Meet Sal Khan: the Seinfeld of the Education Revolution

| May 20, 2011 | 43 Comments
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Salman Khan's library of free instructional videos has reached millions of people, and now his videos are reaching into classrooms.

If you’re curious at all about the future of education, you should know about Salman Khan. He’s the charismatic brainiac who’s created more than 2,000 instructional videos about everything from photosynthesis to the Bay of Pigs invasion. As former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein recently noted, “Sal Khan has 50 million people on a site that doesn’t sell sex.”

Self-effacing (“Any joker in his closet can reach millions of people”), fast-talking, and pragmatic, Khan spins his big-picture views about education in the same way he describes subjects like valence electrons or mortgage-backed securities: as a bemused observer pointing out the obvious. “If Isaac Newton had made YouTube videos about gravity, I wouldn’t have to!” Khan said at a recent TED Talk.

But rather than quarterbacking from the sidelines, Khan is intentionally getting in the game. Some, including Bill Gates (who’s donated millions of dollars into Khan’s vision), believe his free YouTube videos, the full collection of which are called The Khan Academy, will profoundly change what we know as classroom instruction.

“It’s going to be hard for teachers who have trouble letting go of the idea that they’re the sage on stage.”
In Silicon Valley, at least, it’s already in the works. What began as a series of helpful videos for his cousins is being piloted in the Los Altos School District in two fifth-grade and two seventh-grade math classes, and will likely expand to other grades and possibly even schools in the district next year.

Here’s how it works: Students watch the videos in class (all of them produced by him), take “gamified” assessments that determine whether they understand the concept, and move on to the next level when they’re ready. The teacher can monitor each student’s progress with a dashboard: the green bar shows they’re proficient, blue indicates they’re working on it, and red alerts teachers that students are stuck on a problem.

This approach seems to work for one simple reason: The fact that students can go back and replay the videos as many times as they need to understand a concept eliminates what Khan calls the “Swiss cheese” gaps in knowledge. Unlike with traditional classes, a student can’t move to the next level until he’s understood the one before it.

Though he’s the buzz of education circles – at two conferences in Silicon Valley where I saw him speak in the past six months, long lines of fans waited to thank him for his work– Khan has his share of critics, too. Some educators think Khan is arrogant in believing that videos can replace the human touch in a classroom, and in the process squeeze teachers out of the equation. Others believe his focus on basic skill drills misses more important learning ideals, like critical thinking and collaboration. As an institution, education does not so easily adapt to newfangled ways. “Entrenched systems don’t go away because Sal Khan is charming,” Klein said.

I spoke to Khan about these questions, and more.

Q. How do you answer teachers who say your videos will replace them in the classroom?

A. Depending on the teacher’s mentality, I think this can actually make it a lot more fun. If I was a teacher, this is exactly the type of class I’d want to teach, because for the core skills, I don’t have to prepare in a traditional sense. But I do have to prepare for projects and all that, so I have to prepare for creative things. As a teacher, when I’m in a room, I’m relying on my innate skills and teaching abilities, I haven’t scripted it ahead of time. I’m doing like a doctor would. I wouldn’t have a script about what I’m going to say to the next patient. They look at the patient’s data, they ask questions, and they try to diagnose the patient and somehow cure the patient. It’s the same exact model here.

But it’s going to be hard for teachers who have trouble letting go of the idea that they’re the sage on stage, that they have all the information, “Do not question me, be quiet,” and it’s all about classroom management. It throws all that stuff out the door. But the people who are attracted to this model is exactly the type of people we want and who this will work for.

Q. Are you adding any input from teachers?

A. Yes, we’ve had input on both the videos and creating the software, from teachers and students. In Los Altos, it’s a very tight design. We have our engineers in the classrooms on a regular basis. They’re talking to students and teachers. In fact, they figured out that some kids were gaming the multiple choice, and we realized we had to fix that.

