An increasingly complex world demands increasingly sophisticated ways to learn and understand a concept. This means approaching it it from a variety of angles, playing with the variables–exploring how it works, like you’d explore the environment and constraints of a level in a video game.
Online media is a great place for these kinds of experiences to emerge. The content is globally accessible, the material is likely to be universally relevant, and online curation via search engines and social media provide the incentives for the best material to rise to the top.
Yet, if you search for “how does X work” online, (whether X is a volcano, solar sail, or a human kidney) you usually just find text-heavy blog posts… a Youtube video if you are lucky.
The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed - William Gibson
But I’ve seen the future. It’s how Lewis Lehe describes common transportation issues from bus bunching to traffic waves. It’s how the New York Times teaches whether is better to rent or buy. It’s structured courses like Code Academy’s Ruby track and Khan Academy’s SQL course. It’s how Mike Bostocks teaches about algorithms and Steven Witten’s teaches about pixels. It’s this series of explanations about advanced mathematical principles, this essay on teaching with abstractions, and this game describing the forces influencing diversity and segregation.
We are just seeing the beginning of interactive online learning. In the years to come, I expect to see more examples like the ones above, teaching concepts in physics, economics, biology, computing, and a variety of other fields.