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Khan of Khan Academy at TED (video) (youtube.com)
492 points by zootar on Mar 10, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 97 comments

I've heard countless people rave about Salman Khan and his teaching methods - both here and away from HN. The truth is, I had no idea why he and his teachings were such a big deal...until now. I had seen some of his videos before and read some of the articles about the Khan Academy, but had never given them my full attention. To me, it was just another guy with his own teaching methods.

But when I see him talk at TED, it makes perfect sense. Not only is he a superb speaker, he gets his points across clearly.

Probably the best point of all is this one:

  "What I do is I assign the lectures for homework and, what used to be
   homework, I now have the students doing in the classroom."
As radical as that may seem, this idea has TONS of potential. Do we really need teachers there in person if they are just lecturing? The real use of being there in person as a teacher is for interacting with the students. What better way to do that than by helping them with the work (i.e. homework) and letting the Khan Academy lecture when little interaction is needed.

I am definitely going to hop on the bandwagon now and join everyone else in following Khan while appreciating his pure genius. In fact, the best way to describe him is to combine all the great things people here on HN have to say about him:

  > He's amazing. (joshu)

  > I really do think Sal Khan will revolutionize teaching. (solarmist)

  > Hero material. (MikeCapone)

  > Future of education. (omfut)

  > Really wonderful reminder of what just one person can set in motion. (runevault)

  > Simply amazing that a guy armed only with a tablet and a microphone can have this
  much impact. (keiferski)

  > He is a big inspiration for anyone looking to change the world. (omfut)
The list could go on forever. And it's not every day you hear people talking about someone and their ideas in such a way like they are now about Khan and the Khan Academy.

If people are saying it is amazing, then there's a pretty good chance that it truly is amazing.

I can't convey what a difference this would have made for me in my schooling career. I was constantly bored by teachers who were slowed by others in the class, and as a result I resorted to clowning or doodling, or programming my TI-86.

This is how we were taught at Oxford. The only problem was, the unmotivated/disorganised students (like myself) often didn't do the reading/studying in our own time and so had to have these extremely painful tutorials one on one with the tutor.

Also, I remember when doing Economic Theory, I spent 40 hours reading/studying in a library per week and still couldn't get my head around some of the advanced math and game theory, and really wish I'd had a teacher to teach me those concepts before the tutorial where we'd go through the problems. It turns out I was lacking knowledge of some mathematical transformations that I hadn't been taught because I didn't specialise in double math when I was 16.

Nevertheless, I favour this form of teaching.

> Also, I remember when doing Economic Theory, I spent 40 hours reading/studying in a library per week and still couldn't get my head around some of the advanced math and game theory, and really wish I'd had a teacher to teach me those concepts before the tutorial where we'd go through the problems. It turns out I was lacking knowledge of some mathematical transformations that I hadn't been taught because I didn't specialise in double math when I was 16.

I think this point is actually addressed by the Khan Institute's method of teaching. Lectures are kept very high level, short, and tend to build on each other. So rather than learning in a waterfall fashion, you have the (encouraged) option to go back and learn fundamentals before proceeding. The comments section of his website is actually very good for this; for example, in your situation rather than reading a book in 3 hour stints to learn about, say, game theory, you'd instead be watching a handful of encapsulated 20 min lectures, during which, if you ever ran into trouble, you could query the community and get the more granulated information you'd need to be successful in learning the higher level concept.

> This is how we were taught at Oxford. The only problem was, the unmotivated/disorganised students (like myself) often didn't do the reading/studying in our own time and so had to have these extremely painful tutorials one on one with the tutor.

I actually think this idea (of which I am also a culprit) is also addressed by the Khan Institute. In normal lecture style learning environments this would happen to me, and the next day if I still didn't get the topic (due to a lack of motivation, aptitude, or both) the class would move on, and students like you and I either got screwed or forced into motivation - which one - screwed or motivated - was kind of random depending on the day. But in the Khan method, there's no reason for a student to move on if they don't get the topic, which still leaves the necessity for students like you and I to get motivated, but (in theory) completely removes the option of a student getting screwed by a class that's moving past said student's current level of comprehension.

What's nice is that if the Khan academy system were implemented universally, you would have known right away that you lacked the mathematical background you needed.

Dependency graphs are really nice things to know explicitly.

Lecturers were necessary in the middle ages because of a shortage of books - so there weren't enough copies to go around. The teaching profession does occasionally take a while to catch up.

This isn't exactly revolutionary - we have been doing it for centuries we call them tutorials.

The Khan Academy is not the future of education. Don't get me wrong, I think they're doing a superb job and I'd encourage people to contribute to their efforts. Khan is obviously a great presenter with a remarkable ability to explain complex concepts using a new medium. However, the future of education is closer to hacker culture than it is about new and better content delivery mechanisms. Let me explain.

First, I totally buy the argument that a YouTube video can be a better method of delivering content than a book or even, as Kahn says, a live teacher. However, learning is much more than that. Learning is about imagining, playing, creating, sharing and reflecting (Resnick 2007, PDF: http://j.mp/gqnc6f).

To say that learning math is about watching a video and drilling on some problem set, is like saying that learning Python is about doing a tutorial and solving some exercises. Hackers know this well. You don't really learn a programming language until you build some project, especially a personally meaningful one. Creating something not only helps you learn the language but also its community, culture, practices, how to ask questions and get feedback on your work.

Think about it, would you rather hire a developer that has finished some tutorials or one that has actually hacked some projects? The same logic applies to most other fields. Artists and scientists know this as well: you learn by doing in the social context of a community.

Unfortunately, schooling has taken the "hacking" away from learning and has focused on improving content delivery, artificial problem-solving and test-taking. Often using technology. I liked when he mentioned that the teachers have more time to mentor students. However, their mentoring is most likely still focused on the artificial and decontextualized approach of traditional schooling.

Initiatives like the Khan Academy will probably play a role in the future but to really improve education the system and the approaches should change. One should look at exemplar learning environments like the hacker communities or even the Brazilian Samba schools. Settings that are "real, socially cohesive and where experts and novices are learning" (Papert 1980, Google Books: http://j.mp/dLNbGG).

In 1971, Ivan Illich outlined an inspirational alternative educational environment where "the child grows up in a world of things, surrounded by people who serve as models for skills and values. He finds peers who challenge him to argue, to compete, to cooperate, and to understand; and if the child is lucky, he is exposed to confrontation or criticism by an experienced elder who really cares."

Illich said that the four resources learners need are "things, models, peers, and elders". In his 1971 vision, Illich said that "the operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity"(http://j.mp/hNUVV8). Sounds familiar? When I read Illich, I think of HN, StackExchange, and the larger ecology of spaces that hackers have created around social learning. My hope is that these and other similar approaches scale up and get adopted more broadly along with resources like the Khan Academy, OCW and others.

I think you are missing the point here.

Learning math is not like learning programming. Math has a quantitative evaluation process.

The kind of scenarios you are talking about both have a quantitative and a qualitative evaluation process.

I.e. you can be creative in your programming and the "answers" but not so much in math.

Also I don't think Kahn Academy is in any opposition to Seymore Paperts "Mindstorms". In fact you could imagine the videos being used to teach children to get started before they go on to hack together their little programs.

What they have done is for the first time made a system that quantifies the learning process so that it benefits the student rather than the school.

Pretty significant if you ask me.

I think you're right regarding Khan Academy not necessarily being in opposition to Papert's Constructionism. But I think Papert would argue that learning math is very much like learning programming. In fact, he created the Logo programming language as some sort of "mathland" where learning math would be like learning French in France ( http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2007/03/the_origins_of_/, http://j.mp/h6BiOC)

Real mathematicians have often lamented on the approach to mathematics that schools have taken. For example, this essay titled "A Mathematicians Lament" starts like this: "A musician wakes from a terrible nightmare. In his dream he finds himself in a society where music education has been made mandatory. [...] Since musicians are known to set down their ideas in the form of sheet music, these curious black dots and lines must constitute the 'language of music.' It is imperative that students become fluent in this language if they are to attain any degree of musical competence; indeed, it would be ludicrous to expect a child to sing a song or play an instrument without having a thorough grounding in music notation and theory. Playing and listening to music, let alone composing an original piece, are considered very advanced topics and are generally put off until college, and more often graduate school. As for the primary and secondary schools, their mission is to train students to use this language— to jiggle symbols around according to a fixed set of rules: 'Music class is where we take out our staff paper, our teacher puts some notes on the board, and we copy them or transpose them into a different key. We have to make sure to get the clefs and key signatures right, and our teacher is very picky about making sure we fill in our quarter-notes completely. One time we had a chromatic scale problem and I did it right, but the teacher gave me no credit because I had the stems pointing the wrong way.'"


I disagree with you assertion on creativity in maths. Maths allows creativity and is very open ended. You can do things that are not required but are creative - leveraging identities and properties to vastly simplify a problem, reframing the problem to make it more tractable etc. And programming is very useful to learning maths. Any topic that requires some form of calculating to build familiarity will benefit greatly from playing by programming.