Sometimes we see what teachers are doing in class, and we realize that it should be a feature in the videos or the software. For example, we’ve created a profile of the students for the teachers to look at. But teachers have started to use it in a different way. They’re asking students to look at their profiles and come up with their own goals. And right now the kids are looking at it and writing their goals on notecards. So we thought we should automate that process and build it in.

And using that profile, Khan Academy can make suggestions too. So students can say: “These are my 20 goals for the month.” “These are my three definite goals and these are my three stretch goals” and you can look at it at the end of the week compared to where you were.

So we’re learning a ton from the teachers themselves. And we’re actually going to hire some of them. There are teachers who were laid off, some of the best teachers the district has. It was a travesty at first, then we thought, Gee, we could hire them. These teachers have been masterful with the technology and what to do with it. They weren’t afraid of the ambiguity.

Q. How is the teacher’s dashboard and assessment piece working out?

A. It’s been working well. A teachers has an iPad now, so she’s walking around with the students’ dashboard, which highlights who’s doing what, who needs help. Before she helps a student, she can flip to their profile, see what they’ve been working on, look at their goals, then she can talk to the student, and she intervenes. It feels like a doctor with a patient’s medical history, but way more advanced because they know the history of the student going into the intervention. Also it’s cool because it looks like the future.

Q. Did you create an app for the teacher’s dashboard?

A.  Right now, it’s a Web interface, so anyone can use it without an iPad, but we’re building a dedicated mobile version. And that’s where most of our resources are going, hiring engineers and designers. Any teacher in the world can do this right now, and they are. If you’re a teacher, you could get all your kids an account, and you give them your I.D. and they sign you up as a coach, and they designate you as their teacher.

Right now, it looks like 500 to 1,000 people are using this in classrooms, based on the numbers we see. They’re working in groups of about 30 and it looks like they’re using it as a classroom would. We don’t know for sure, but it looks like that’s what’s happening. You can do this homeschooling with two or three kids. The idea is we perfect the use in Los Altos, but anyone can use it.

Q. What are your plans for the Khan Academy in the near future?

A. We’re definitely ramping up team to do school implementation. We’re going to new schools and classrooms and school districts.

Q. Do you think this kind of learning is appropriate for every student?

A. We’re not saying it’s not for every student, but we’re not sure. Our goal right now is, on videos and exercises, let’s as quickly as possible do a really solid first pass, use as much data as possible to iterate on it, and improve it. Then we’ll learn from the data. We know from the data that it’s much much more appropriate for a lot more people than what they’re getting now.

Q. Where do you think the Khan Academy fits in with the debate about high-stakes testing, core curriculum, and the need to teach students intangibles like critical thinking and collaboration?

A. Our thinking is that if you take a test or a series of tests, you should be able to get your credential and you’re done. And what I love about that is it kills the monopoly on the credential, it levels the playing field on the learning side, and I think Khan Academy will be a strong contender on the learning side.

When it comes to we shouldn’t be teaching this, we should be teaching that; we should be teaching it this way or that way. I don’t disagree with some of it. For example, I think we should be teaching computer science. But I think it’s an impractical approach, or naïve approach to sit on the sidelines and complain about it.

You’re still not addressing the issue of students still being assessed by the world, you know, on the SATs. And if they really do want to go to med school, regardless of your personal opinion of what’s important – and you might have a valid personal opinion – but that’s still not going to help kids go where they want to go if you refuse to teach something based on ideological grounds.

So our point of view is, go where the need is, address the need, and once the need is addressed, we’re now in a position where we can start delivering other things – things that are maybe more relevant, more useful. More projects, more computer programming and things like that.

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  • Anonymous

     I found the intro poorly written. Otherwise, it was a pretty good interview. Cheers.

  • http://twitter.com/tm65 James Mak

     Good interview. The teacher as doctor analogy is not as fitting as the teacher as a coach I think. 

  • 255Grizzly

     Great article!  He totally looks like Jerry!

