Use Your Time in Isolation to Learn Everything You’ve Always Wanted To: Free Online Courses, Audio Books, eBooks, Movies, Coloring Books & More

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." Mark Twain may or may not have actually said that, but either way the sentiment resonates — and with a new strength now, since schools have closed all over the world in an attempt to halt the spread of the pandemic coronavirus. For many, this period of isolation (self-imposed or otherwise) represents an opportunity to rediscover the value of education: not the kind directed by an institution, but the much more valuable kind that runs on one's own steam. If you count among that select group of self-educators (or educators of children whom you can no longer send to school), we here at Open Culture have spent nearly the past decade and a half amassing just the resources you need.

At our selection of more than 1,500 free online courses, you can take deep dives into subjects from archaeology and architecture to law and literature to physics and psychology. (We've even got courses specifically designed to help you understand the coronavirus itself.) If you've been meaning to catch up on the work of the aforementioned Twain — or that of Dostoevsky, Wittgenstein, Kafka, and Proust, among others — he appears in our roundup of more than 800 free eBooks.




Should you prefer reading through earphones while exercising or cleaning — especially important activities these days — we can also offer you more than a thousand free audiobooks, whether you prefer Isaac Asimov or Jane Austen, Adrienne Rich or Charles Bukowski. (You can also get audiobooks from Audible if you sign up for a free 30-day trial there.)

While quarantine puts a temporary stop to many of our usual activities, it shouldn't get in the way of movie night. Our collection of 1,1500 free movies will cover all your movie nights through the time of the coronavirus and then some, including as it does classic films noirs, thriller and horror pictures (including some by no less a suspense master than Alfred Hitchcock), documentaries, and even the fruits of the film industries of countries like Russia and South Korea. And though we can't get enough cinema here at Open Culture, it's hardly the only visual art form we feature: you might spend some time, for instance, with this collection of two million images from 30 world-class museums. This range of art also appears in free museum-produced coloring books geared to all ages.

If you'd like to use your time of "social distance" to develop skills other than coloring, we can point you toward resources for learning to cook, to draw (like an architect, like a Japanese mangaka, like Lynda Barry), to play the guitar, and to practice yoga. Bear in mind also the online-education offerings from Masterclass we've featured here on Open Culture, from "Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing" to "David Sedaris Teaches Storytelling and Humor" to "Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking." (The educational offerings provided by The Great Courses also provide another good option.) Those aren't free, but everything else in this post is, including our collection of online language-learning resources. Having spread through world travel, the coronavirus will keep many wary of going abroad in the foreseeable future. But when the pandemic ends, you'll want to be prepared to enjoy foreign lands again. Italy, a country especially hard-hit by the virus, will surely welcome all the visitors it can get. Until then, why not get a grasp on its language — and its cuisine — with a course like MIT's "Learn Italian with Your Mouth Full"?

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Zoom Providing K-12 Schools Free Access to Videoconferencing Tools During COVID-19 Crisis: They’ll Power Your Online Courses

FYI: Zoom provides a turnkey video conferencing solution that's high quality and easy to use. And now universities across the country use Zoom to power their online courses. Today, Zoom announced that K-12 schools can gain free access to Zoom during the COVID-19 crisis. Students or teachers can sign up here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

via Forbes.

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Coursera Providing Free Access to Its Course Catalog to Universities Impacted by COVID-19

FYI: If you work in a university impacted by COVID-19, Coursera invites you to leverage their course catalogue. The company's CEO writes:

The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is the most serious global health security threat in decades. In many countries, restrictions imposed by government agencies have disrupted daily routines for millions, including students. Many universities in the impacted regions have suspended face-to-face seminars, closed campuses, and are scrambling to find a solution to minimize disruption for their students.

We are fortunate to have university and industry partners, who have been at the forefront of responding to the challenges humanity has faced from time to time. Inspired by their support and consistent with our mission of serving learners everywhere, we are launching a global effort to assist universities and colleges seeking to offer online courseware in response to the coronavirus.

Starting today, we’ll provide every impacted university in the world with free access to our course catalogue through Coursera for Campus. Universities can sign up to provide their enrolled students with access to more than 3,800 courses and 400 Specializations from Coursera’s top university and industry partners. These institutions will have access until July 31, 2020, after which we plan to provide month-to-month extensions depending on prevailing risk assessments. Students who enroll on or before July 31 will continue to have access until Sept. 30, 2020.

Over the past few weeks, Duke University has been using Coursera for Campus to serve impacted students at their Duke Kunshan campus in China. This effort has been swiftly adopted by students and widely recognized by the broader community. We believe that Coursera for Campus can be an effective resource to help all higher education institutions respond to the impact of coronavirus.