Consider complex numbers. You usually first meet them with imaginary numbers and polynomial equations. But they are extremely obtuse. But if you look at operations on them in terms of vectors, lateral extension of the reals to make the picture in terms of solvable polynomial equations complete, or in terms of polar coordinates, rotations, trigonometry, and e you start to get a fuller picture. But if you really want to get them you program a simple system (scaling and rotating triangles for example) that allows you to leverage all those properties. You build in the identities and operations. And then you experiment. Play with it. Play is vital to learning. With that, you get motivation and a fuller understanding than a mere that is just the way it is. With that deeper more intuitive understanding you are able to remember and internalize it better. Making the future topics easier but more importantly, developing the ability to draw connections rather than merely leaving each concept in isolation.

That is why maths is so hard. So much of it is completely divorced to how they were originated and completely unmotivated and magical. With no intuition future learning is further crippled, building apprehension via a negative feedback loop.

You are confusing learning math with the field of math.

Again I am a big proponent of Seymores work but that is not the point here.

The point is that Kahn Academy allows you to learn math in your own tempo and that is the future of education. That doesn't mean that other things wont be important too but to say that it's not the future of education is simply missing the greater point IMHO.

People who have never been able to understand it before now suddenly do. We don't all need to be math wizards.

I was arguing your assertion that maths is not creative, even in the basic level. I completely agree that non uniform pacing is a really great breakthrough and do not argue the efficacy of these videos. Nor their impact on the future of education. But saying there is no creativity in maths is the type of thing that hurts the education of the subject - with teachers punishing kids for doing things unlike the book says.

I also think, especially for learning kids maths, not to underestimate how powerful learning as playing is in motivating concepts. I do think such a thing done right, where you would replace a bunch of videos with one game would be even better than the videos as the future of education. As that type of active learning allows not just variable pacing but also variable exploration and creativity. And by building a repertoire of stories for concepts, it counters how alien and not straight forwardly relatable to real life experience more abstract maths is. A fact that makes learning maths hard.

As a first test of this idea I hope to someday make or see a game where kids program little battling bots and in the process learn concepts from high level physics and maths. as a side-effect. without realizing they are learning. I guess based on personal experiences, I feel there is still a class of kids that the khan academy style won't reach.

I think I know what you are getting at but I think we are talking about two different things.

That kids learn concepts from high level physics and maths does not mean they learn formal math.

I am not saying that they need to learn formal math (in fact there are plenty of arguments against spending so much time trying to teach kids any math)

But it's important to understand that if everyone have to learn concepts in their own way they will loos the ability to communicate with each other.

The ability to transfer metaphors from something we understand into the world of Mindstorms and through that develop conceptual understanding of various areas does not necessarily transcend into understanding of math.

It might though create something else and quite wonderful. But formal math it probably wont be.

Don't know why you've been downvoted I have upped you again.

This might be semantics but after reading your comment it makes me feel like Kahn Academy is an improved version of the present of education. The future of education, in my mind, is still a world where we kids get to be apprentices of real mathematicians, engineers, doctors, biologists, artists, etc.

I respectfully disagree. Some things in life are about practice, practice, practice and mastering skills. Others are about creativity and play. I do weightlifting, and everything is about form. There is no room, none, for creativity, in something like the squat. That isn't to say that once you develop core strength, you can't then use your strength creatively, and do new exercises.

Likewise with math (and many other disciplines), there is a core set of skills and patterns that need to be mastered - once you truly understand those skills and patterns - you can then use them in creative ways to solve the problems.

Khan's great skill is in helping to explain those skills and patterns, leaving the teacher time to help the student master the practice of them.

I see your point. But the key here is choice. You chose to go to the gym and do repetitive exercises. You probably do this in part because you want to be healthy and it makes you feel good. Do some kids want to do repetitive math exercises? Sure, I was one them! But they are a small minority. Should we force kids do repetitive exercises just because it is good for them? It's a tricky question.

From the lecture, that sounds like one of the techniques that are at work with the Khan Academy. Teachers encourage students to help other students. Teachers spend their day helping kids instead of futzing around with lectures and books.

That's where hacker culture comes from. People talking to each other, helping each other.

Everything Kahn says seems to indicate that he doesn't believe in simply "watching a video and drilling on some problem set."

You're right. He does talk about teachers having more time for mentoring, which is great. But I guess my concern is mainly about people's re-interpretation of his message.

One of the fundamental points of the OP was that "The real use of being there in person as a teacher is for interacting with the students."

While I understand your concern in general, it seems unfounded in this case.

I agree somewhat. I think that I, personally, learn best when I have some challenge I can't solve yet, and learn skills to solve it. An example: In Calc, my teacher was teaching volume of some function rotated around the axis. Integrals. After covering it for a day or two, someone asked, what is the volume of a torus? My teacher took this, and spent a week solving the problem, introducing techniques (like trig substitution and integration by parts) as needed. On the last day, be bought donuts for everybody.

