – to the point of action. Here was something I could do to make my teaching not just different, but BETTER and my students’ understanding GREATER.

I wanted to change the teaching in my Biology and Human Anatomy classes to a more Khan-style approach and use Khan-style videos (he calls it “flipping the classroom” and it’s a subject in itself). What I needed to start with, though, as a practice, was something more concrete, with specific correct answers, and a finite set of questions… Read the rest of this entry »

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