Monthly Archives: July 2006

How to learn in real life

This essay intends to be a seed to inspire discussions on the issues and methods of learning in real life, also how web2 can help us. So far, it is by no means a complete list of how to lean in real life.

For a moment, let’s forget about schools. Free your thoughts. Let’s think about learning itself. Let’s think about what we really want to learn and how we can learn in real life.

Without school, I guess now you can really think about what you need to learn in life.

Real life is definitely a much better learning environment than schools. What are the issues of learning in real life? I guess many people might find it difficult to focus on learning something in real life. They feel their energy is too scattered. I think being aware of what topics you are learning in a certain period of time might help you concentrate your mind. We actually are interested in learning several topics in a certain time of our lives. We experience various aspects of those topics through our daily activities. If we can orchestrate our efforts in those topics, expand our experience and knowledge in those topics day by day through our various activities, we are accomplishing the thing that is called learning. I have an online note-making system that will allow you to accomplish the task of orchestrating daily activities into conscious learning efforts. Furthermore, this note-making system will allow you to connect your experience and knowledge in different topics, and thus through knowledge collision, you can learn better and discover new knowledge. Other features of the note-making system will allow you to refine your experience, filter out random thoughts, search past experience, and share knowledge with other people. Basically through using the note-making system, you learn how to learn in real life.

Many people feel they don’t know what to learn. First of all, they don’t know what they want to learn. Secondly, even they know what they want to learn, they don’t know how to learn. This first issue is only because we are made passive by school system. We were naturally curious when we were children. I was surprised how curious the children are when I went to an elementary school. However, I witnessed their curiosity killed by the classroom teacher moment by moment while the teacher constantly kept telling the kids don’t do this and don’t do that. As for the second issue, I feel if various kind of knowledge is easily accessible, people know how to learn by themselves. An internet knowledge system that classifies knowledge into different categories on different levels certainly will help people easily find knowledge they just need at the moment. A system that helps people build up the whole picture of knowledge and navigate through them with maximum flexibility is very vital for learning. Being able to read very fast and navigate through knowledge very fast is very important for learning, especially when you learn in real life you are always faced with tremendous amount of things to read. In the past years through my research, I developed a system that can render knowledge according to patterns and allow people to navigate through the knowledge with maximum flexibility, zoom in and zoom out as they wish and jump to any part that they feel currently interested, learn to a certain degree quickly, go back to the whole picture and jump to another part that they feel interested.

The note-making system and the knowledge rendering system, I feel, will be the key elements of the learning platform based on web2.0.

The best part of learning in real life instead of in school is that finally you are not bound by those meaningless homework and exams anymore. You have more free time to do things that you want to do and really learn things in the process of doing. If you have done a lot of activities and proved yourself in those activities, who will need those artificial tests administered by schools anyway? Those tests were never able to evaluate the true knowledge. Social networking websites such as meetup of course help people to come together for various activities. Learning in a community is a very efficient way of learning. Sudbury Valley model is essentially unschooling in a supportive learning community.

To build up such a learning community, I would like to see two things happen. One is a web based tutor searching system, and the other is to let corporation post their various training programs online so people can find projects to do.

These two things are what we don’t have right now, but I feel they can be made possible through web2.0. They are vital for building up a strong learning community that will eventually kills schools (I mean schools that prison people for many years).

Once we build up a strong learning community and make learning easy, people will want to learn. People are now passive learners because they have been failed too many times and for too long. Everyone has a wonderful childhood. But most of us have a very boring passive adult life. We don’t have the same kind of fun we used to have as children. That is because as we grow up, we didn’t improve our ability accordingly. Without that improved ability matching your adulthood, you are not suited to play games on the higher level. All kinds of social problem arise due to this. Now with the new learning community and learning platform, it is time for us to learn and grow our ability again, so we can again play happily as we were when we were children.

Below are some other tips for learning in real life:

It is always better to utilize different media for learning. For example, to learn software, I read books, I read online, I read magazines. Different types of media have different characteristics, suited for learning various different things.