  • Teacher44

     I teach US History and went to the site to see the US History videos. I wanted to see why I need to be replaced and Khan should do all the talking. I was expecting some multimedia extravaganza, interesting anecdotes and a thoroughly engaging lecture. Uh … this guy is boring and probably more than most history teachers! No wonder the students have to rewind the videos all the time — monotone voice with a chalkboard — because they can’t focus! 

    • Nyakairu

      No wonder we are graduating students who cannot read their own diplomas. People like you have no business being teachers. Students flock to Mr. Khan’s services because they do not get competent guidance from teachers like you.

      • Jorgeregula

        Nyakairu, 
        Your response is a bit extreme, no? 

        • Nyakairu

          Extreme? Not at all.

          • Anonymous

             I teach inner city, and if you honestly think it’s as easy as you are implying to keep kids off those devices, then you simply have a very poor frame of reference.  Through engaging lessons, appropriate, challenging content, and years of classroom management experience I’ve been able to squash most of the problem, but it’s far from gone.

            It is the teacher’s responsibility to keep students on task, but depending on the classroom, that could be half your period.  Parents today will actually get mad at teachers for taking a student’s cell phone away during class because “they need to get a hold of them in an emergency.”  

            You speak in ideals.  Come teach in inner city LA.  For whatever reason when a teacher says “we need your support” you and the general public seem to say “no, but we’ll gladly criticize you.”

          • Nyakairu

            Teacher unions and some teachers keep fighting tooth and nail reforms that would improve public education. In private sectors, people are paid based on merit and production. Stop squealing and blaming those who rightly criticize the poor state of the public education system. The general public will give you full support if you suggest helpful reforms instead of proffering lachrymose excuses.

          • Anonymous

            Here is my rebuttal: http://www.hulu.com/watch/246482/the-colbert-report-salman-khan

          • Just A. Thought

            jaseycrowl, I like you.

            1> I am not a teacher per se, but I have taught children who are very far from having access to the internet. What about those children, who are much more likely to be at the bottom of the society to begin with?

            2> The internet and television has changed my life, mostly for the good. I’ve learned a lot from this. I’m all for bringing technology into learning. However, my teachers– real people– have been more important in my life. Teachers first technology later. Technology is just a tool.

            Nyakairu, you’re annoying.

      • BioTeacher

        Many students flock to the Khan Academy NOT because the classroom teachers are poor, instead it is because they’ve usually spent more time in class on their iPhone texting their friends or Facebook updates.

        Hence they need to review the information they apparently missed the first time because they choose to do something else. That’s EXACTLY what most of my students say when asked anonymously.

        I’ve gone through a few of the videos in my subject, Biology, and many miss crucial points, or have inaccuracies.

        • Nyakairu

          A teacher who cannot control what students are doing in the classroom is incompetent, or “poor” to use your terminology. It is incumbent on the teacher to make sure students are not using their digital devices during class periods.

  • Greg

    Of the hundreds of videos on his site, not one on literature?  Is he trying to turn us all into engineers?

    • http://twitter.com/vpletap Purav Patel

      Given that his background is a B.S in Math and BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT, I’d say he’s probably not a literature guy. He’s playing to his strengths. In a video i saw of him he even said explicitly he wouldn’t be able to teach literature in a video (how would you anyway, literature is all about discussion and writing etc.). 

    • Nick

      For Literature videos you go to ZaneEducation.com – in fact for history amd all other subjects you go to the same place. Then you will be able to see what you can do with video and subtitles.

      What nobody has mentioned is that if you try and produce unscripted home video on the fly, you will get what you pay for, a very, very average result!

      Whoever told our young friend Khan that he was going to revolutionize education was either trying to have a joke with him and he took it seriously, or alternatively it was someone trying to find a cure for Malaria and had drank a bit too much of the anitidote.

  • Nyakairu

     Khan’s courses are a boon to students who want to further their education, especially poor students who cannot afford private tutors. His website is especially helpful to those students in some public schools that provide inadequate education.

