Friday, March 4, 2011

Salman Khan: Turning Education Upside Down

How about getting your Math lecture at home, and doing your homework at school?  That revolutionary idea is now a realistic possibility, because of Salman Khan's Khan Academy.

The Khan Academy is home to over 2000 instructional videos recorded by ever-so-engaging Khan.  It all started with Khan tutoring his cousins in person.  When he decided to record his tutorials and put them up on YouTube for convenience, he discovered that his cousins liked Khan on YouTube better than Khan in person.  They could proceed at their own pace, and didn't feel embarrassed at not understanding things. Even more surprising, others found the videos and they went viral. 

Khan decided to leave his job at a hedge fund, and dedicate himself full time to developing these educational materials.  The videos went from being an individual instructional tool to something with the potential to revolutionize education when the school district in Los Altos decided to explore if they could use the videos to improve math instruction in their school by using Khan Academy in half their classes in Grade Five to Seven.  And this is how they reversed the process.  The students watch the videos at home, instead of listening to the teacher lecture at school.  Each student proceeds at their own pace, never proceeding to the next type of problem until they get ten right answers.  Then they come to school to do their 'homework' with the teacher.  The teacher has a dashboard to see where every student is in the process and where they're getting stuck, so the teacher can deliver personalized instruction exactly where the student needs it.

Education is one of the priority investment categories of the Gates Foundation, and they have provided support to the Khan Academy.  Gates was beaming at the enthusiastic (FSOWSS) received by Khan.

While I enjoyed the talk, it was bittersweet for me, since I had put so much effort into reaching him to invite him to TEDxIBYork.  Sigh.

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