Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Power of Technology in Education Today

The world is filled with stories of terror, war and stupidity of mankind, yet there never has been a better time to be alive from the perspective of freely available knowledge and easy access to it.teacher_old

While researching the lives of several of my second and third great grandparents, I noted a common theme in their lives and the lives of their families.  A higher level education would have dramatically improved the living conditions of themselves and their families.  The records surrounding their lives shows neighbors who had received more education than the majority of the public and their homes and annual income reflected that fact.   That some of them added the title Dr. to their names did not mean that they attended advanced medical schools like we require today to acquire such monikers but it did indicate that they’d had some training in the fields said that they represented.   However, many of the neighbors were leaders in finance and some were doctors in well-known hospitals in large cities which indicates that they did indeed have specialized higher educational degrees.

My ancestors who really had to struggle to feed and house their families had little free time to attend any additional schooling and even if they had the time, they wouldn’t have had the money to pay for it nor the contiguous blocks of time required to travel to the location of the schools that offered the education they wanted.

Today, we see educational opportunities online everywhere.  College or specialized training courses are readily available online with just a few clicks of the mouse.  The courses are offered by entities ranging from the most prodigious colleges on the planet to small applied skills training companies.   A surprisingly large number of the courses are free if you don’t want to attached educational credits to the course.  I’ve taken many of the courses myself and never cease to be amazed at the knowledge I gain from them with little effort on my part other than sitting down and going to the lessons online.  Gaining education this way is certainly different than it was when I was in college early in my life.  I don’t have to stand in the long lines to get a card that will allow me to register for a class.  I don’t have to wait for my turn to be early in the process based on the first letter of my surname and where it is in rotation to the first of the list this year.   I don’t have to miss courses because the prerequisite class is filled because my surname letter had rotated to the end this year and all of the available seats were already taken.

Our children and grandchildren face a litany of problems that didn’t exist when we were their age but gaining an education, if they want it, isn’t one of them beyond the normal financial and available time considerations.

Like many of you, I sit in on free genealogy webinars that are sponsored or presented by FamilySearch, Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic and other companies that give me both new skills that I need to be a better researcher as well as new research ideas, methods and knowledge of venues of which I was totally unaware and probably wouldn’t have found left to my own devices.

Like some of you, I take specialized courses online of a technical nature that give me the tools and skills needed to write some programming code, tweak software skins and write little apps of my own that fit my particular needs on my handheld devices.  Many of these courses are free.  Folks who have mastered the skills in the lessons, happily present them for the consumption of folks who have similar interests in an almost pay-it-forward environment of sharing.

Today, many workers take short specialized training courses online to sharpen their job skills either in their current position or for a position they hope to secure.   Their bachelors and masters degrees often act as the requisite key that allows them open the job seeking door.  The specialized courses give them the code to the last tumbler in the lock to open the slot that will accept their application in that refined environment of qualified and highly skilled applicants.

Business Insider magazine recently published a list of what they consider to be the best 37 websites for learning new skills.  If you are reading this post, you’ll find one or more of these sites to have the exact training courses that you’d hoped to find one day.  We all wish we knew how to do something using skills that we don’t current posses.  If that skill requires reading, writing and using your mind, the training course you need is probably in this group of 37.  If not, it probably does exist online if you search for it. 

In September 2014, I wrote a post about the effectiveness of online courses and included a short list of links to online educational facilities that offer excellent educational courses.  My view of the value of online education has only increased in appreciation and perceived value since then.

I wish my parents were still alive so I could dazzle them with the educational opportunities online that we can access with such ease.  I probably don’t have a good enough imagination to appreciate how excited my 5th great grandparents would be to see the online courses.  They would probably appreciate them so much that they’d liken them to handouts of gold and silver.  Training and education that was simply impossible for them to obtain is ours for the taking, requiring little more effort on our part than doing a quick search, registering and clicking to start the course.

I marvel at the difference in perspective from which I see the world and how my grandchildren see it.   The recent article, “The Class of 2019 has never licked a postage stamp” brought that discussion into clear focus in my mind.  Their perception of the world around them is so wildly different than mine due to time and the environment surrounding their society and the one I’ve  known from my youth in a tiny western town, it is almost incomprehensible.  While I’m still the guy that teaches them how to use and tame technology, our societal reference points are radically different.  Hopefully, they’ll take advantage of skills based training for subjects that don’t exist entirely within the mind but have in fact a physical factor in survivability skills should the lights go out.

Our lives are extremely busy today.  Doing what meaningful activity, I’m not always sure, but we certainly are busy aren’t we?   Do you take advantage of a few hours of your time each week to improve your education and skills thanks to online education courses?  If you haven’t taken skills based training online yet, don’t hesitate to give it an honest try. 

If you are interested in genealogy and improving your research skills and successes thanks to it, be sure to visit the FamilySearch Learning Center and revel in the excellent selection of free courses found there.

We live in a magical time in the timeline of this world.  Take advantage of the educational opportunities it offers us.  None of us are too old or too ‘dumb’ to learn new skills to better ourselves and our interface with family, friends and even our hobbies.

Posted 23 August 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog