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March 17, 2006

Why Just Audio and Video?

One of the common questions we get here at LearnOutLoud is "Why do you just have audio and video on the site?" We'll get asked why we don't have book, e-books or other printed material. I guess what it boils down to is this.

We want to be the central place that you come to when you want to learn and you don't want to (or can't) read.

Let me explain that a little more fully. There's obviously a ton of stuff you can read out there to learn just about anything you want to . With all of the blogs, wikis, books, magazines, newspapers, etc. most of us find ourselves overwhelmed with more stuff to read than time in the day. Just think about how many unread books and magazines you have at home. How many unread e-mails sit in your Inbox (and if you've got a lot of those you really should try ). Or if you're reading blog through a blog reader you've likely got a backlog there too. It just seems like there will always be a surplus of printed material to read in relation to the amount of time in the day in which to consume this stuff.

And that's where my attention turns to audio and video.

You see there are a lot of times during the day in which we can't read or don't want to. Here are just a few of the ones that occur to me off the top of my head:

1. While driving - Please don't read while doing this...
2. While exercising - Again, usually not very conducive to reading.
3. While doing the dishes or cleaning up around the house - Ditto.
4. When your eyes are tired - Lots of time on a computer usually leads to eye fatigue. While you might not be up for reading you can definitely listen or watch something.

Audio and video comes in handy for all of these. You can listen to stuff while you're doing #1-#3 and when you want to take a break from reading (such as with #4) you can watch something.

Now here's what I get fired up about audio and video education.

For the last several decades if someone was going to listen to something while driving, exercising, etc. it was usually the radio and if they were going to watch something it was the television. Now, I'm not one to see that all commercial radio or broadcast television is crap. Just that most of it is...at least if you're interested in actually learning something.

That's where this whole learning out loud thing comes into play. Shift from listening to the radio while commuting to some high-quality educational/inspirational material and see what a difference it makes. Sure you can start your day listening to the news (a.k.a. stories about war and crime) but what kind of a change would happen in the world if we instead started listening to speeches by Gandhi or MLK, immersed ourselves in some Plato or biographies of Presidents or spent a little time learning a foreign language? Maybe I'm a dreamer but I do think it would make a HUGE difference. (And as far as being a dreamer...while I know I'm not the only one.)

And video? Well it seems every day we draw closer to the end of broadcast television and the increasingly garish commercial upon which the entire industry is based. Innovations like IPTV and sites like YouTube (probably the fastest-growing site on the Net right now) are going to change the way people watch stuff. Here again, is a golden opportunity for an educational revolution. A chance for us to slide our viewing habits from the trivial and inane to the substantial and potentially life-changing. To switch away from the dumbed-down soap opera or sitcom and towards stuff like Teaching Company courses, MIT lectures and wisdom from places like Integral Naked and WIE Unbound. Can you imagine the change that would happen if people curled up on their couch to this sort of stuff every night?

The fact of the matter is that there's a time and place for everything. Yes, there are times when we just need to turn the brain totally off. But I'd love nothing less than to see that become the exception for our listening and viewing habits rather than the norm.

Just as we wouldn't expect to consume a steady diet of junk food and the occasional salad and expect to be physically healthy we shouldn't expect to consume a steady diet of mind-numbing radio and TV and expect to be in tip-top shape intellectually. Make a move to shift the balance. If 90% of the stuff you watch and listen to is pure entertainment and 10% is educational see if you can't get to 50/50.
Your brain will thank you for it.

And so that's what we're all about here at LearnOutLoud. We want to give you a bunch of stuff so that when you do decide to get your learn on and want some audio or video you'll have plenty of options (10,000+ at last count) with which to do so. Just keep telling us how we can better do that and we'll do our darnedest to make sure we're serving your needs.

Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for checking out the blog and visiting the site!