Salman Khan wants to change the world, and he’s already started to transform the classroom. The founder of The Khan Academy, Salman has placed thousands of videos on YouTube that teach math and other subjects in a straightforward manner. Students young and old can listen to these lectures at their own pace and perform exercises that test their skills. The Khan Academy has exploded in popularity, with hundreds of thousands of views every day and more than a million regular users. A pilot program in California is exploring how the Khan Academy’s video format can work in real classrooms. This is just the beginning. At the recent TED conference in Long Beach, Salman Khan gave an inspirational presentation on the creation, successes, and future of The Khan Academy. Watch it in its entirety in the video below. With any luck, this new paradigm in teaching will flip the classroom on its head, humanize the learning experience, and democratize education all over the globe.
As many of you will remember, I am an ardent fan of The Khan Academy. For those that haven’t read our previous coverage on the institute, Khan himself gives a great overview in the opening of his talk at TED. Don’t miss the montage at 0:20 that shows the breadth of the topics the site covers. The fundamental advantages of a video based system are considerable: recorded talks allow students to proceed at their own pace, pausing and repeating segments as necessary without the pressure of having to perform in the presence of teachers or classmates. Almost from the beginning, Khan’s online students (at first his younger cousins) have cheered for these advantages. I love the YouTube comments he shares starting around 3:51. Through the rest of his TED presentation, Khan explores how the advantages of his site can change the face of education. I’d recommend certain parts but I really don’t think you should miss any of it. Enjoy the next 20 minutes:
The technology of online, video-based, education opens up new opportunities for traditional classrooms. As Khan suggests around 6:00, videos can ‘flip’ the way we schedule class time, with students watching lectures at home and performing ‘homework’ in school. This allows students to choose the pace of the lectures to suit their own understanding so that they are no longer dependent on a ‘one speed fits all’ approach. In the class, teachers can spend more time with each student as they work. In essence this ‘humanizes’ their education, giving them valuable one-on-one time with teachers when they need it most – as they get stuck on a difficult problem or concept.
Further enriching the classroom, The Khan Academy’s website can track student’s progress and provide valuable data on how he or she is performing. As Khan describes around 11:12, the pilot program in Los Altos, California is alive with data. Teachers are providing feedback (17:50) to refine these datasets and get the information they need to help kids learn. As I’ve said before, all the digital incentives that video game designers have been using for years are going to make digital education that much more enjoyable to students. We can make learning fun. Khan’s already doing it.
I always find myself cheerleading for The Khan Academy, but it’s hard not to get excited. As Khan’s TED presentation shows, we’re just reaching the beginning of what this system can do. Khan mentions that peers and ‘coaches’ will be able to help students online, and that such tutoring could easily expand across national boundaries. His vision for a “global one-world classroom” is an amazing example of the democratizing power of technology. For the price of internet connectivity, students all over the world will one day be able to receive the education they need to become upwardly mobile. Hopefully other companies will follow Khan’s example, the amount of online content will grow, the number of available languages will increase, and the global community of video-educated students will explode. If these things happen, I have a very strong feeling that not only will Khan have helped revolutionize the classroom, he’ll have helped improve the world as well. I can’t wait to see it happen.