Every now and then potentially game changing innovations show up. Wikileaks is one of them, something that shifts the relationship between centralized power and broader national and international populations. We don’t know what exactly will happen with it, but we do know that we’re on a different playing field now.I want to highlight two other potential game changers. 1. THE KHAN ACADEMY Although education embraces much more than getting “right” answers, let’s face it: Much of education IS about mastering facts and skills necessary to get right answers in fields where such things are important, such as math and science, and others. This is where the Khan Academy excels, providing free online and very brief informal video explanations and lots of exercises, games and reward systems to help students work at their own pace to master hundreds of very specific skills. Khan Academy videos cover a wide range of subjects, all broken down into modular chunks, with suggestions about what to study next when you’ve mastered a particular piece. Software available to teachers allows them to easily track how students are doing so they can (and are free to) pay special attention to struggling students while faster students move ahead. The Khan Academy could potentially transform the role of quizzes and tests, teachers, standard curricula, educational budgets, and much more. The hot debate about class size, for example, looks very different when you realize how much less class size matters when students are doing successful independent study — and collaborative teamwork projects much of the rest of the time — with the teacher providing thoughtfully designed spaces and activities and well-targeted micro-interventions for a largely self-organized learning adventure. Critics of the Khan Academy complain that education is more than rote learning. But the Khan Academy doesn’t claim to be everything education should be. It simply claims to (and has proven that it can) help people learn specific things when there are specific things to learn – and to thereby free up time and teachers to facilitate more exploratory, nuanced educational work. As some school principals remark in the Wired magazine article below: “When it comes to simply explaining something, there’s probably someone out there who’s doing it better [than most teachers]. So… why compete? Focus [teachers] instead on offering the sort of fine-grained, personalized help that only a live teacher can offer.” The Khan Academy vision has thoroughly turned my head around. Nowadays when I hear debates about educational budget problems and class size, I think: “Why are they arguing about that? A budget crisis should be motivating us to transform education into more of what it should be – and the Khan Academy opens up some very interesting options.” There are signs that the educational revolution is bubbling up around and through the old educational structures even as the old debate rages on. Check out these sites: Wired Magazine’s excellent recent article
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/07/ff_khan/all/1 Salman Khan’s TED Talk
http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html The Khan Academy website (which anyone can use for free)
http://www.khanacademy.org 2. CREWFUND One of the big stuck points in our need to shift to a more green, locally-based economy is the fact that small local green businesses have such a hard time getting loans from banks. State banks and micro-finance initiatives address some of this problem. But a new initiative blasts the issue into a whole new ballpark. Crewfund.org seeks to call forth a tribe of millions of social entrepreneurs (like you and me) who will invest money (as small as $11/month, but as much as one wishes to invest) in a loan fund for small local green businesses. These investors will be able to control where their money will be invested, but they will not get a penny of it back. All repaid loans and interest go back into the fund to finance more loans. One of those eleven dollars pays for the fund’s management and operations, including people who do due diligence on the loan proposals from businesses (which Crewfund will train participants to do, if they want to do due diligence work for Crewfund). Since the money we put into Crewfund is a donation to a public service organization rather than an investment, it is tax deductible. Think about this for a minute. Crewfund points out that if a million people join, that means at least $10,000,000 NEW dollars are available EVERY MONTH for investments in local, green businesses. They’ve set it up so that Crewfund participants in a town could recruit friends to join together to support specific local businesses in their town. As an incentive for expansion, you get bonus money in your fund for recruiting new people to participate. Furthermore, you can pass on your fund to someone else – for example to your children, inviting them to learn not only about finance and interest, but about serving the common good. In short, Crewfund is a crowdsourced public bank for developing sustainable local economies – one that takes us out of the craziness of the banking crisis and the crazy budget debates in state and national capitals and begins to strengthen the economy where it does the most good – right at home in our communities with businesses that will make them more resilient.
$11/month is something practically everyone can afford to join in building a transformed economy that works for all. Crewfund will soon be open for general membership, and I’ll announce when that happens.