The week after that, he went over all the concepts again, but seeing the problem, then seeing the way to solve it seems better, to me.

totally agree - making the self-learning part offline and creating more and better (teachers would know exactly where a particular student is having problems understanding) interactions is the best part of his model.

Yeah, the data from the students' interaction with the video could be sent back to the teachers and end up creating a comprehensive profile of each of the student's understanding on that particular topic. Then, in the classroom, the teacher would be able to walk from student to student (or form groups of students with similar strengths/weaknesses) and provide the help they needed based on their profiles. This help would be the help that relies on direct interaction between the teacher and student.

where are the computer science classes? they should follow the think vitamin method.

Really wonderful reminder of what just one person can set in motion. I could easily see him becoming considered one of the most important people of this century based on what he is doing for education and its globalization.

As a university math TA, my students would often say "you're so much better than the teacher, why don't you teach the class?"

Hearing this is definitely an ego stroke, but what the student really means is that he learns better by practicing problems than by listening to theory. I feel this is even more true in a younger school environment.

The teacher's and TA's roles are simply different in this respect, so I take no credit for "being better than the teacher".

But what Khan Academy does is really interesting, because now the teacher takes the role of the TA. I feel this is a much more effective way to teach. And ultimately the student will benefit. Thumbs up to this philosophy.

I think this is a really keen observation.

Over the years I've found lectures less and less useful to attend in person as profs and other presenters post their lectures and powerpoint slides online. I can just watch/read those and get everything I need from those materials, then when I'm in class I can ask much more useful questions and cover the details that really make the difference.

I love how the Khan Academy is institutionalizing that idea. I can't see any reason that lectures need to be done in person, but being able to work through sticking points with someone. Now that is valuable.

I really do think Sal Khan will revolutionize teaching. At least in the areas this model is applicable.

This man is certainly one of my heroes. I love this part from the FAQ on the Khan Academy:

    What topics do you plan to cover?

    My goal is to cover everything. Yes, everything! 
    ... My goal really is to keep making videos until the day I die 
    (which will hopefully not be for at least another 50 or 60 
    years). Should give me time to make several tens
    of thousands of videos in pretty much every subject."

Very Asimovian, don't you think?

Isaac Asimov wrote either 506 books (or 515, say some sources) in his 72-year lifetime. (Jan 2, 1920 - Apr 6, 1992)

Was about to make the very same point.

I used to, and still, treasure the books on science that Mr.Asimov wrote. It was fantastic. I just wish that he had lived to see this phenomenon taking place. I think he would be very, very pleased with Salman

Yes, I found some of Asimov's science books in the school library, and I think the reason he wrote such good science fiction was that he could explain stuff really well. He really _got_ his settings, and the same when he wrote about real science. He was understandable.

I'm also most impressed by Salman, definitely a genius.

However I wonder if he should be the only one making those videos for his new non-profit? I'm sure there are experts in other fields than science who could keep his "style" and make the whole "reinvent education" thing go much faster?

After viewing this video I logged into Khan academy to check out the practice tracking features highlighted in the video. Mainly I wanted to see the categorical branching of subjects that they showed.

Its a pretty amazing idea and execution. From one basic subject, addition, they expand and branch out all the way down to basic calculus. It would be really amazing if they continued expanding this out to the point where all subjects where mapped out, even the less mathematical ones. Just to see the path from addition to trigonometry is a pretty good refresher of what the mechanics of the trig functions actually entail. Imagine seeing the path from addition to linear algebra.

More to the point, imagine a world in which a student uses this system throughout their educational career. I can't even fathom the difference that that level of tracking and relational mapping between ideas would have on a students understanding of material and motivation to tackle new subjects.

Khanacademy is neat but I find it odd that people on HN either aren't aware or dont care about other earlier sources such as :

  - MIT's OCW
  - USNW eLearning channel on Youtube (esp Richar Buckland)
  - TIMMS (Germany, possibly the first of the video resources)
  - UCBerkeley youtube channel
  - Dr. Adrian Banner (Princeton)
  - Harvard (esp Michael Sandel's lectures, amazing)
The above can be easily searched for and are hardly a comprehensive list as that would be large. Here is a website which is a sort of clearinghouse for video lectures: www.cosmolearning.com

A search of HN shows less attention given to these original sources than perhaps they deserve. In my opinion MIT OCW was the best known initiative till recent times and started this wave of online video learning. BTW, I highly recommend Michael Sandel's lectures on ethics and politics, available on YouTube.

Khan Academy is miles better than any of those when it comes to design and ease of use, especially when it comes to presenting the material to elementary/middle school aged children. I certainly don't think a MIT lecture will appeal to 5th graders.