As a global community of educators, we are honored to be serving fellow institutions and student communities during this crisis. Over the next few days, we will also hold webinars and share more resources, including experiences from our partner community, to help institutions looking to transition online during this crisis. Stay tuned.

Sign up for Coursera's Coronavirus program here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

How Schools Can Start Teaching Online in a Short Period of Time: Free Tutorials from the Stanford Online High School

Image by King of Hearts, via Wikimedia Commons

A quick note: The Stanford Online High School--an independent high school that operates fully online--has created video tutorials designed for schools that may need to close classrooms and pivot online. "All guidance is platform-agnostic, focusing on the essential steps for preparing to teach online in a short period of time."

In addition to this videos, the Online High School will host a free webinar today at 2pm California time. You can register here and learn more about the transition to online teaching.

Note: Zoom--which provides a turnkey video conferencing solution--has made its product free for K-12 institutions during the COVID-19 crisis. This can help schools spin up online courses quickly. More on that here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

 

The Summerhill School, the Radical Educational Experiment That Let Students Learn What, When, and How They Want (1966)

Among the political and social revolutions of the 1960s, the movement to democratize education is of central historical importance. Parents and politicians were entrenched in battles over integrating local schools years after 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education. Sit-ins and protests on college campuses made similar student unrest today seem mild by comparison. Meanwhile, quieter, though no less radical, educational movements proliferated in communes, homeschools, and communities that could pay for private schools.

Most of these experimental methods drew from older sources, such as the theories of Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori, both of whom died before the Age of Aquarius. One movement that got its start decades earlier was popularized in the 60s when its founder A.S. Neill published the influential Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, a classic work of alternative pedagogy in which the Scottish writer and educator described the radical ideas developed in his Summerhill School in England, first founded in 1921.




Neill’s school “helped to pioneer the ‘free school’ philosophy,” writes Aeon, “in which lessons are never mandatory and nearly every aspect of student life can be put to a vote.” His methods “and a rising countercultural movement inspired similar institutions to open around the world.” When Neill first published his book, however, he was very much on the defensive, against “an increasing reaction against progressive education,” psychologist Erich Fromm wrote in the book’s foreword.

At the extreme end of this backlash Fromm situates “the remarkable success in teaching achieved in the Soviet Union,” where “the old-fashioned methods of authoritarianism are applied in full strength.” Fromm defended experiments like Neill’s, despite their “often disappointing” results, as a natural outgrowth of the Enlightenment.

During the eighteenth century, the ideas of freedom, democracy, and self-determination were proclaimed by progressive thinkers; and by the first half of the 1900's these ideas came to fruition in the field of education. The basic principle of such self-determination was the replacement of authority by freedom, to teach the child without the use of force by appealing to his curiosity and spontaneous needs, and thus to get him interested in the world around him. This attitude marked the beginning of progressive education and was an important step in human development.

What seemed anarchic to its detractors had its roots in the tradition of individual liberty against feudal traditions of unquestioned authority. But Neill was less like John Locke, who included children in his category of irrational beings (along with "idiots" and "Indians") than he was like Jean Jacques Rousseau. Fromm suggests this too: "A.S. Neill’s system is a radical approach to child rearing because it represents the true principle of education without fear. In Summerhill School authority does not mask a system of manipulation.”

Students decide what they want to learn, and what they don’t, with no curriculum, requirements, or testing to speak of and no structured time or mandatory attendance. Is such a thing even possible in practice? How could educators manage and measure student progress, or ensure their students learn anything at all? What might this look like? Find out in the 1966 National Film Board of Canada documentary Summerhill, above, full of “candid moments and scenes,” Aeon writes, “that evoke the rhythms of daily life at the school and give a sense of the children’s lived experience.”

Disorganized, but not chaotic, classroom bustle contrasts with idyllic, sunlit moments on Summerhill’s verdant grounds and honest criticism, some from the students themselves. One girl admits that the free play wears thin after a while and that “there probably aren’t such good facilities for learning here, after a certain level. But you can always go somewhere else afterwards" (though many would have difficulty with entrance exams). Another student talks about the struggle to study without structure to help minimize distractions. Despite Neill’s philosophical aversion to fear, she says “you’re always afraid of missing something.”

We also meet the man himself, A.S. Neill, a rumpled, avuncular figure at 83 years old, who proclaims freedom as the answer for students who struggle in school, and for students who don’t. If we’re honest, we might all admit we felt this strongly as children ourselves. It may never be an impulse that’s compatible with contemporary goals for education, which is often geared toward workplace training at the expense of creative thinking. But for many students, the opportunity to pursue their own course on their own terms can become the impetus for a lifetime of independent thought and action. I can’t think of a loftier educational goal.

via Aeon

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Smithsonian Puts 2.8 Million High-Res Images Online and Into the Public Domain

No matter how many public institutions you visit in a day—schools, libraries, museums, or the dreaded DMV—you may still feel like privatized services are closing in. And if you’re a fan of national parks and public lands, you’re keenly aware they’re at risk of being eaten up by developers and energy companies. The commons are shrinking, a tragic fact that is hardly inevitable but, as Matto Mildenberger argues at Scientific American, the result of some very narrow ideas.