  • J Michael

    Genius is usually overlooked. Genius is usually scoffed at, until voila! “it all makes sense”. Lets applaud Mr. Khan for his efforts to make a difference. Is he Jewish? 

    • Mike

      I like the way Sal answers this question and agree with him:

      I was born and raised in New Orleans, Lousiana. My mother was born
      in Calcutta, India. My father was born in Barisal, Bangladesh.

      If you believe in trying to make the best of the finite number of
      years we have on this planet
      (while not making it any worse for anyone else), think that pride
      and self-righteousness are the cause of most conflict and negativity,
      and are humbled by the vastness and
      mystery of the Universe, then I’m the same religion as you.”

  • Msjunie01

     Today’s fashion in education: go online for your learning. 
    Teachers can assist you in your tracking, if needs be. No need to fondly recall a favorite teacher who once opened a new world to you. 

  • http://twitter.com/vpletap Purav Patel

    No, he’s Bengali.
     

  • Ron Bergundy

    I pointed my sister in the direction of the Khan academy while she was studying for her AP Calc test and she enjoyed it. After all the homework, extra curricular activities and general stress of h.s. she didn’t have any time to get someone to explain a few concepts that were taught earlier in the year. It was a great supplement to her in-class education that filled in all the holes that were too quickly passed by her teacher. One size fits all classrooms are not sufficient answers anymore for high burden that is placed on the typical student. nobody’s trying to replace teachers. just trying to improve education. The better the learning is outside of the classroom, the easier and more efficient it will be inside the classroom.

    • http://twitter.com/vpletap Purav Patel

      Well said Ron. 

  • Anonymous

     I’m not understanding the hype here.  As a teacher I understand the excitement of bringing technology into the classroom to excite and educate students in a new way, but people have been making videos like these for a very long time.  Usually with more production value, and in my personal opinion, just better.  But how do we get all this technology to schools that already have no money, with students that don’t have computers at home.  I teach inner city, and the solution for low scores (due to a million factors outside the amazing work that dedicated teachers do) is strip money and throw new people and ideas at students who haven’t known structure a day in their life.

    What I assume Mr. Gates is excited about is how to monetize and privatize education, create software to sell that will “track” a student, and make easily quantifiable results that translate to profits and easily understood public accolades.  I’m sure the assessment software is AMAZING at tracking how well the students understand Mr. Khan’s videos, in the same way a standardized test is great at tracking how well a student memorizes text information.  I’m skeptical as to how this software will help K-12 students do anything more than absorb facts because these are boring videos.  You’ve simply switched from having a “sage on the stage” to a “sage on the screen”.  You don’t get to ask questions, explore, or socialize.  I do see this as a great asset to collegiate education, but I don’t teach at that level, and so I don’t feel like I have a say in what’s best.

    But as always, people who aren’t teachers, who haven’t been in a classroom working with children CONSISTENTLY, always know better.  And usually get more funding.

    • http://twitter.com/vpletap Purav Patel

      First of all, Bill Gates is NOT trying to monetize and privatize education. Khan Academy is a not-for-profit. No one is trying to sell anything. No profits are entering this picture so don’t even bring those words up.And yes, you mention that the videos won’t prompt ACTUAL critical-style creative learning. THAT is NOT what the videos are intended to do! They are intended to teach people the basics. Khan himself keeps saying in interviews and talks that the ideal use of Khan Academy would be 20-60 minutes daily on Khan Academy mastering the basics and spending the rest of the school time for subjects doing creative projects (REAL learning). In fact Khan said in one video that he’s been doing learning experiments in schools partnering with khan Academy  in which students use their core skills to create businesses and simulated economics scenarios. And what is this accusation of not being able to ask questions, explore or socialize. READ the articles in which the pilot programs of Khan Academy are going into the Los Altos school districts. The students ARE moving around and helping each other (SOCIALIZING). They ARE asking questions. It is the teacher’s job to make sure the latter part happens. If YOU as an individual approach online learning with the notion that such things are not possible, they of course they won’t. 
      Now your comment about Khan not being a teacher is accurate, but are real teachers doing any better? Let me see YOUR student’s grades and test scores. Let me see what THEY are learning. Why don’t I hold up YOUR teaching to a critical analysis? Oh wait I can find it easier to critisize someone other than yourself. I’d like to see you teach millions of people half a dozen subjects.