For me, the presentation is just better. There's something about 10-12 minute lessons, and obviously the thought that goes into distilling it to that size, that makes it digestible. (I'm really curious how much time goes into making one 10 minute lesson.) It sticks.

One caveat: I've been exposed to this material before in other contexts, so it's more like a phenomenal refresher. I can't know if this is a better way to teach from scratch. But, frankly, it's been long enough, or I was just that bad at it the first time, that it sometimes feels like I never learned it in the first place. This gives me some degree of confidence that it's at least one right way.

All the links I posted are undergrad-grad level which is what I'd expect most HN visitors to be interested in. I assume not many 5th graders frequent HN (perhaps I should account for parents of 5th graders).

While KA is definitely well organized, esp. for kids, "miles better" is hyperbole. There are other resources for young learners such as mathvids, brightstorm.com (and others) with little or no mention on HN.

There are also cheap/paid/freemium resources for kids - eg. mathtv.com and yourteacher.com (I think yourteacher has been around for a while.

My overall point is that - regarding this topic, HN seems to have a rather narrow view or is completely unaware of existing resources.

Superior products launched earlier ignored for lack of effective marketing, while an arguably less innovative and minimalist but attractively packaged product geared towards a grossly underserved niche succeeds in capturing attention because the competition in that niche is ossified and terrible?

One could almost try to extract a lesson out of that...

If I could change one thing about hackers, it would be their overall misunderstanding and attitude towards marketing.

I have a theory about this. I think hackers come largely from the autistic spectrum part of the population. We are less fascinated with other people and more willing to be alone, or perhaps with a completely logical slave machine for company.

The desire to fit in and conform does not develop in the normal way, because we're not aware until later than neurotypical people of what other people are thinking and we never care about it quite so much. Normal children are obsessed with finding peer approval and young hackers stare in amazement.

I failed to grasp the basic mechanics of marketing until a kind MBA recommended "Crossing the Chasm" by Geoff Moore, after I had told him I didn't really see the use of sales and marketing. One of the ideas in the book is the need for marketers to convince different market segments that this product is suitable for them. A huge part of that is convincing them that they are not alone, that the product has already sold to a lot of other people and that they are not going to be doing something risky and independent by buying it.

This herd mentality, which dominates mass market sales, had not really figured in my earlier understanding because I am not in that same category. I'm in Moore's "innovators" category. It doesn't matter a bit to me whether anyone I know of has chosen some product or idea.

So I think many hackers have a poor grasp of marketing because it doesn't really work on them and they don't know how unusual that is.

Would you care to elaborate, or link to some page that does? It sounds like this could be important.

I covered some aspects of it in an old article of mine: http://programmingzen.com/2009/07/27/why-technical-marketing...

I'm a big fan of OCW and other online resources, but they just move the traditional style into an online format. And I'm especially excited for the OCW scholar site to get more material (plus, I'm excited to go through their Physics courses, I was never satisfied with my physics classes). My favorite Harvard lecture series is the Science & Cooking Public Lectures (http://seas.harvard.edu/cooking).

But all those sites are evolutionary not revolutionary. They would never inspire the kind of use that Khan Academy has seen.

I think the one of key's to the Khan Academy system is the short 5-15 minute "lectures" that only teach a single concept at a time. That makes it more approachable and easier to go right to where you need to be; rather than a 50 minute lecture that covers a dozen different things at once.

Teaching it like a tutoring session may not seem like that big a change, but when you combine all the little differences from the traditional model it become something totally revolutionary.

I love OCW too and I don't agree with the evolutionary/revolutionary statement. Revolutionary would be OCW or TIMMS as they started this free online video lecture thing (there could be an earlier initiative which I'm not aware of). I also dont really like the 5-15 minute thing but thats individual preference.

If we consider views proportional to impact, then a glance at the viewcount of some OCW or Richard Buckland's lectures on youtube show they're in the same popularity range as KA.

Also, I should've mentioned the Stanford youtube channel in my list. Its pretty good, covers several undergrad/grad courses and also available via iTunes.

I think the biggest difference in making it revolutionary vs evolutionary is the target audience. OCW and their kin are all targeted at people that are highly motivated (and generally highly educated already) to learn something new.

While Khan academy is targeted at a mass audience. I think both serve their target audiences very well too. I'm nearly addicted to OCW, but it's heavy stuff, not something you can sit down with for 10 minutes at a time and make progress.

In regards to your comment on impact. Khan academy in its current form has only been around for months while OCW has been around for over 10 years. In my daily life I've only met one or two people that have even heard of it, while the Khan academy is already being mentioned by people I know independent of my experience with it.

