Of course, we all know that actual learning doesn’t cost money. Time: maybe. Energy: definitely. But the sad fact is that conventional learning paths often also cost so much money that many of us just won’t avail ourselves of the offerings. And this creates artificial barriers to learning that are bad for both society and individuals.
Colleges are out of reach for many people. In many cities, private schools offer children better alternatives to public schools, but they are most often incredibly expensive. Even books cost, and DVDs and CDs can be pricey.
But all of that is beginning to change. It’s becoming more and more possible to find great educational alternatives that won’t break the bank. For young ones, independent study public charter schools are one great, growing alternative. Homeschooling is another. And web-based education is a third. For the rest of us, all kinds of new lifelong learning opportunities are opening up through the Internet.
Below is a list of my favorite free learning resources for all ages. Enjoy! (And if you know of other great resources, please comment to add to the list too!)
Teens / Adults
Have you always wanted to attend a top-notch university? How about for free? And while you’re wishing, how about making it so easy that you can attend from the comfort of your couch, while you’re in the car, or while you go for a jog? The University of California at Berkeley makes many of their regular course offerings available for free over the Internet. Log on at http://webcast.berkeley.edu/courses.php.
You can attend Yale lectures from your armchair as well. That’s right – Yale! Check it out at http://oyc.yale.edu/.
Open Culture is a great web site for free high-quality cultural & educational media for the worldwide lifelong learning community. Not only do they offer online courses from 350 universities, they provide free movies, audio books, and other resources too.
The Free University of San Francisco aims to make the highest level of education available, completely free, to any individual who wants it, regardless of color, creed, age, gender, nationality, religion or immigration status—a university free of money, taught for free. The only requirement for membership is a desire to teach and/or a desire to learn. (Not web-based.)
TED Talks provide free educational experiences provided by the world’s most inspired thinkers — in the form of b18-minute talks. More than 700 TEDTalks are now available, with more added each week. All of the talks are subtitled, and can be freely shared and reposted.
WNYC Radiolab is a one-of-a-kind radio show, also archived as podcasts, that explores topics and issues that cross the lines between science, philosophy, and human experience. Topics titles are deceptively simple: Falling, Limits, Animal Minds, Cities, and more.
Academic Earth offers links to lectures from universities including Harvard, MIT, and Yale.
YouTube links to many different universities that offer educational videos. Find these at: http://www.youtube.com/education?b=400.
If you haven’t seen itunes U , check it out. You will first need to download itunes if you don’t already have it, but it’s well worth the extra step.
Backstory with the American History Guys provides a fun, quirky approach to history.
Grammar Girl makes an often-dry subject come to life. Webster’s Word of the Day [http://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day/] provides an interesting (really!) look at one word each day. You can have it delivered to your email inbox too.
The Stuff You Should Know podcasts, from howstuffworks.com, answers people’s real-life questions on a wide variety of topics – from Vikings to sharks.
Triple-Emmy awarding This American Life , NPR’s Fresh Air , and Story Corps provide entertaining, educational stories from and about real people.
Cosmos 4 Kids provides educational information on the universe, galaxies, stars, systems, solar system, and space exploration.
Biology 4 Kids provides detailed, interesting information on cells, microorganisms, plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, and animal systems
Grammar Slammer provides instruction and examples for practically every aspect of grammar.
Check out these free weekly newsletter and “old time radio” adaptations of great books and historic stories chosen especially for homeschooling families.
This comprehensive mathematics website comes from Cynthia Lanius of Rice University and spans pre-k through 11th grade.
This site provides several student-friendly recipes that are accompanied by videos of students cooking the actual recipes and explaining the process, step by step. This site specializes in practical money skills with lessons appropriate for every grade level. And here’s a site that offers free printable math worksheets organized by grade level, activity type, and theme.
The Educational Podcast Network offers podcasts on a wide range of subjects, geared for elementary, middle school, and high school.