Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Best education websites of 2011

Check out these five education websites, chosen by Time Magazine as the best education websites of 2011:

With Freerice, you can do good by having fun. Answer one of the multiple-choice questions correctly — on topics such as English vocabulary, geography or chemistry — and the site's sponsors will donate 10 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Programme. It doesn't sound like a major act of charity — but so many people answer so many questions that the site is responsible for the donation of hundreds of millions of grains of rice every month. That's enough to make a major difference for tens of thousands of hungry people in Haiti and other countries that need help.

Khan Academy
In 2004, Salman Khan started tutoring his cousin over the Internet. In 2006, he began uploading educational videos to YouTube. And in 2009, he quit his day job as a hedge-fund manager to concentrate on Khan Academy, a sort of one-man university. Today the site offers his free lessons in thousands of highly visual 10-minute chunks. Math and science dominate, and students are the primary audience, but Khan is adding additional topics and welcomes adult learners. It's a remarkable undertaking — and with funding from Google and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it has a bright future.
Who says that Ivy League educations are too pricey for anyone but the privileged few? Like Harvard, Princeton and other schools, Yale is making some of its lectures available in Web-based form for free. Open Yale Courses is a particularly rich resource, featuring 35 full-blown courses complete with downloadable classes in video and audio form. Fill up your phone or MP3 player with a course on art history or organic chemistry and you can learn from some of the finest teachers on the planet while you're at the gym or stuck in traffic.
Smarthistory focuses on art history, from cave paintings to Warhol. And while the site calls itself a textbook, it's not the text — or even the illustrations — that make it special. It's the growing library of videos that feature spirited, unscripted conversations among historians about notable works. You can start in ancient times and work your way forward or browse the collection by artist, theme or medium. In 2010, the site's proprietors made their engaging creation available in portable form, with an iPhone app called Rome: A First Look.
Stephen Schutz, the founder of greeting-card company Blue Mountain Arts, had trouble learning to read when he was a kid. So when he grew up and became a success, he used part of his wealth to co-found Starfall, a free site that uses phonics to teach reading to children from preschool to second grade. Starfall starts by introducing the alphabet, then follows with copious quantities of animated nursery rhymes, storybooks, comics and other materials. It's simple and straightforward, and not overly slick — and kids just love it.

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