A Giant Leap in Online Teaching

At the end of this past year, I had the pleasure of attending the Pioneer Institute’s Lovett C. Peters Lecture in Public Policy honoring Sal Khan, Founder of Khan Academy. The Khan Academy is a free, online education platform that has produced over 2,700 popular instructional videos, viewed 90 million times by students all over the world.

Listening to Sal Khan speak is inspirational.  Here is someone born and raised in New Orleans, who earned three degrees from the MIT, an MBA from Harvard, and who then went to work as a hedge fund analyst.  For family members and friends, Khan began tutoring using Yahoo!’s Doodle notepad.  Once these lessons hit YouTube, their popularity soared and Khan quit finance and established the Khan Academy.

It is a not-for-profit educational organization with the mission of “providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere.”  I realize that this sounds a bit over-the-top, but it is very real and the Academy has developed a free on-line library with micro lectures via video tutorials teaching Mathematics, History, Healthcare & Medicine, Finance, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Astronomy, Economics, Cosmology and Computer Science. The Khan Academy also provides a web-based exercise system that generates problems for students based on skill level and performance.

This project has attracted funding from the major names in technology and venture capital with donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, and John Doerr.  Recent investments will allow the translation of this library into the world’s most widely spoken languages.

An exciting offshoot is Khan’s involvement with existing public schools. Khan wants to overhaul the traditional classroom by using technology to provide for basic teaching, allowing the teacher to focus on the individual students’ struggles. The tutorials allow the students to stay with a lesson until it is mastered, something that cannot be easily accomplished through an hour classroom lecture.

Have your kids “test drive” these video tutorials and see what happens.  However, don’t miss the opportunity to experience for yourself the magic of these new-age, conversational tutorials with step-by-step doodles and diagrams using an electronic blackboard.

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