When I learn from books, what I would like to do is to go to a bookstore, rushing through all books talking about the subject I am currently interested in. Find some good books on that subject. Read to a certain degree, then pick up another book to read. I love to have all the books before me so I can build up the whole picture very quickly and choose freely which book to read from time to time. Of course, this kind of learning can be moved to web as well. For example, provide all the books online. People only pay monthly fee, and they can navigate and read books as much as they want.

I also use web to find out which books are good books. For example, has been very helpful for me to find out good books on a certain subject. Its book review, wish list, and the new tagging feature all help me to easily find good books on a subject.

Very importantly I found that Internet can be very efficient for extensive reading to build up the base and the whole picture in a subject very quickly. This has been very true in my learning of software. I now intend to apply it to my liberal arts study.

This article about Sudbury Valley model provides very good insights into the true nature of learning.

I will stop here. I want to welcome you to join me in the discussion of how to learn in real life. The world needs it.


Leave a comment

Filed under Elearning, Essay, unschooling, What is Learning

Time to unschool

Imagine that you can learn finance in one year, achieving better understanding and skills of finance than people going through many years of college to obtain a bachelor or master degree. Imagine you can build up a very good liberal arts background in one or two years, beating most of the students going to top liberal arts majors in the country. Imagine that you can teach yourself mathematics very efficiently, learning things about mathematics that students in school will never grasp. Imagine you can learn writing novels just by reading extensively and communicating with people. How will you plan your life if you realize all these can be easily learned? These are all your possibilities in life, which have been denied by the school system for so long.


First of all, on a deep philosophical level, school is very badly suited for learning. Learning is very much intertwined in two senses: learning and no learning are intertwined, learning in various domains are intertwined. (Read my blog essays: , ).


School is not designed for you to learn things. School is designed for you to receive educations. To get to understand the nature of school better, you can read more about unschooling, a movement that has been going on for decades. Especially, John Taylor Gatto did an excellent job in telling you what school is all about ( ). Briefly, school is just an institution to enslave people’s minds. School uses tests to screw up certain kinds of people, who are not good at passing tests, make them stay as manual labor, and screw up some other kinds of people, who are good at passing tests, and make them stay as mental labor. We, essentially free human being, are screwed up this way.


Secondly, practically real life is a much better learning environment than schools. It is real. You get challenged and tested immediately in real life instead of by some artificial exams administered by schools. Real life is the most resourceful learning environment. Learning in a community is the most efficient way of learning. Sudbury Valley model is essentially for kids to unschool in a supportive learning community. Our goal is to expand this to the whole society for adults to learn in the real world.


Two key forces will be very vital in building up such a learning community. One is individuals engaged in learning and sharing learning experience. The other is corporation’s involvement in providing learning resources and opportunities to the community. Both measures will greatly bridge divided knowledge.


I feel the enabler will be a platform to allow people to find tutors online and sign up for various training programs provided by corporations. Such a platform should have rich learning features. First of all, it should allow learners to easily locate tutors and training programs that just meet their current needs. Secondly, it will be very desirable to have an online notebook system to allow individual learners to collect, organize, refine and share their learning experiences and knowledge. Thirdly, we need a viewing system to allow learning material to be viewed with maximum flexibility. Other features will include a voting system to vote for good articles, learning group and discussion group features.


I don’t know if this direction will lead to the commercialization of learning. Maybe commercialization of learning is a good thing, especially if it is free market based. Milton Friedman has fought for education based on free market through school voucher. You can read his articles regarding the reasoning behind education and free market.


Let’s take our lives into our hands by taking learning into our hands! Together let’s free learning!

1 Comment

Filed under Elearning, Essay, unschooling, What is Learning

How can we learn freely? Can we commercialize learning/education?

