During this COVID-tide many of us have been seeking out online learning resources. I’ve done so quite a bit in the past few months, and I thought I would do a post to recommend some of these. They are all sites that feature videos. I’ll start with the math ones and then go on to other subjects.
- Khan Academy. This one should be obvious to anyone who knows anything about learning math online. The videos on this site are quite good – among the best online math videos I’ve seen. The site also features regular self-assessments ranging from quick quizzes to end-of-course tests so that you can gauge your learning. From what I can tell, Khan Academy is the gold standard for online learning, and I have no problems recommending it to my children (ages 9, 9, and 12) or to my college students. (While Khan Academy got their start with math, they’ve branched out to many other subjects as well.)
- Numberphile. This is a YouTube channel sponsored by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. It features a wide variety of mathematical topics generally aimed at those who know something about math and are curious to learn more. I’ve only watched two Numberphile videos – both on Möbius strips – but they were both quite good, and I even learned something from them! (I also showed them to my children.) I wouldn’t normally recommend a YouTube channel based on just two videos, but their quality plus the fact that my college students have often spoken highly of Numberphile is sufficient to make me comfortable recommending this channel.
- Prodigy. This is an online role-playing game in which players have to solve math problems in order to defeat monsters in battle. While I have some pedagogical criticisms of Prodigy, the game has good production values for its target audience (mostly elementary school children), it successfully ramps up the difficulty level as players demonstrate greater math knowledge, and all three of my kids have had fun with it.
- Geography Now. Paul Barbato deserves an award for this YouTube channel, in which he covers all the countries in the world in alphabetical order. He’s funny and informative, giving an overview of the physical geography, the people, the culture, and the political relations of each country he discusses. The production values are much better than any of the other general-interest geography channels I’ve seen, too. He’s only up to the Seychelles at this point, so if you’re interested in countries like Spain or the UK you’ll have to wait a bit, but this has been the go-to site for geography homeschooling with my kids the past several months. (“Hast du gluten-free?” “Nein!” still brings a chuckle in my household.)
- Touropia. This is the best YouTube travel channel I’ve found. I generally pair a country’s Touropia “Top Ten Places to Visit” video with the country’s corresponding Geography Now video for two different perspectives on the same country.
- National Geographic. As you can imagine, this venerable institution has some high-quality videos out there. I’m recommending them under “science” because we’ve only watched their science videos.
- Mystery Science. This is a series of hands-on video lessons for K-5. My children’s teachers used them in the classroom pre-COVID, and I’ve used several as well for homeschooling. The science is solid and at the appropriate level, and the hands-on activities help engage the children. When I was using them more regularly back in the spring, some of the video lessons were available for free and others you had to purchase. As of right now they are offering a limited number of free memberships that presumably allow you to access all the videos.
- Crash Course in World History. This YouTube series features an irreverent overview of world history that should appeal to people of all ages. I haven’t watched any of their videos all the way through, but I’ve seen segments, my wife has used them when she’s homeschooling, and my kids have enjoyed them. This link is just to the first video in the world history series, and they have other series as well (including U.S. history). “Except for the Mongols!” has become a catchphrase in my house.
- Philosophy of the Humanities. These YouTube videos simply feature Leiden University professor Victor Gijsbers giving a series of lectures on the philosophy of science, history, knowledge, and the humanities in general. There’s nothing fancy here, video-wise, but Victor is an amazingly clear lecturer, elucidating intricate philosophical concepts with clarity and easy-to-understand examples. This is the only recommendation in this post that I haven’t used with my kids; this is advanced high school level material at the very least. Favorite quote: “Hegel is evidently a comic historian. Which, by the way, doesn’t mean we will laugh a lot when we read Hegel. Because, believe me, we don’t.” (I actually know Victor in another context: He and I have both written interactive fiction!)
- Schoolhouse Rock. If you were an American child in the late 70s or early 80s you will know exactly what this video series is, as it was ubiquitous during prime Saturday-morning cartoon-watching. My kids and I viewed their videos on the eight parts of speech, but they have some history videos and even a solid video on how a bill becomes law as well. Enjoy the 70s-style animation and music, and expect to emerge with a few extra earwigs. (“Conjunction junction, what’s your function?” and half of the interjections video continue to be repeated in my house.) The link is to the YouTube channel, which doesn’t have all the videos. However, they are easy to find online.
- Get Started with French Like a Boss!. I am not anywhere near fluent in French, but I did study it in high school and college, and I decided homeschooling would be a great opportunity to introduce my kids to a foreign language. Lya, the host of this video that introduces basic French words and phrases, is funny and a little goofy in an endearing way. She’s really good about using the vocabulary in different contexts, too, to the point that my 12-year-old was able to start picking up basic French sentence structure just from Lya’s examples. This video is part of a larger series, but it’s the only one from that series I’ve seen.
- Rock ‘N Learn. This brightly-animated series aimed at young children pairs French vocabulary with corresponding English vocabulary. My kids are older than the target audience for the series, but the vocabulary is right at their level, and they’re old enough that they can laugh about how goofy it is. Rock ‘N Learn actually covers a wide variety of subjects, but we’ve only watched it for French. (Also, they appear to have a series of French language videos for teens and adults, but I haven’t watched those yet.)