By: Kelly de la Torre and Jan Mazotti Issue: Transformation Section: Business
Using Video to Reinvent Education
an one simple idea transform the educational system worldwide? If you look at the results emerging from the Khan Academy, founded by Salman Khan, the answer is a resounding yes. Although Khan did not set out to change the world, he has provided the catalyst to unlock a new method of teaching. Khan’s method empowers students to take control of their education and empowers teachers to use technology to push learning to new levels. Fortunately for all of us, Khan provides unlimited access to these tools so that students of all ages and backgrounds can have access to top-notch educational content on any topic.
People are starting to take notice. Sal Khan was named one of the Most Influential People in World by TIME in 2012. TIME summed up Khan’s accomplishments in two critical sentences “Sal Khan is a true education pioneer. He started by posting a math lesson, but his impact on education might truly be incalculable.”
Khan urges all of us to make a difference. Khan delivered the commencement speech to Rice University graduates in April 2012. During his speech, he encouraged them to: “Become lifelong learners, maintain perspective and increase the positivity in the world—the net happiness.” And, while these words can serve as powerful guiding principles, it’s not always easy. Khan quit his job in order to devote his energy to building Khan Academy online. He struggled to get by on small donations from the website until Ann Doerr, an environmental activist, provided the financial backing necessary to get the Khan Academy off the ground. It is that act that Khan emphasized during his speech to graduates: “Support and validate others who do good things, even in small ways. Don’t just sit by and observe it. Recognize it. When you do that, all sorts of things are going to start percolating in the universe.”
Using Video to Reinvent Education
The Academy was started when Khan, then a hedge fund analyst, designed a method to use to tutor his cousins remotely using 10-minute video clips produced in his closet during his off time. He posted the videos, targeted toward one mathematical concept, publicly on YouTube, where his cousins could only see a screen that was filled in while Khan narrated.
After building a small library of videos and receiving feedback from his cousins, Khan realized that his cousins preferred the automated version of him. It wasn’t that they objected to the one-on-one interaction with him, it was that the videos enabled two things. First, the cousins could watch the videos as many times as they wanted until they were comfortable with the concept, and it’s the narration along with the examples that is so engaging to the viewer. For example, in one video conclusion, Khan exclaims, “If this does not blow your mind, then you have no emotion.” Second, if the concept was something that they should have learned days, weeks or months ago, watching the videos removed any embarrassment or shame associated with an apparent failure to understand. Fundamentally, says Khan, the last thing a student needs when trying to understand a new concept is another human saying “Do you understand this?”
Lesson feedback was reinforced by comments on YouTube, where one student wrote, “First time I smiled doing a derivative.” Clearly thrilled by positive comments, Khan relishes the good ones … “I got a natural high and was in a good mood for the next day.” But what really motivates Khan is when he can “break through.” He tells a story of a parent of a child with autism. The parents had tried everything, bought everything and viewed everything, but it was Khan’s videos that got through. The moment when the lightbulb goes on and the student—regardless of age or background—really gets it and can move ahead to the next concept on firm footing is pure satisfaction. It became apparent that the videos filled a void. Maybe, thought Khan, the videos could help other people besides his cousins and random viewers. What was to follow is truly remarkable.
Khan argues that a typical math classroom is designed to provide a one-size-fits-all lecture to explain concepts and presumes that students understand the concepts quickly. Then, students are given homework problems to test their understanding and practice its application. However, when students do not understand the conceptual frameworks, homework may seem insurmountable. What’s more, if the concept seems widely understood, students are less likely to admit that they do not understand the concept in its entirety. Even more detrimental, when a student doesn’t understand a concept, the class moves on anyway. The result is a framework that is being built with gaps.
He compares the current process to learning to ride a bike. He says a student that has mastered pedaling, but is wobbly on the turns and braking, would receive an 80 percent on skill—but that’s not mastery—it’s just an average grasp. Then the teacher hands the student a unicycle and expects mastery. “It is much harder to move to an advanced level when there are Swiss cheese gaps in the foundation. That is how our traditional system functions. Mastery does not have to be achieved in order to progress,” Khan proclaims.