      • Anonymous

         Why are you so angry? I was simply trying to point out that these are exactly like thousands of supplementary materials that have been and will be available. Many are free, but then require you buy “supplemental” assessment materials such as books or software to expand upon the learning process to any point that makes the videos worth while for an educator.  And as a teacher at an inner city school with very few resources, I can only weep for my students as people who have no idea what actually goes on in a classroom or what it takes to develop effective curriculum continue to strip money away from our schools to go towards fads like these.  How, HOW can dumping money into schools be worse than dumping money into one guy who apparently has enough time to record 5000 boring videos and make bad jokes…

        I will also ask if you are a teacher (people who have a degree and go through a certification process and background check like a doctor or lawyer), if you are then let’s have an educated debate.  But as I stated before, people who aren’t teachers always seem to know better.  AND YES TEACHERS ARE DOING GREAT!  THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF KIDS WHO GRADUATE AND GO ON TO PRODUCTIVE LIVES THAT BENEFIT SOCIETY!!!  Are all teachers taking crazy pills???  The general public seems to think that every student who walks across the stage at graduation these days has the mental capacity of a 3-year-old and a bomb strapped to their chest.  

        I think these will be great supplemental materials, and I’m sure a teacher who wanted to take these videos and expand them into a full curriculum would find great success.  I can’t argue with that. I’m simply arguing with why Khan is getting SO MUCH praise for doing what many have done before, and in my opinion, better.  

        And as far as Bill Gates goes, have you been involved in going through grants from the Gates Foundation for the school you teach at?  Well I have, it’s called TCRP, and it’s a large grant my district is hoping to receive by implementing TCRP.  But oh wait, guess what, the district has to teach all these new strategies (as a pilot program meaning there is NO ACTUAL CONSISTENT DATA in a classroom with tracked results going years beyond when the student finishes school) to teachers, with all these new supplemental materials, and hip fads like Khan here or else they don’t get the money.  Of course there should be accountability (i.e. where the money is going with grants) but not hoops and hurdles and catches decided upon by BUSINESSMEN.  Gates is a BUSINESSMAN, and if you truly believe his investments in this have not the slightest stench of eventual monetization in some capacity then I’m going to say that your economics teacher failed you.  

        Also Purav, you attack my abilities as a teacher with the assumption that most in America seem to take, that all teachers everywhere are incompetent and failing their students.  I’ll end with this amazing quote I recently read: “Those who can, teach.  Those who cannot, pass laws about teaching.”

        • Geoffandkim

          Jaseycrowl, I’m a teacher, and most of Purav Patel’s points make fine sense to me. 

          Sal is doing a great thing; he is helping a lot of appreciative students, and you just dump on him with comments like his videos are boring, his jokes are bad, and saying he is not doing anything new. If Purav felt angry, it is probably because of the dismissive way you blow off Sal’s work.

          You throw a lot of stones.  I will just catch one.  Sal’s video’s are not boring to everyone.  I enjoy them very much.  My own children enjoy and benefit from them.  And apparently, based on the comments his viewers leave on his videos, many students enjoy them also (and find him funny).

           

          • Anonymous

            I think Stephen helps us understand everything we need to know about him: http://www.hulu.com/watch/246482/the-colbert-report-salman-khan

        • Nyakairu

          You have just proved why the education system needs to be reformed. Next time, post your comments with your real name so that the system can identify and get rid of  you. You are a disgrace to the teaching profession and a disaster for those you pretend to teach.