Actually the entire premise of MIT OCW was to make superior educational material available worldwide i.e to a mass audience, and it was a pretty big deal when announced. After OCW, several other organizations started doing the same. I wouldnt be surprised if Sal got his inspiration from OCW. (The Univ. of Tubengin TIMMS predates OCW but is completely unknown). So imo OCW has the larger impact.

Also, I've been following KA for a while and its definitely been around a lot longer than a few months, its form has changed a couple of times, much improved now. IIRC Sal originally started by posting on youtube.

Aw, HN folks post from those sources all the time. We are definitely aware of them and think they're great.

But what this video especially pointed out is that Khan Academy is not just great content, but an extremely innovative system.

The problem with some of those is that their quality isn't consistent. I know with OCW, depending on what you pick, sometimes you might get video of a lecture, sometimes you might just get a powerpoint that doesn't really give you a ton of info.

I haven't looked at it for a while, maybe they've fixed it. But Khan Academy hit the ground running. I originally found him a few years ago when he didn't even quite have a hundred videos up. It blew my mind, I was just looking for some help with algebra but instead I found a rabbit hole of knowledge.

I actually swelled up in tears when he showed the spreadsheet of student progress, and suggested having the students with red blocks (those who are stuck on a concept) being given help from the students with green blocks (those who mastered it).

That is so beautiful.

For me it was the moment where he showed the progress of students and how the (initially) slow learner picked up the concepts faster and faster.

I agree. Something about his talk stirred up deep emotions in me too.

I found it very interesting how he applied data-analysis techniques [at time 12:33 in the video] to provide teachers with a better and correct understanding of each student's shortcomings (probably from his insights from his earlier profession on the Wall St.) that will take the student/tutor interaction to a new level!

What I found more interesting was that lack of those tools in current teaching. I can't believe no one's made those kind of analysis tools available to teachers before.

Can't agree with this enough. Every time we make a new chart I think to myself, "Well that wasn't rocket science," and then when we show teachers they go absolutely nuts.

Maybe I'm just tired, but what do you mean by chart? A personalized one tailored to a student?

Edit: Ignore this, read your blog, very insightful.

In a traditional class room its not possible to collect that data in a practical sense. Teachers are already over worked and technology is in short supply. Which is why tools like these are not available, its only possible here because all students are interacting with the khanacademy.org system.

Here is a link because ted.com is just as awesome as youtube.com


Also is the youtube video a strange colour red for anyone else?

I can't wait for the subtitles to be uploaded, so that I can share with my friends who can't be bothered to watch something which is not in their language.

After reading a few comments, I haven't seen this point made so I'm gonna go for it:

  > The traditional model, it penalizes you for experimentation and failure, 
  > but does not expect mastery.  
  > We encourage you to experiment [and fail], but we do expect mastery.
This, in my opinion, is the most potential ridden idea made by Khan. Today, middle schools is ~3 years, high school is 4 years, university is 4 years, etc.; we discretize learning into these rigid chunks of time - partially out of (deprecated) technical necessity - and in the process we isolate kids - the so called dumb kids. When Kahn showed that graph of a so called dumb kids spending 2-3x as long on a single topic, only to resume the same learning rate as the smart kids after they understood the foundational concept they were originally struggling with, it made me see how much potential there truly is in this system.

Imagine a world where the baseline level of education is produced by a Khan style system. Schooling wouldn't be as tractable (i.e., it might take 2 to 6 (or more) years to go through high school instead of a nice predictable 4), but everyone that would come out of said system would have the same (ideal) level of knowledge needed in order to move on to the next best thing (e.g., college, work, life's passion, etc.). There wouldn't be kids competing for GPA's or stuffing their resumes, and there wouldn't be kids who didn't know how to tie their shoes; there would be kids who KNOW calculus, kids who UNDERSTAND physics, and kids who GET American history. The variation would be in the idiosyncrasies of the topics, as opposed to the core concepts.

Now imagine further to what this does for higher education. In this proposed system, it would simply be a fact that graduating kids would know - at mastery level - what their school's curriculums listed off; it's the equivalent of everyone having a 1600 on their SAT's. College acceptance becomes less of a selectivity problem, and more of an efficiency problem; where are all these geniuses going to study!

Ahhh, the potential is so exciting...

That being said, as sort of an aside I think it's noteworthy to say that the idea of fixing the tuition-based University model is a bit more complex than the high school model, but as user arjn said bellow, there are plenty of free lecture repositories out there already; perhaps if prior educational systems encouraged and indoctrinated students to be more self-proficient (as in the Khan system), University learning becomes more about educating yourself, and those free lectures will (naturally) replace the pay-to-learn model. I don't know, but it's a thought...

