How to get smarter for free

I pay attention when things happen in threes. I believe it’s meant for me to learn about what is showing up. So when I heard about Kahn Academy in my August “Costco Connection,” then in “USA Weekend,” (Aug. 23, 2013”) and then on Facebook, I decided to explore it.

What I found impressed me so much that I couldn’t wait to share it here! Khan Academy offers over 4,120 tutorial You Tube videos on math subjects from very basic math through vector calculus, as well as art history, science, world history and computer code. The videos are approximately 10 minutes long.

 The website is Click “What’s Khan Academy all About” There is a 20-minute video about Khan Academy, and its founder, Salman Khan. Bill Gates introduces him, and is a major academy contributor along with Google. Sal Khan makes most of the videos.

He started by making math videos for his cousins in 2004. He put the videos on You Tube, and was soon getting comments from all over. You may want to read some of them at the website. They liked that:

• You can think of them as your private tutoring classes. No one but you knows what you know and don’t know. No classroom embarrassment!

• You can pause the video and replay it to get it down.

• No one is asking “Do you understand?” or handling bad behavior and interrupting your train of thought.

• You get to see your progress on the charts. (You get merit awards too).

• I was failing math. My parents had paid for my school, and I felt like I let them down. Then I discovered Khan Academy, and now math is one of my best subjects.

• I’m in charge of what I learn. I’m learning more about different subjects because it’s fun. I am going ahead of my class.

• Khan helped break things down step by step.

 Sal Khan states that we all have holes in our learning. We may know most of a math area, but not all of it. Rather than repeat a whole term, students can start self-tutoring with these videos, and patch the holes. Also, “Americans score well below their European and Asian peers in reading and math. The U.S. ranks 24th out of 34 nations in mathematics fluency, according to the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment. Almost one-quarter of young Americans do not finish high school.” (Costco article)

If you decide to use it for learning, click “Learn.” You can use either a Google account or a Facebook account. When you get in, you’ll be directed to take a math assessment. Now an assessment is a fancy word for a test. It means that they find out what you know, and what you don’t know. Your individualized learning program will be based on what you knew or didn’t know on the assessment.

Teachers began commenting that there has been great success in “flipping” the way that they plan classes. The students are now learning the Khan You Tube lessons at home. Then they have practice in class, with the teacher present to help them understand better.

Six million different viewers go to the academy each month. It’s being translated into different languages, and there are students in Africa, Peru, and anywhere else people can connect to the web. Home schoolers, and no schoolers are using it too. There is actually a new name for these massive open online courses. They are called MOOCs.

In 2012 after seeing the success of Khan University, another MOOC was created. It is named Udacity. ( Initially founded by Sebastian Thrun, a research professor, at Stanford  and a Google fellow, he was joined by Stanford Colleague Peter Norvig. (August Costco Connection)

I went to the Udacity website. They state, “Our mission is to bring accessible, affordable, engaging effective higher education to the world. We believe that higher education is a basic human right, and we seek to empower our students to advance their education and careers.”

They offer classes taught by college professors and also very successful business people. You proceed at your own pace. When you are finished, you can pay for an exam administered by a testing company. When you pass the test, you get a credential to present to future employers. They are experimenting with San Jose State University to offer courses for $150 that can be applied to other universities. My daughter spent that on books for one class, and my sister spent that for one book, at their online colleges.

A course catalog is on the website. Some of the classes are:

• Introduction to Computer Science-building a search engine

• The Design of Everyday Things

• Introduction to Physics

• Statistics

• College Algebra

• Intro to Programming in Java

• Intro to Psychology

• Differential Equations in Action

• Web Development

For those of you who have to work, and think you can’t go to school, check it out. Many people in this world believe in you, and are doing something for you. Have fun exploring your world and your mind. Create the life you want to live.

• Hale `Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues.   Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at


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