School is not for learning. It is for education, for teaching, which is to make you unable to learn. School is just an institution to enslave people’s minds. School uses tests to screw up certain kinds of people, who are not good at passing tests, make them stay as manual labor, and screw up some other kinds of people, who are good at passing tests, and make them stay as mental labor. We, essentially free human being, are screwed up this way, if you understand what “essentially free human being” means. Many of my childhood friends are very smart people. But they couldn’t survive school education. I definitely think they should be able to contribute more to society.


Many people think they learned something in school. But that amount of time might be spent a lot more efficiently in alternative ways of learning. When I was in college, only 10% of knowledge was learned in school. The other 90% knowledge were learned outside of school, through extensive reading and social practice. It is insane to me that school locks people in an artificial environment for several years to just study one major. People’s learning needs are extensive and intertwined. Real life is the best learning environment. (Read my blog essays: , ). For that many years, did you really learn well in your major? On the contrary, I feel it is generally true that whichever major you are in, that is the major you are going to get screwed up with by school.


To get to understand the nature of school better, you can read more about unschooling, a movement that has been going on for decades. Especially, John Taylor Gatto did an excellent job in telling you what school is all about ( ).


For people who are afraid of commercialization of learning, I feel it really depends on what kind of commercialization it is and whether it is based on free market. First of all, with that amount of tax money, what kind of education has the government controlled education provides us? Secondly, through free market, we might draw more people to engage in the production of learning resources, providing a lot more learning product. (If providing everything free will make better learning resource, I will definitely for making it free. If not, I am for free market.) It might be something you have never imagined. Also, let all kinds of ideas, religious and non-religious, conservative or liberal compete in the free market.


Milton Friedman’s school voucher ( ) is a marvelous idea, although its adoption has gone through a tough time. However, with the new web2 based learning platform, we are going to force school to compete.


I have to say that right now I am not totally standing on the side of commercializing education. I feel there are more details that need to be figured out.


This new platform brought by web2 is going to make the alternative learning not a scattered individual effort anymore. But the dominate form of learning adopted by the people on a massive scale.


Let me give you a list of what advantages the new learning platform will offer in term of learning:

1. knowledge more accessible, so you can mostly learn by yourself. (This is already true for learning software)

2. easy navigating of knowledge to find knowledge that can fill your gaps

3. easy way to gain a whole picture of the subject and thus easier to set up a learning strategy by yourself

4. online note-making to collect, refine, organize and share your knowledge

5. totally free learning plan and schedule set up by yourself

6. knowledge coming from all the people, not just some book authors

Above makes it much easier to teach yourself. Below we can see this platform makes you easier to learn by doing and learning from experts

7. easy access to peers, so you can meet people sharing similar interests,

8. easy to find people to do things together, so learn by doing

9. open source, so you find project you are passionate about, and learn by doing it

10. easier access to experts and their material and ideas


Above is just a short list of how this new platform is better than school in term of learning. In the past four years, through my research in elearning, I came up with two core software design to tackle the learning issue. One is an online notebook, through which you can learn how to learn by learning how to use this online notebook to organize your experiences and ideas, which is quite simple to learn. The other software is a new document rendering system, which is to render learning material by patterns and let learners view it like a map with zoom in and zoom out functions.


The thought to pull all these things together is to build a platform to help people find tutors online and companies to publish their training programs online.


I’ve met many people who are good at something and would love to teach other people about it. So with this learning platform, they can put some learning material online. Through their blogs, they can let people know how good they really are. Especially they can submit articles on a certain subject, and the articles are going to be voted by readers. Platform will provide functions to classify tutors and material into different categories and levels to help people to find tutors they really need. Tutors can post their classes online and people can sign up for them. We will plug the notebook into the platform so people can organize their knowledge, maybe refine and convert some of their notes into courseware, which might be distributed online. The document-rendering system can also be plugged into the platform to allow the maximum flexibility of viewing the material. Learning groups, discussion groups can also be formed. Learning consultants and workshop will also help people address learning issues.


