Thursday, June 28, 2012

Real Life Heretic: Salmon Khan

Salmon Khan, a former hedge fund manager wowed the world with his TED conference presentation about how he founded Khan Academy, the site for free educational videos originally intended for his little cousins.

While the rest of the education world was looking at the latest slick multimedia tools. Sal started recording his scribblings on a simple paint program. He makes no attempt to make his presentations slick in anyway. He records them in airport lounges or on his couch. What he does bring to these short videos is simply a phenomenal way of describing difficult concepts in a clear and accessible way.

The simplicity of the production is why he can produce so many of these valuable learning tools and still be able to give them away for free.

The other innovation that Khan Academy is introducing is goal based curriculum. Do you want to learn how to do calculus. Here are all the things you have to learn to get there. You progress as you understand each concept. This is a lot different than classes where you pass or fail or move one but never get to work through the material that you didn't get.

Sal is not the only heretic in this story. Teachers have used his videos to do something now known as "Flipping the Classroom" Instead of presenting the knowledge to a class and then expecting them to  practice by themselves through homework, the teachers can now assign the content for homework using Khan Academy videos  and in class they are able to help the students do what was once homework but is now classwork.

Sal started this with Skype, Paint and Youtube. He may have money, but the tools were free and accessible to anyone.

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