Although a number of technologies have been introduced in the past century, education in itself hasn’t changed it’s form too drastically. Most teachers still lecture during class then assign the newly learned material for homework that is then graded and passed back. A former hedge fund analyst by the name of Salman Khan inadvertently created an idea that has already begun to morph education as a system. A couple years ago while in Boston, Khan was asked by his younger cousin in New Orleans to tutor her in her math class. Restricted by distance, Khan was unable to see her in person so he made a video of himself explaining the exercises and posted it on YouTube. Soon after he posted the video, he started getting lots of unexpected feedback from other YouTubers expressing how much his simple videos had helped them so much. With the amount of positive feedback Khan was receiving, he decided to start making more videos in different lesson plans and different subjects, to post to the general public. Today, with a new headquarters, a full staff and over 3,100 videos on their website www.khanacademy.org, Khan Academy is a rapidly expanding database of knowledge whose groundbreaking education style is changing education one classroom at a time.
Salman Khan, who still makes the videos himself, uses a technology that presents the viewer with a black screen. Using a small tablet hooked up to his computer, he solves the problems or explains the concepts by writing on the tablet which then translates the information to the screen. The information is presented on a sort of virtual chalkboard which livened by the use of different colored “chalk”. Khan then records himself explaining the exercises while he writes on his virtual chalkboard. Khan, whose voice is expressive and charismatic, is so well-spoken and is able to articulate his ideas so clearly and with such precision, the lecture’s are easy to follow and understand. In a lecture that might take up to two or three hour-long class periods, Khan condenses into a concise ten to fifteen minute video.
The influence of Khan’s videos on developing brains is unbelievable. Khan has received numerous letters from parents thanking him incessantly and expressing how his videos were able to get through to their children the way most teachers hadn’t. One mother, whose son had a form of autism, stated that after multiple school changes, tutor hirings and a wealth of money spent, she found Khan’s free videos online and introduced them to her son. She soon found that they were the only form of education that was able to get through to her son. Since the videos, he has excelled in school in topics he had previously been unable to comprehend.
In a number of elementary schools in California, Khan Academy is performing a sort of “trial session” in the classrooms. The most noticeable change, besides the rejection of textbooks, is a complete flip of traditional lesson plan. For homework, the students watch an assigned video on their current topic on Khan Academy’s website. Then the next day, in the classroom, the student’s do what would have been assigned for homework in a standard lesson plan, with the guidance of their teacher. Each student is given a temporary laptop where they post their answers during class. In the meantime, the teacher has, on his/her laptop, a chart of live-time results displaying which questions students have finished, which ones are correct or incorrect and how long each problem took the student. This way, instead of lecturing and hoping that the students will fully understand the topic, the teacher can precisely pinpoint each student’s strengths and flaws and guide them where help is needed. This approach to learning has proven to drastically increase each students overall performance and increase the test scores of these California “trial” classrooms.
The innovative thinking of Khan Academy is quite incredible and provides us with another example of technologies positive influence on our development. The company has single-handedly taken an age-old tradition of education and introduced a completely new technique that allows for individual student attention, a concise and understandable presentation of lesson plan and an overall increase in productivity and learning. I would encourage you to look more into Khan Academy and maybe even use one of their videos someday.
For a more in-depth description, hear Salman Khan explain the academy himself: