Jason Ogaard: Soaking up all sorts of knowledge via the Internet
Back in high school I didn’t care much for homework.
There were plenty of subjects that I had a hard time with. It wasn’t until college that I discovered I liked writing. The college I attended had you write at least one research paper for every class (unless it was a science like math). There were semesters that I ended up writing five or six research papers and several smaller papers. Since college I’ve found that I spend a lot of my free time just learning things. I read a lot of articles about anything and everything. For some reason I just like soaking up knowledge. The Internet has made learning much more accessible. However, an issue with learning on the Internet is that anyone can write anything they want. If someone is able to write with a voice of authority and conviction they could write complete fiction and it’ll come across as fact to anyone that isn’t well versed in the subject. That’s actually one of the issues with Wikipedia, the largest online learning resource. Wikipedia is a terrific (and free). But it can be edited by anyone. Usually any malicious edits to Wikipedia only last for a few minutes, though. Because of this Wikipedia can be a good source, but anything you choose to believe there should be backed up by a credible citation (anything on Wikipedia can be given a citation). No academic class will let you use Wikipedia as a source. You can still use Wikipedia though. Several citations on each article are likely going to be from a refereed journal. A refereed journal is a credible source. You can use Wikipedia to find articles that are credible in this way. Every year Wikipedia runs a campaign to ask for donations. Wikipedia is one of the most popular sites on the Internet and they have massive bandwidth costs. There are no advertisements on any Wikipedia pages so that outside entities will not have any undue influence. I would encourage you to donate, even a dollar, when you see that campaign running. Wikipedia is run entirely off of donations from people like you and me. Another great resource for online education is the Khan Academy. Salman Khan started tutoring his relatives over the Internet in 2004. By 2006 he decided it would be more efficient to just make videos and publish them so he opened the Khan Academy. The Khan Academy has more than 4,000 videos on several subjects (khanacademy.org). Most people respond well to the relaxed teaching style Khan uses. It’s become quite popular, the YouTube channel for Khan Academy has more than 200 million views. If you’re having trouble with any high school (and some college level) classes you should check out the videos Khan Academy offers. Several people have been helped by watching them. There’s even a section where you can ask a question that hasn’t been answered yet and community members will answer them for you. You can’t go asking a specific question from your text book and get an answer. You can ask a general question though and get an explanation that is different than the one your teacher would give you. It’s often a different perspective that helps people finally get that ‘a ha!’ moment. Khan Academy also offers preparation for tests like the SATs and GMAT. Khan Academy isn’t the only online teaching resource. MIT, Stanford, Yale, Harvard and several other universities offer free courses online. You won’t get college credit, but you will get college knowledge. One of the greatest accomplishments of the Internet is the dissemination of knowledge. Twenty years ago if I didn’t know something I would just have to be content to remain ignorant. Today there is so much knowledge that can be accessed for free there’s no reason for me to be ignorant of something. It’s usually just a Google search away. Knowledge is power, and right now knowledge is free. Get out there and learn. JASON OGAARD was born in Bemidji and is a software engineer for FICO, a Minneapolis-based public company providing analytics and decision-making services, including credit scoring credit bureaus.