That is why Khan does it differently. He believes the videos provide the key to “flip the classroom.” By removing the one-size-fits-all lecture, teachers can now take a fundamentally dehumanizing experience and use classroom time to provide for peer-to-peer interaction and one-on-one interaction. By assigning the online lectures as homework, classroom time can now be spent applying the concepts to hands-on exercises, such as simulations for games, mechanics and robotics.
More importantly, students are able to take control of their education by moving at a pace that allows them to self-progress. Obviously, higher level courses require more expansive thinking; therefore the fundamental paradigm at Khan Academy is that students continue moving forward to more advanced modules as they gain mastery, while the computer generates as many questions as a student needs to make it to the next level.
This model has been the basis for incredible worldwide growth. The first YouTube video was uploaded in 2006; the Khan Academy was founded in 2008; and to date there are 4.7 million unique users per month, more than 145 million videos have been watched, and nearly 480 million exercises have been completed. Currently, the majority of traffic is from the United States; however, the videos have been viewed all over the world. Therefore, Khan Academy is translating core videos into 10 of the most widely spoken languages. Beyond the initial start-up funding from Google of $2 million, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of $1.5 million, Khan Academy has received funding from many supporters. Significant donations have been provided by Reed Hastings, the O’Sullivan Foundation, the Valhalla Charitable Foundation, the McCall McBain Foundation and John and Ann Doerr. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided a sizable follow-on grant of $4 million after the initial funding.
The initial pilot project between Khan Academy and the Los Altos School District in the San Francisco Bay Area was received so positively by the students, parents, teachers and administrators, that the school district implemented Khan Academy district-wide in their fifth and sixth grade classes and is in the process of introducing the concept to seventh and eighth grade classes. In addition, Khan Academy is directly partnering with 15-plus other public, charter and independent school systems. “The goal of these partnerships is to define and develop a blueprint for different types of schools and prove that Khan Academy enables students to fill gaps in their knowledge, which will help them propel beyond grade-level material.” The goal of Khan Academy is to use technology to humanize what is happening in education and to shed light on the misconceptions surrounding the student-to-teacher ratio versus the student-to-valuable-human-time-with-the-teacher ratio. In the traditional model, emphasizes Khan, five percent of classroom time is spent working with students. This new paradigm focuses on the “Swiss cheese gaps” and humanizes the classroom by directing one-on-one targeted interaction with students. By the academy’s calculations, this new paradigm is effectively humanizing the classroom by a factor of 10.
Self-paced learning opens the door to new opportunities for the adult learner as well. Adult learners do not have to be embarrassed to go back and learn what should have learned years before—they can now spend time getting up to speed with no embarrassment. It is an avenue to open new doors to happiness and success. Many speculate that Khan’s methods provide a glimpse into the future of education. “There is no reason that we can’t have peer-to-peer tutoring in a global one-world classroom,” he says. This method could also revolutionize education and bring online teaching to remote Third World locations, where the rising billion are becoming more “connected” every day. He wants to bring the site to “whoever benefits.”
So what are Khan’s education predictions for 2060?
He predicts a change to the current passive model of the professor lecturing and the student taking notes. Going forward, the bulk of time will be spent applying concepts to build things, create and explore. The concepts could be used in painting a picture, composing a sonata or choreographing a dance, to name just a few. “It is,” according to Khan, “a social imperative that this happens.” Using this method, students feel empowered to choose what to work on and ownership for their learning. They feel like they are exploring math, not being drilled in it. Teachers have more time to deliver hands-on learning by applying different skills through projects. Students can challenge teachers on concepts or re-do videos for the class to solidify their understanding. The opportunities are seemingly endless.
“We’re all about making the total educational experience as engaging and rich as possible,” says Khan. That is one of the foundations of the Khan Academy and one of the critical elements that we need to nurture in the next generation of students. We are facing daunting challenges ahead, and we need an educated and creative workforce to provide solutions. Khan Academy is focused on providing just that.
Kelly de la Torre is an attorney who understands the solutions that advanced energy can bring to the military, the U.S. government and our nation. They are working to bring together partners from various industry sectors and government to identify barriers to implementation and encourage dialogue and consensus on industry solutions. To find out about ALG | Attorneys and how ALG can help bring your company’s energy solutions to these discussions contact or Kelly de la Torre at 720-536-4600 or please go to www.antonlaw.com.