  • K S Balma

     I was actually really excited about this until I watched some of his videos. They’re all just mini lectures using the electronic equivalent of a piece of chalk and a chalkboard to create visuals that range from mediocre to confusing. (His avocados look identical to his zeros, which is not a problem unless you’re a child who has only recently learned your numbers, and some guy you can’t see keeps drawing zeros below his math problems and telling you that all the zeros are actually avocados. Since a lot of kids don’t even know what an avocado is, it may not even occur to them that “avocado” isn’t actually just a synonym for “zero.”) Dissappointed with the math lesson, I went on to a lesson on communism, where I learned more about how to draw circles, badly. The people are represented by circles. The land was represented by a circle. Countries, also circles. At one point there was a very helpful little graph, but if you’re like me and you don’t learn from having someone talk to you non-stop for several minutes, then by the time the graph appeared, you hadn’t actually learned anything and therefore couldn’t necessarily appreciate what the graph was illustrating. If you’re a good listener with a great attention span, perhaps you’ll do great with this method of listening to someone talk for 5-15 minutes while drawing lots of circles and handwriting the occasional term next to them to clarify what they all are, but there is really nothing new here. It’s just a disembodied voice (one that you can’t interrupt to ask questions) using the techno-geek equivalent of a chalkboard.
    .

    • http://twitter.com/vpletap Purav Patel

      You have a point with the history videos K S Balma. I agree that they aren’t his best. But I’d like to also point out that watching his addition videos is not a good representation of his overall work. His addition video looks old; it’s one of the first few videos he ever made and the sound/video/teaching quality is not his finest. Please DO watch some of Khan’s later videos in math and science. They are a more fair representation of his work.
       

  • Orientexplorer

    I think a lot of people are missing the point about the videos. The strength of this approach is not that the videos are especially great or entertaining or anything. The strengths are: 

    1. Students can go at their own pace.  They can watch the videos repeatedly until they get it and a teacher can monitor who needs extra attention and help by watching the results.
    2. Students like the videos. They like technology and will often be more interested in the material if it’s on a screen.

    3. Students don’t have to ask questions when they don’t get it. It’s embarrassing to answer questions wrong in front of a whole class. It’s not embarrassing if only the computer and the teacher know. Which leads us to strength number 4…

    4. Teachers know exactly what each student understands or doesn’t understand. 

    5. Teachers can focus more on critical thinking, projects, etc. because they don’t have to spend as much time on basics and on grading. 

    I don’t think teachers should be threatened by these videos. Teachers are a necessity and videos are simply another tool that they can use. 

  • Michael D

    If you don’t understand the video the first time and they replay it for you, do they make it play slower and louder? I’ve often found that slowing down and getting louder really helps confused people understand what you are trying to say. 
    In all seriousness, though, when I was in school decades ago, we had similar things. At the time, they called them educational films. When we ‘read’ Shakespeare, we’d watch a scene, then the teacher would stop the film and we’d play a quiz game before, joy of joys, we were permitted to watch the next scene. It would take us a month and a half to finish the film. I also remember singing along to a bouncing ball in music class while the teacher danced along with the motion of the ball. And then there were these disastrously dull slides in history, with prerecorded lectures that would ding every time you were to move forward to the next slide. Oh man, they were murder. Teachers said the films/visual aids really captured the interest of students and that they were better able to gauge our individual comprehension levels. I count myself lucky to have had teachers who had much more effective, engaging and efficient pedagogical techniques than reliance on films, not that I’m against technology in the classroom. 

    • Jorgeregula

      Thank you Michael. Teaching is so complex. Who knows what the hell young students, now or then, respond to? They’re teenagers for godsakes. No teacher will reach every student, but Khan and others like him are providing folks with supplementary options.  

  • Guest

    As a middle aged adult who never mastered mathematics in public school, I am enjoying Khan Academy very much. In 12 years of public school, I had only 1 maths teacher who made the subject understandable and interesting to me.