Corporations usually have training programs for new employees. Corporations can publish their training programs online and people can sign up for them. It is like internship. Corporation can get some nice projects done and discover potential great hires. So school based evaluation system will be replaced by such experience-based evaluation system. After teaching themselves to a certain degree, learners can find projects to do in corporations. An open source model might be used here.


I believe billons of individuals and millions of corporations combined together on a platform of rich learning features will be able to beat schools, and force schools to enter free market competition.


I have got many questions I got from people interested in this. However, before you ask me questions, I want to remind you that the whole world will be changed under this new kind of learning, so you shouldn’t base your questions on the old world. For example, people asked how this new learning platform will compete with programs that prepare people for SAT. The answer is that this new learning platform should never prepare you for any artificial tests. This new learning platform is to help you learn real things in real life. Our goal is to get rid of schools. Why should we help you prepare for some school entrance exams?


Together let’s free learning! Certainly for a new world to appear before us we have to go through the change in learning first. School based education is the root of most of our current social problems. With web2, I think we are ready to get rid of school now.


Notes: this article is mainly indented to address adults. I think at least people 18 years older should be counted as adults. For children education, please read Sudbury Value School model, I think it provides a perfect solution. Sudbury Valley is essentially not a school, but unschooling in a supportive community. It provides a safe public place for kids to come to do activities together with a supportive learning environment..


Filed under Elearning, Essay, unschooling, What is Learning

Elearning FAQ (to be continued)

What is elearning?

A: So far elearning is mostly used to refer to online courseware, most of which just moved traditional course material to the web. For most of people in the academic field, elearning is just something to fanaticize teaching. So all of their work involves how to teach the course material better. However, I think elearning is not about teaching, it is about learning. Teaching is just to share learning experience. It is about how we can free learning and return learning back to what it is.


Where are the ideas from? Who else are doing the same thing?

A: Elearning has been a hot topic in academic field and commercial development. But what they are doing are simply moving the course material online or fanaticizing teaching. It is far from what elearning is supposed to be.

I have found that the ideas in the unschooling movement very close to my thoughts on elearning. Here are some links that you can read more about unschooling: Unschooling movement has been going on for a long time. However, they haven’t realized that the new technology brought by Internet and www actually can make their dream finally come true. Especially the recent development in web2 provide the core engine to such change.

There are actually some sites in the web2 community addressing the learning issue. But it more scattered efforts. I feel that at least openly there is no one who has the master plan/vision for the whole elearning thing.


What is wrong with school? What is the problem with learning

A: John Taylor Gatto did a fantastic job on this. His website is at:

If you don’t have time to read that site now, let me give a brief rundown here:

Most students coming out of school don’t know how to learn. So certainly school is a big failure in this regard.

School is just an institution to enslave people’s minds. School uses tests to screw up certain kinds of people, who are not good at passing tests, make them stay as manual labor, and screw up some other kinds of people, who are good at passing tests, and make them stay as mental labor. We, essentially free human being, are screwed up this way, if you understand what “essentially free human being” means.

School is the product of mass production. It enlists people in certain majors to make them able to play certain function and stay in that role in the stiff hierarchy of organization. However, open source movement provides an alternative to such stiff hierarchy.

For students locked in an artificial environment and out of touch with real life for so many years, their mental states must be ill-affected.


So what new things does this elearning bring to learning?

A: Real life is the best learning environment. Instead of learning statically and artificially in school, how can we learn dynamically in real life? Elearning provides solutions.


So what is future learning like?

A: In the future, school will not be the dominant place people go for learning. Individuals will be free to choose various forms of learning, being it workshop, online courseware, doing activities with other similar minded people, or browsing website…

(to be continued)


How can we start?

A; There are many ways we can start. Right now, I have two core software: (to be continued)

How will these alternative ways of learning affect society at large?

A: Actually many (maybe most of) social problems today can be traced back to the school dominated education system, e.g. to the enslaved minds coming out of school system. (to be continued)

Leave a comment

Filed under Elearning, Essay, Random Thoughts, unschooling