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Published September 05, 2012, 11:36 PM

Positively Beautiful: Opportunities for learning never-ending

The Labor Day holiday signals the end of summer and that we really are back to school. Being around kids makes you marvel at how their minds work and how they learn.

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, Areavoices.com, INFORUM

The Labor Day holiday signals the end of summer and that we really are back to school. Being around kids makes you marvel at how their minds work and how they learn.

My almost 5-year-old son Grant uses the words “actually” and “amazing” in addition to “disgusting” and “frustrating” on a regular basis. His latest questions were about the meaning of “philosophy” and “ominous.” I will need to keep the thesaurus close by as he grows up.

My sister Shelley and I used to get in trouble for reading. We would read in the twilight at Grandma Agnes’ house.

“You’ll ruin your eyes,” she said.

We got scolded while shuttling around in the car between Southern California sites (Disney and whales!) during a grade school visit to Grandma and Grandpa Mathison’s.

“Enjoy the scenery. There are no palm trees in North Dakota!” they stated, emphatically.

I was plotting a way to smuggle a book into Sunday Mass, but the hymnals were a bit too thin for good camouflage, and my mom would have gone through the roof. If only I had a Kindle back then!

The Internet adds another mode of learning. With the availability of multimedia through the Web, it makes me wonder about all that is possible with stimulation of multiple learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

Shelley passed along to me a very cool site: www.khanacademy.org, started by Salman Khan, a young man from New Orleans. He studied math and eventually worked for an investment bank in Boston.

In 2004, he began remotely tutoring his 12-year-old cousin, Nadia, and her younger brothers, Arman and Ali, using the phone and Yahoo Doodle as a shared notepad. Word spread though family and friends, and it became difficult to schedule around his full-time work, soccer practice and differing time zones. He started to make YouTube videos for them to watch in their own time, at their own pace. These were publicly available, and it didn’t take long to see that other students (including adult learners) were hungry for videos like these, so he kept going.

Khan’s site now has 2,400 videos, with wide-ranging topics from simple math to finance, organic chemistry to an analysis of the economics of the government bailout. He has problems and questions for students to track and assess their knowledge and progress.

His young cousins preferred the digital method of learning to chatting on the phone with him. Bill Gates calls his method the educational model for the future. Check out his site, and if you have a few minutes, watch the lecture he delivered at TED.

TED (which stands for technology, entertainment and design) is an annual conference that presents brilliant people with amazing ideas, in a casual, no-ties-allowed setting. The stage is shared by celebrities, authors, artists, chefs and CEOs presenting ideas on how they are and will make the world a better place.

Some of you might be aware that there is also a local conference highlighting interesting people from our region called TEDxFargo. There are more than 1,000 lectures available to watch for free on www.TED.com, and more on YouTube from the numerous TEDx events held all over the world.

Some of my highlights: Jamie Oliver (Naked Chef, Food Revolution), Emily Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love” author) and Brene Brown (author, her lecture is on vulnerability.)

They’ve also recently launched TED-Ed.com that blends some features of the Khan Academy with the TED platform. There is a related site www.TEDMED.com, with a more limited but still wonderful selection. I’ve attended TEDMED in person, and look forward to hosting a livecast this coming spring with Dakota Medical Foundation.

I am also a big fan of my “University on Wheels” and listen to audio books whenever I am alone in my car. Many are available on Amazon, of course. You can also check out www.audible.com, and I have found great deals (up to 90 percent off) on www.azulio.com.

What inspires you to keep learning and growing?

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at shesays@forumcomm.com.

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