  • Nyakairu

    I have recommended Khan Academy to several parents, and they invariably have all been grateful to me and thanked me for pointing it out to them. They have told me that it helped improve their children’s, and in some instances the parents’, understanding of the posted subjects.

  • http://twitter.com/Meditheraces Meditheraces

    There is a lock-out on today’s 22 may attack in Hebron’s settlers on Palestinan homes even at Al Jazeera WHY? It is a terrible reminder of Progroms Jews suffered in Nazi era. 

  • Kathy

    The videos are good, but they are no different than the lectures that a competent teacher gives.  How/why is this considered some kind of advancement or new idea?

    • Nyakairu

      You hit on the key word, “competent.” There are a lot of incompetent teachers in public schools, and it is next to impossible to get rid of them because of nebulous union rules. Khan Academy is trying to level the field, at no cost the public.

  • Nick

    Seinfeld all right….I think they mean Jerry Seinfeld …the comedian.

    Sorry but Khan is no more revolutionising education, than Google is revolutionising first aid.

    Look I have no doubt that young Mr Khan is bobbing up and down with pleasure at being lauded for having a home video camera, but the fact is he is simply attempting to copy the likes of Discovery Education, Zane Education and Brainpop, and he is doing in a very amateurish way compared to those three companies.

    It will take far more than a bunch of home videos to revolutionize education, and anyone that believes that insults everyone that spent the 3 – 5 years training to become a teacher.

    You only have to look at the offerings of the 3 previously named companies to realise that what Khan offers is a freebie service that lacks any degree of professionionlism or support of any kind. No support materials, no online testing, no subtitles, no tech help, and anyone serious about trying to make a difference in education would certainly not be using YouTube to deliver the use of the videos – simply because YouTube is blocked in most schools.

    Lets just hope he does not try to launch into teaching the History of Ancient Egypt or the Great Works of Art, otherwise he will be want us to believe that his charming smile makes him look like a copy of a Pyramid, or the Mona Lisa.

    Education and teachers need much more. They need online solutions that include video, not a bunch of home movies. In fact, despite his claims to be offering Free this and Free that, he is existing on handouts from Google and Gates, and when they turn off the money tap, Khan’s Academy will go down the same route that all the previous people that have tried to provide freebies online…he’ll disappear!  At the end of the day there is no such thing as a free lunch, someone alsways has to pay, otherwise who pays the bills to keep it going.

  • Sonya terBorg

    I teach fifth grade in Boise. My kids love Khan Academy but we dont use it quite as outlined in the article and maybe that is why they love it? Our school uses Everyday Math as a primary resource in Elementary school. I look through at the main concepts, enrichment pages, critical thinking, group tasks and homework sheets and make a list of the math skills one would need in order to navigate these tasks. Mostly, they require higher level thinking, multistep problem solving and application of knowledge – as opposed to basic recall. I make links to the appropriate practice pages on the KA website and post this on my online newsletter and email it to my kids. This is their homework. Then, at school, we partcipate in all the engaging learning that they are now prepared for and able to do in a supported environment – work tnat they either would never have seen as too much time was wasted on drills or would have been passed off as homework and ulimately the responsibility of their parents. My kids spend on average about 30 minutes per night on the site. About ten percent of that time is watching the videos (we have just started so this may change) but what it tells me (thanks to the extensive data analysis) is that for many things, the dont need a sage on the stage or anywhere else – they are happy to just figure it out in order to become proficient. I am able to pull individuals to clarify issues they are having and help them move forward and they get a kick out of the points/badges features and in analyzing their own progress. Plus, they love the more engaging and challenging nature of our math classes and frankly, so do I, despite it actually being more work to prepare. I am so appreciative of such an extensive resource and I am loving this experience both for myself as an educator and for my kids. Who doesnt want to hear excited cries of “yes!” ans see fist pumps from kids who come in from recess and see math class is starting?

    • Dancingmerrida

      I think this is the best way to utilize these videos as a teacher. It is great that you are embracing them and making them work for you rather than seeing them as a threat of some kind.