But we can take heart that one store of common wealth has majorly expanded recently, and will continue to grow each year since January 1, 2019—Public Domain Day—when hundreds of thousands of works from 1923 became freely available, the first time that happened in 21 years. This year saw the release of thousands more works into the public domain from 1924, and so it will continue ad infinitum.

And now—as if that weren’t enough to keep us busy learning about, sharing, adapting, and repurposing the past into the future—the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million images into the public domain, making them searchable, shareable, and downloadable through the museum’s Open Access platform.




This huge release of “high resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections,” notes Smithsonian Magazine, “is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.”

There are those who would say that these images always belonged to the public as the holdings of a publicly-funded institution sometimes called “the nation’s attic.” It’s a fair point, but shouldn’t take away from the excitement of the news. “Smithsonian” as a conveniently singular moniker actually names “19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo," an enormous collection of art and historic artifacts.

That’s quite a lot to sift through, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, the site’s highlights will direct you to one fascinating image after another, from Mohammad Ali’s 1973 headgear to the historic Elizabethan portrait of Pocahontas, to the collection box of the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society owned by William Lloyd Garrison’s family, to Walt Whitman in 1891, as photographed by the painter Thomas Eakins, to just about anything else you might imagine.

Enter the Smithsonian’s Open Access archive here and browse and search its millions of newly-public domain images, a massive collection that may help expand the definition of common knowledge.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Terry Jones, the Late Monty Python Actor, Helped Turn Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Into a Free App: Explore It Online

People’s eyes tend to glaze over when they hear the phrase “digital humanities.” Granted, it’s not the most thrilling combination of words. But when you show them what’s possible at the intersection of technology and the arts, the glaze turns to a gleam: a Shazam-like app for scanning, identifying, and learning about fine art? Yes, please…. An iPad app introducing the works of Shakespeare, with contextual notes, summaries, essays, and videos featuring Sir Ian McKellen? Fascinating….

The possibilities for casual learners and serious students alike are vast. You just have to know where to look. And if you’re looking for a tech-savvy way into Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the classic medieval story cycle written in Middle English verse and prose, you’ve found it. Thanks in part to medieval scholar Terry Jones, formerly a member of Monty Python—and the writer and director of Monty Python and the Holy Grail—we now have a Chaucer app.




“The project… features a 45-minute audio performance of the General Prologue of the Tales,” writes Henry Bodkin at the Independent. “While listening to the reading, users have access to a modern translation, explanatory notes and a vocabulary explaining Middle English words used by Chaucer, as well as a digitized version of the original 14th century manuscript.” The project was Jones’ final scholarly work—he passed away last month—but his contribution is significant.

Jones’ two books on Chaucer and his translation of the “General Prologue” are both featured in the app’s introduction and notes, as Ellen Gutoskey notes at Mental Floss. One of the project’s leaders, Peter Robinson of the University of Saskatchewan, also points to his behind-the-scenes influence. “His work and his passion for Chaucer was an inspiration for us. We talked a lot about Chaucer and it was his idea that the Tales would be turned into a performance.”

We can enjoy many a modern English translation of Chaucer, and there’s nothing wrong with doing so, but to truly understand what made the text so revolutionary, we should hear it in its original language. Middle English is beautifully musical, but it was not in Chaucer’s time a literary tongue. Like Dante, he broke new ground by writing in the vernacular when most everyone else wrote in Latin or French.

The strangeness of Middle English to our eyes and ears can make approaching the Canterbury Tales for the first time a daunting experience. The Chaucer app is an excellent research tool for scholars, yet the researchers want "the public, not just academics to see the manuscript as Chaucer would have likely thought of it,” says Robinson, “as a performance that mixed drama and humor.” In other words, reading Chaucer should be fun.

Why else would Terry Jones—a man who knew his comedy as well as his medieval history—spend decades reading and writing about him? Find out for yourself at the Canterbury Tales app, where, with a click of a few buttons at the top of the page, you can see part of the original manuscript, a transcription of the Middle English text, explanatory notes, and Jones’ translation of the “General Prologue.”

Enter the app here.

via Mental Floss

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Sir Ian McKellen Releases New Apps to Make Shakespeare’s Plays More Enjoyable & Accessible

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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