Monday, October 29, 2012

Yes, We Khan: Pioneering Education for Anyone, Anywhere

English: Salman Khan, famous for the Khan Acad...
Salman Khan, famous for the Khan Academy, speaking at TED 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Professor Craig Savage, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Australian National University, The Conversation:

From preschool to PhD, education is afflicted by a malaise. Many students, teachers, parents and politicians, feel that with all the effort and money spent, we should be doing better.

Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, is a quiet revolutionary whose book The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined released last week, offers an inspiring vision for restructuring education.

It’s an entertaining and provocative look at how one entrepreneur is changing the world, one lesson at a time.

Khan’s Academy

The Khan Academy is best known for its short educational videos - available online, for free, and for any student.

The idea famously had its beginnings when Khan was tutoring his relatives remotely. Eventually, he developed short videos on YouTube, and added automated assessment and feedback to help them.

The popularity of the videos meant Khan gave up a lucrative job as a hedge fund analyst to develop the idea fully. His is the classic Silicon Valley success story: self-funded and struggling until Gates, Google, and the like noticed, and turned on the money taps.

Where the academy fits

Khan is a leader amongst those who have challenged the education establishment. The effective pedagogy used in his videos has strongly influenced the Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC movement and is part of a larger drive to make education open and online.

Khan’s central principle is that each student should be guided along their unique path to their full potential. They should progress at their own pace in their own direction.

This subsumes the tried and true idea of mastery learning - that students should learn 100% of foundational material before moving on, rather than have only a partial grasp that may come back to haunt them later.

The ideal classroom

In Khan’s ideal school, foundational instruction is provided using the flipped classroom model, in which content and assessment come from something like the Khan Academy.

He claims that this delivers content up to five times more efficiently than does conventional instruction. This frees up valuable, human, teacher time for personal interactions with students. He calls this “humanising the classroom”.

The Academy assesses students’ understanding in parallel with the instruction, providing automated help for students and guidance for the teachers’ interventions.

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