Sunday, May 27, 2012

Q&A: Khan Academy Creator Talks About K-12 Innovation

Lesli A. Maxwell / Published Online: March 5, 2012

Salman Khan, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Business School, was working as a hedge fund manager when he began posting videos on YouTube six years ago to tutor young family members in math. That led to the 2008 creation of the Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization that has built a free, online collection of thousands of digital lessons (nearly 3,000 of them created by Mr. Khan himself) and exercises in subjects ranging from algebra to microeconomics. Education Week Staff

Writer Lesli A. Maxwell recently interviewed Mr. Kahn about the evolution of the academy and its potential for changing K-12 education.

How do you think classroom instruction is going to look five years from now?

I'm not sure of the timeline, but the classic teacher in front of the room at a chalkboard lecturing while you have 20 to 35 students at their desks taking notes—I think that model will soon go away. I think that's going to be kind of blown away in favor of a model where every student is working at their own pace and the teacher now has a much higher-value role as someone who is diagnosing students' weaknesses, who is mentoring students both on the academic material, but also mentoring students on becoming good teachers of their peers.


Explain what the confluence of technological and educational factors has been at this point in time to allow the Khan Academy to flourish and expand. Why is it working?

I think the breadth of the content on the Khan Academy also gave it an experiential edge, and people learned to trust it. It wasn't just about one concept you learn about here and then you go to another website. [snip].

How does your business model work when all of your content is free? How do you sustain that?

It's a question we constantly ask ourselves. In the medium term, we've had the benefit of some small, medium, and large philanthropists, donors, and foundations to support us. We are a not-for-profit, so we are not a business in the traditional sense. I think there will always be this case that yes, it will require capital to scale this out. We are at 4 million unique users. What will happen when we are at 40 million and want to cover so many different topics and have simulations? That will require capital.


Where did the idea of the "flipped classroom" come from?

Very little of this did I think of myself. I also want to emphasize that the flipped classroom is not what we view as the ideal or the endpoint. We view it almost as a transition state. [snip].

We would say, instead of holding fixed the time and date when you learn something and the variable is how well you learn it, we're saying let's hold fixed how well you learn it, and you learn it at a deep level, and what's variable is how long you have to learn it, and when you learn it, and when you revisit the material.

What are the downsides of this approach?

This isn't an attempt to put it on students' plates on their own time. Even if you just talk about that flipped approach, I actually think the problem-solving is the much more important part of the experience than the lecture. [snip].

What are the opportunities that this approach creates for schools to offer more-customized learning for students?

The base assumption of the model is that it's completely customized to the student and it's optimally differentiated, and students are working exactly at their pace. But what it does for schools, … it allows them to rethink a lot of the assumptions that we've been making about what a school should even be like for the last hundreds of years, which is one teacher, one classroom. [snip]s

Anything to add?

This has absolutely nothing to do with replacing teachers. When we talk about getting lectures out of the room, that's because we think we can move teachers up the value chain. That they are better off forming the bonds and connections. [snip]

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1 comment:

  1. Love to hear Sal say, "I actually think the problem-solving is the much more important part of the experience than the lecture." In other words, watching videos is great, but doing the practice problems is key to learning. Practice, practice, practice.


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