>and there wouldn't be kids who didn't know how to tie their shoes;

I've met at least a few people who, being charitable, I would be extremely hard pressed to see passing a calculus exam. I'd agree that for some it's down to motivation but the motivation may come 20+years later or not at all.

Certainly though I'm extremely wary of declaring that all people can attain the same intellectual level which appears to be what you claim.

I'm not going to say it's impossible but I think you must have missed a step where you do some sort of brain augmentation or injection of nanobots to build knowledge pathways without any need to apply a learning process ...

My little rant is definitely meant to be more persuasive than quantifiably accurate; take it with a grain of salt.

Regardless, I don't think the existence of can't-be-motivated learners compromises the ideals of a Khan-like system. Sure there are kids that aren't going to get it no matter what, but their productivity in any system is going to be nill, Khan, tradtional, or otherwise.

I worked with Sal when we were both at Oracle. one thing i think is that what he's doing with khan academy ties directly to his strengths.

he was very good at explaining and teaching, and liked analyzing data.

This is wonderful. Education is, IMHO, the most important thing in the world, full stop, since it forms the basis for what we are able to do and more importantly how we think.

Personally, I found school boring and tedious (and got pretty average grades) until going to 6th form college where I discovered something amazing - learning isn't defined by a failed teaching system - learning done right is a joyful and wonderful thing (unsurprisingly my grades significantly improved at this point).

The fact that learning is a joy is one of the most important discoveries you make in life (or don't, unfortunately I think most people don't) and anything that allows people to discover this is a vastly important thing.

(It's important to note that learning, as with everything else, isn't 100% joyful all the time, but that the joy of it infinitely outweighs any difficulty and pain encountered along the way).

I've noticed a pernicious worship of ignorance that pervades, at least, my country (the UK) - the idea that learning is boring and there's something wrong with you if you seem to enjoy it - that alone is to my mind incredibly dangerous. Nothing could be further from the truth, literally. This is nothing, though, compared to countries where ordinary people are simply unable to access quality education or even any education at all where the Khan academy is an example of the internet at its democratising best.

Go Sal!

It was a great talk. Future of education. I loved the way Bill interacted with Khan.

He has stated in numerous occasions that his children use Khan Academy's videos.

I really admire Sal for what he's doing with global education. He is a big inspiration for anyone looking to change the world. Specially hackers.

Ya, for sure. Bill was as awestruck as the rest of us.

Saw this live. He's amazing.

He is. Hero material. I have a feeling we'll be talking about him in decades the way people talk about Feynman now. Making people want to learn and helping them do it is a noble thing.

Yeah. Turns out I live in the town he mentions -- on the street for one of the schools.

If I listened hard, I wonder if I could hear paradigms shifting.

I've seen a lot of TED lecture. But as a parent I think this may have been the most important one I've seen yet. I've used the Khan lectures, but hadn't seenn the vision. It's one of those rare times where I feel like I have seen the future -- and I really like it.

Because the site doesn't make it obvious, Khan Academy is an Open Source project: https://code.google.com/p/khanacademy/

I think what could eventually be even more impactful than the videos themselves is the statistics tracking he showed. With that kind of data across thousands or millions of people, you would see patterns of people who had the same problems and questions in the same places, and you could redo the videos to be more clear in those areas and answer those questions preemptively. With a web-scale audience you could do A-B testing experiments and optimize the performance of your teaching material. I think a curriculum optimized in this way could eventually be dramatically better than even the best traditional education has to offer today.

Today teaching is an art; this could turn it into a science.

Simply amazing that a guy armed only with a tablet and a microphone can have this much impact.

Actually, I got so excited (and moved) when I saw his talk at GEL:


That I started my own channel for Programming in C++, for my students... I have 74 videos already... (in Spanish, sorry)


And it all started with him tutoring his cousins long-distance while maintaining a busy work schedule. There is something real special about that - willingness to spend "free" time, willingness to tutor in spite of the distance (he was in Boston and his cousins were in Louisiana).

Either of these reasons would have been sufficient excuses for him to not help his cousins. Lucky for them and for all of us that such an amazing talent was so generous with his time and insistent on using technology to overcome the distance barrier.

Idea HN: Make transcripts of all videos in KhanAcademy and have them presented with blackboard images and all, nicely organized in a web page with links to original videos.

As a kid I had ADHD, I found myself staying up all night programming and sleeping in my classes. The skills I leanred then have served me well but if the classroom was more engaging maybe I wouldn't have had such a difficult path.

I hope this spreads like wildfire.

I've been looking at the Khan Academy site a bit.

I find the exercise dashboard kind of strange. Is math the only available subject? And do you have to go through all the prerequisite exercises to progress to the next ones?

At the moment, yes, math only. We're working to entirely cover K-12 math before moving on.

