Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, has made it his goal to improve education around the world. In a recent TED talk, he said that he hoped, with the work he and his team were doing, they could make advances in the way kids learn and create a global one-world classroom.
His goals are admirable but the task is huge, so I was interested in learning just how Khan Academy works. The tutorial videos are only about ten minutes in length and allow students to enjoy learning at their own pace and in their own setting. In the Los Altos School District, two 5th grade classes, and two 7th grade pre-algebra readiness classes piloted the Khan Academy and it was found that a flipping of the classroom schedule resulted. This meant that teachers were asking the students to watch a video as homework and what used to be homework would now be done in class. So instead of the teacher standing in front of the class and going through a monologue, students are able to interact with one another about the work, meaning teachers can humanize the learning experience.
In keeping with many proposed changes in education, Khan Academy’s lessons are filled with game mechanics. Badges and points are earned and give students the ability to brag about being dubbed a “Master of Trigonometry” or getting the ever elusive “Black Hole” badge. And these rewards are working, too, as the team at Khan Academy has heard of “students spending hour after hour watching physics videos and 5th graders relentlessly tackling college-level math to earn Khan Academy badges.”
I can recall numerous times in my younger years where I’d be sitting at my desk, listening to my teacher discuss Algebra 2 while I feverishly took down his every word. I never had the opportunity, in the fervor of getting it all down, to actually understand the concept. I always hoped that there would come a day when either this teacher would slow down or I’d magically be able to press pause when needed. The Khan Academy seems to have responded to my internal hopes and while they won’t be able to help my former self, I am excited and hopeful for future students.