Tablets are a much more useable form factor in classrooms, etc.
Hopefully the iPad is just a kickoff point. One of my philosophies is that at least some part of your job should give you joy, and out of that great things can happen. Maybe iPad development is just something he wants to do for the joy of it.
NB: I know that John's not a one man army, and I'm not trying to lay this all on his shoulders. I'm just thinking out loud on HN.
That's precisely it. Being who I am, I'm going to be building everything with Open Web technologies and most likely built on top of jQuery Mobile. The iPad is just serving as a good initial platform to target and test on before expanding massively.
I wouldn't be surprised if much of the work that happens on the tablet version of the site gets back-ported to the main site itself (as things like tablets and mobile devices tend to encourage minimalist UIs and a larger emphasis on what the user is attempting to achieve).
I did work for the One Laptop Per Child project in the past, I'm a strong advocate for getting useful resources out to as many people as possible - regardless of their means.
Do you think there's any chance that Sal will open up contributions to other teachers? I believe that Kahn Academy could evolve into a MUCH better tool if Sal focused on establishing the curriculum (and which videos and exercises need to be developed), and allowed other people to submit videos from across the internet.
While it's cool that Sal is the sole instructor, he's not the world's best instructor, and I'm sure the overall product could be improved through contributions of others. And you could go from 2100 videos to 10,000 videos a LOT faster if you allowed others to contribute.
Just my 2 cents worth.
Anyone else other ideas?
Most of this is definitely out of the reach of the people who actually need it. $500 is a lot of money for people in my country. Most may be earning only 1/5th of that in the whole month. Average salary of a teacher in India a around $150 a month. Which is around $5 a day average.
How do you expect mass technology adaption with these sort of expenses?
Yeah, the connectivity is the biggy. Especially with video. Even in "first world" countries there are many places with poor/expensive connectivity that's frequently not suited for regular video use. In Africa, it's basically the norm. Imagine - a teacher costing less than the bandwidth to download some videos.. ;-)
Anyway, $499, which isn't that much, is today's price. iPads will drop in price and you'll get them used. At some point along will come great Android tablets for $299 (and probably iPads). Gotta start somewhere. Tablets are the next big thing. Soon they'll be a billion of them.
It's going to be a challenge to figure out the right UI idioms for the project, less so getting it working on a bunch of platforms giving the technology stack (open web technologies). Right now that's my biggest concern. Once we figure out how the interactions should work then the table/mobile world is our oyster.
Anyway, its great to see good people choosing a career in education!
My nine year old's grades have always been really good. The fun for him is just being able to go as fast as he wants. My 14 year old has moved from struggling for c's to breezing along with b's. She just really doesn't care about math but at least she doesn't hate it anymore.
If interested, here's my take/rant about it:
I believe that prior knowledge and misconceptions can change how people deal and interpret new information. This can help or it can hurt the learning process.
It can help because it often makes new knowledge more likely to "stick." For example, a soccer fan is more likely to remember soccer scores . I know there's other research that indicate more prior knowledge leads to quicker learning, but I don't remember them off the top of my head.
It can hurt in much of the same ways Derek Muller describes. When hearing new information it can easily be misinterpreted to match current knowledge. For example, anecdotally, those only familiar with the words "negative" (bad) and "reinforcement" (adding/reaffirming) are more likely to misinterpret "negative reinforcement" to mean "punishing behavior by adding something bad" instead of "rewarding behavior by taking something bad away." I believe there were similar findings/studies within statistics. Another common one is F=mv as shown in Muller's videos. I'm sure there are plenty more examples.
I believe Derek Muller's problem with Khan's videos is that they might not challenge incorrect previous knowledge. I agree with Muller and personally feel that Khan Academy will likely encounter some of these same problems when students watch the videos.
But, I also believe that the other half of Khan Academy (exercises) provide feedback that videos alone otherwise do not have. I believe that the requirement for mastery through the exercises can and will challenge at least some of these misconceptions. Particularly if the questions are good questions.
I also believe that Khan Academy is going to find themselves in a position where they can potentially have a lot of interesting data. I'd love to be able to see whether they can use this data to find some of these common misconceptions and then improve videos and/or questions. In the very least, I believe that their exercises will serve as a good metric to see where misconceptions are being poorly addressed.