You can jump to any area or exercise you want at any time. We suggest exercises, but I've seen plenty of 5th graders jump to Calculus and play around with Limits just because it's interesting/challenging and they saw their friend try it.

Ah, that's really cool and thanks for your reply. You guys are doing some incredible work.

One thing you guys might be interested in: https://courseware.stanford.edu/pg/concept_map/index/41601 Daphne Koller is a Stanford CS professor who has been teaching her course CS228 on Probabilistic Models in a similar format for a couple of years. She has the lectures online by chunks of about 10 minutes and then uses in-class time for more interactive sessions. (I'm not sure if you can access the videos if you don't have a Stanford login though)

I really think this method of learning makes so much sense for any level student. Can't wait to see it progress!

I believe his method has a ton of potential. First saw Khan on This Week in Startups: http://thisweekin.com/thisweekin-startups/this-week-in-start... and was impressed to learn that Bill Gates invited him to talk. I think his method works for many people and could change the way many people learn.

As someone who was often bored during school lectures, I think the idea is great. One of the things I love about the Internet is that, in many cases, only the best rises to the top. That means people everywhere can have access to the best information on a subject, or in this case, the best video lecture. I think that is awesome, because it seems that the smaller the town/school/college, the rarer good professionals are.

There are a lot of problems tangled up in in this that also need to be solved. His model relies on students watching lectures at home. Not everyone has broadband; some don't even have a computer. What do you do for those kids? Do you send home DVDs? What if there is no TV? (probably rare in the US, but still) Do you give every student a free laptop? I understand Los Altos is a pilot program, but quoting Wikipedia: "It is one of the wealthiest places in the United States." What do you do in the inner city or in very rural areas?

Obviously the people behind this are very smart and I'm sure they are considering all the issues involved, this is just my brain dump after watching.

I like the lecture-as-homework idea. It seems that less of everyone's time will be wasted with that method. Teachers/parents will have a much better idea of how long the "homework" will take, because the video is a fixed length +/- the rewinding/fast forwarding. In the classroom, everyone gets the attention they need.

Things I'm curious about: What about the students who work faster than the rest? I guess they eventually reach the end of the curriculum for that particular course. Do they move to the next classes' topics or is there some set of optional topics that they can choose based on personal interest?

What kinds of tests are there? He talked about the current models shortcomings(some student fail the test, but the class moves on anyway), but are there any big tests or final exams on the model? Or, is it entirely "quizzes?"

Have the teachers noticed an improvement in student behavior? Do they spend less time on disciplinary action due to the more interactive sessions?

The record keeping is a double edged sword. Maybe one day institutions will start using your Khan record as a metric for employment/admissions. And that's the day people will start cheating. I guess this means standardized tests like the SATs and GREs aren't going anywhere.

The long standing ovation at the end was so well deserved. I had a smile on my face as I watched it.

Besides other good things about shifting teacher's work from lecturing to actually spending time with kids that were mentioned here, I would like to point out that some teachers are really bad lecturers. My most vivid impressions are from early collage math courses but it is as valid for high school as well. The professor can lead the lecture at million words a minute constantly erasing the board so you don't have the time to copy the material, let alone let it sink in. The professor can have heavy accent, so you spend most of you attention just trying to understand his words.

I love this idea. I've been watching the KhanA videos for a while now, and learning about the U.S history ;) economy, and what not (I'm from Mexico), I'd love to see these videos in multiple languages.

I thought eLearning was something impossible to do efficiently - before I saw this video.

A compelling argument, and a great method! I can't count the startup ideas that could come from this.

I admire Khan. Although he is not unique in his approach, he is uniquely positioned to deliver this message. By quitting his job and giving away his time, he is an ideal ambassador to the message of "scalable pedagogy". As he has described, if Isaac Newton had recorded his lessons on Youtube, Khan wouldn't have to.

By giving alway classroom tools like test management and monitoring, he is also equipping teachers to become more scalable and as he described - data driven.

I think most people miss the point that the statistics provided by the Khan Academy is equally kick-ass as its videos. He mentions of a "teacher driven" design process.

TDD? ;)

This is great, but I wish there were some lessons on coding. Computer programming at some basic level at least should be required of all students - even if they don't make a career out of it, being able to work snippets of code will come in handy across all disciplines in the future - finance, medicine, media, or repairing that broken fridge in your e-home.

He has great videos on his site esp on "Valuation and Investing" and "Venture Capital and Capital Markets". After you watch those everything just makes perfect sense.

Beauty of the graph at 13'50" - It is good to believe in children/people and do sthg about it as Khan does.

Awesome speech. What's wrong with the YouTube video quality, though?

nice post wb. does he use prezi for his presentations?

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