Monday, December 30, 2013

Education and the quest for Knowledge

How does knowledge differ from education?  Often we equate the two, yet Knowledge is a superset of Education (facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education). Education plus life experiences lead to Knowledge.  We acquire knowledge throughout our childhood socialization, formal education, and the rest of our lives. Education is acquired through classes, schools, colleges and universities. (This is a good article discussing Knowledge versus Education)

I try to expand my knowledge base all the time, something I learned from my mother who is one of my role models.  She kept taking classes well into her 60's.  Due to the depression and economic times in the post-war South, she was only able to attend one year of college in the 1930s, but strove throughout her life to learn many subjects and expand her knowledge. She kickstarted my quest for knowledge. For example, I remember her taking me to an excellent series of science lectures at the University of Florida when I was young (lectures by Edward Teller and others).  She also stopped at EVERY historical marker by the side of the road on EVERY trip we took all up and down the Eastern US.

My parents encouraged formal education and paid for my undergraduate studies.  I am trying to do the same for my children.  I was blessed with being able to attend great schools (Oak HallUniversity of Florida, and Nova Southeastern).  UF has been ranked as one of the best values in education for many years.

Throughout my life I have tried to learn new things whenever I can including programming, Linux development, FPGAs, music, and astronomy.  My philosophy has been to always strive to learn what I can and expand my horizons. I make expanding my knowledge a core principal of my daily life (new years resolution, anyone?).

Luckily, we live in an exciting time with free education available resulting in very low barriers to the acquisition of knowledge.  We require children attend school and offer free public schools throughout much of the world.  Today, we have online courses that are free or inexpensive, including MOOC or Massive Open Online Courses, for example at Coursera.  Sites like Wikipedia are great for a starting point in the investigation of subjects (provided you stay away from the political and controversial subjects like Barack Obama).  Today, anyone can download free text books in many subjects from sites like CK12.orgWikiBooks, and Curriki.  Anyone can access course material from schools like Stanford and MIT.  The Internet is a great enabler of education and expanding your knowledge base.  It is a fantastic resource (and also a great time waster with Facebook and similar sites).

How are you encouraging education and the acquisition of knowledge?  Do you teach?  Do you participate in outreach?  My wife teaches autistic children as a para-professional.  I volunteer by teaching Boy Scout Merit Badges (Astronomy mainly), conducting Linux/open source software and hardware outreach, and participating in astronomy outreach. I love to witness the excitement when a child first sees Saturn or Jupiter through a telescope! A close friend is planning on teaching math by opening a Mathnasium franchise in Stafford, VA!  We have MANY friends who are teachers!

Note that after finding this quote, I think I'll have to expand this discussion to include imagination: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” - Albert Einstein

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I going to learn today?
  • What am I going to teach today?

1 comment:

  1. These reflections on your parents really take me back to times visiting in your home and the high value placed on knowledge by every family member! Your folks were actively engaged in fostering a thirst for knowledge and demonstrating the satisfaction that is achieved through competence. I can remember you talking about and doing hands-on work with computers when to most of us they were still the objects of science fiction. It's so cool to see how you and Laura have actively invested yourselves in giving your children learning tools in ALL areas of life--world exploration, cheering, music, scouting, art, not to mention academics! I have been a teacher and I can tell you what a difference this enriched upbringing makes in a child's "college success" but, so much more, in the development of a thoughtful, ethical being of depth and curiosity. The capacity to experience wonder--surely you see that when unveiling the majesty of the heavens. The vast FREE learning resources available today--we need to shout it from the rooftops! I know my life has been re-energized in a phenomenal way but taking up farming at age 50--my BODY is having to learn all kinds of new skills; so is my soul (patience, humility before nature, perseverance, consistency)--plus so much new and fascinating factual information that can be put into immediate application. Learning keeps us young. It certainly worked for your folks!