We also have to keep in mind that, at least in the pilot in Los Altos school district, these videos are not the only source where students are learning. They still have time with teachers where these misconceptions can be addressed. In addition to that, they'll have the opportunity to review the videos to contrast, reflect on what lead to the misunderstanding, and hopefully reaffirm the new knowledge.
tldr - I believe Khan Academy's exercises and class/teacher time might help deal with the issue of misconceptions.
 Morris, 1981 - http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2044-8295.1981....
In a related question, do you use OpenDNS or any other access controls?
My 14 year old had a very different reaction. She just uses it to fill over gaps in what she is doing at school. I have a degree in math but no matter how gentle I try to be I think she feels embarrased to come to me for help. Maybe I get too excited and try to explain too much. Either way she is keeping up much better now.
My six year old watches for a few minutes and then breaks into song and dance. I'll just let him be for a while.
It is very hard to leave/scale-back unfinished business or commitments but it is a very important step before starting something new and big. I know many creative people who have tons of projects and commitments that they can't bring themselves to leave and as a result, they never have enough time to concentrate fully on their next big things. I highly commend John for making the tough decision of leaving Mozilla and lots of personal projects so that he could do something big.
Just feel like without this comment, your comment might not stand out to many.
In addition, I agree that it will make a great impact in the future. However isn't labeling it as "THE future" is going a little too far for now anyway? I would like to see a study on the type of person this type of study works for. If I'm not mistaken, it's not everyone?
I think in your case the problem was multifaceted. First, it was a 3 hour video on Agile. Excessively long, probably boring, probably unnecessary (in my own experience, the agile methods are mostly to get managers to see the light, not the programmers). Second, there was probably little penalty for not watching it either. I've been through Scrum training, it was boring and "successful completion" mostly meant sitting in a room and not doing my actual job for a few days. Failing the course would have required more effort than completing it.
For schools, obviously they'll still be grading your work and ensuring mastery of the subject where not watching the lectures would probably reflect on homework and test scores pretty quickly as you advanced, they're also much shorter than 3 hours, where your attention is less likely to wander.
Even if the courses were 10 minutes each like Khan, I doubt the view rate would be increased by much in this case.
Also, it is true that there are no immediate and visible penalties for not watching it, though at the same time, being penalized through completely artificial means (chasing artificial targets, aka what happens in school) isn't healthy for anyone and I believe contributes to one of the major problems we're having.
Thirdly, I never was ensured mastery (or even pushed towards it) in any class I ever took. I was ensured a good grade if I jumped through the right hoops just how the teacher wanted it.
EDIT: And he's a year younger! Damn you, jeresig!
With the recent startup boom, its sad to see some great talent spend time building little features or apps; just wish they could use their amazing talents to solve some really large problems..
Getting the chance to work on such a project makes money and career fade far into the background. All the Good this project is doing for the world makes it worth it. And all without the need to charge for the service or display ads.
Congrats John on this excellent choice for a chance to make a change.
I'm sure there are many great minds in here who would love to join John and the rest of the KA team
I am really looking forward to you building software full time. It is going to be great for jQuery!
In the talk, he mentions that they're doing a pilot program with the Los Altos school district as well, which I'm sure wasn't for free since it involved custom development.
The experience working with them has been fantastic. The teachers are fearless in the face of the significant uncertainty that introducing something like the KA in a classroom can create. They've been creative about experimenting with different ways of integrating KA into the classroom (trying things we didn't anticipate). Speaking as a UX designer, having nearly unlimited access to teachers and students for interviews and observations has been invaluable. Plus the teachers aren't shy about letting us know if something isn't working out. If anything, it feels like we should be paying them.
Is it mostly grant money that funds everything then?
His lectures are hosted on YouTube (free) and he could crowd-source dev, design and QA. Also I think he is always going to be the only teacher - he seems to believe (not passing judgment here, just making an observation from what I 'sensed') that he's got a captivating charisma that people respond to, hence he’s best suited for conducting the lectures. I have enjoyed every lecture of his and think he has a point; he really is a good teacher.
Also, from his TED talk I got that his vision is a universal classroom - very noble. He might need translation, but again, that can be crowd-sourced too.
The site is currently quite hard to navigate around or search. Now that even talents like John have started to join the academy, I'm pretty sure, the site will definitely provide a better experience. Good for Khan, the academy and the education system
It's not just one country. I sincerely can't express my gratitude enough for Khan Academy guys, their very rich educational materials have and are helping me tremendously in my education and my career. I'm from a developing country.