Archive for March, 2012


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Since its foundation, khanacademy.org has received almost unanimously good feedback. This feedback hasn’t just been in the form of positive YouTube comments either. In 2009, Khan Academy received the “Microsoft Tech Award for Education”. Following positive feedback from Bill Gates, Khan was invited to deliver a TED talk.

In 2010, Google’s Project 10^100 provided $2 million to support the creation of more courses, to allow for translation of the Khan Academy’s content, and to allow for the hiring of additional staff. The Bill Gates Foundation also placed the Khan Academy on its list to get funding. In Nov 2011, the Khan Academy received a $5 million grant from the O’Sullivan Foundation.

It is clear that Khan Academy is heading in the right direction, especially with the backing of such people of the magnitude of Bill Gates. With the correct business plan, a level head and willingness in the education sector, it might not be too far into the future until Khan’s ideal classroom is the norm.

When I was researching the topic I stumbled on an interesting event which happened on Reddit.
Salman Khan was placing himself on a public forum to answer questions on reddit.com, something which a number of people who are in the public’s interest do. The thread titled “I am Salman Khan founder of Khan Academy-AMA” allowed people to ask Sal questions and receive a response from an account that is validated to be the person in question.

To keep this short I won’t go over all the questions and answers, but I’ll just focus on one particular Q & A. After a user inquired into Khan doing videos on quantum computing, another user made it clear that he would be interested in helping out Khan in that sector. That user turned out to be none other than, Michael Nielsen a very famous name in that field, and the author of many books on the topic. The invitation was instantly well-received from Khan and sparked much positive comments from other users who could see the conversation in front of their eyes.

This interesting event had a number of positive elements. One of which is the eagerness of many highly educated people to come on board to the ever expanding K.A.. It also showed Khan’s eagerness to help and grow the idea that began as one man in his own house uploading videos for his cousins!

With an idea like this, along with the progress already made, it’s vital that K.A. takes the correct next steps to keep the ball rolling so to speak.

They are doing so in terms of future idea’s.  Peer-to-peer tutoring is one of many possible idea’s being explored.  This involves pupils helping to tutor other students via the Khanacademy website.  It would match students who excel in a certain topic with another student who is struggling with it.  This is a very interesting proposal as it helps both students.  it helps the better understanding student to understand the topic even further and rewards too could be offered to him/her.  And obviously it also helps the student with lesser understanding to gain much needed tutoring from a more personal approach.

Math-camps are also being rolled out to test the helpfulness of K.A. on a wider scale than the pilot schemes are currently doing( limited to a certain number of classes at the moment).

The translation of videos is also in progress.  As of today, 646 videos have been translated into Estonian, which is the language with the most translations.  The translating of the videos is a completely voluntarily dependent.

K.A. also has grown from being a one man show.  The website now has 23 full-time employees as well as many more part-time workers and volunteers.  It has 8 new job positions on its wanted section, which shows the websites further intended growth.  Among the jobs are mobile developers, Salman Khan has said in the past that an mobile app may be possible in the not too distant future.

Before I move on to further discussion on K.A., here’s some statistics.

As of last month(Feb ’12) the site had:

  • A video library of over 3000 videos in various topic areas.
  • Over 125 million unique lessons delivered.
  • Over 200,000 unique videos watched per day. See Here

And as of two months ago(Jan ’12) the site had:

  • Over 4 million unique users per month.  (That figure is a 25% increase on the same time last year.) See Here

 

Above are some absolutely astonishing figures, especially if you’ve never heard of K.A.  3,000 videos uploaded by just one man is a huge number in its own accord.  The figure of a quarter of a million lessons per day is also pretty impressive.

So if a class begins to implement K.A. in their classroom. they can expect to have a much better, personal teaching experience.  That, however, isn’t where the benefits end though.

Clearly, there is an aspect of savings, most notably the ratio of teachers’ wages’ to actual valuable teaching given out.  Less and less money is spent on correcting tests, etc. (as specified in the last post) and teachers’ time in the classroom is much more effective.  This could have potential long term savings for the education sector, there would be less paying for unnecessary time doing activities that could be handled by the Khan Academy system itself.

Another advantage is that it allows children, at an earlier age, to be computer competent.  With the time each day students spend completing exercises at home, they would almost definitely be more able to handle easy-to-moderate tasks on their computers.  As well as this, the time spent at computers could ignite an interest in computers themselves.  An interest in web-design, for example, could be another potential advantage of incorporating K.A..

The list goes on and on from this, and I could go on about how it is very advantageous, but I believe that’s enough just for now…

So How Can K.A. Help?

So, you’ve just seen the problems that have arisen in the education I’ve received.  How, I will ask, does K.A. even start to offer a possible alternative or a patch of some sort to help the education system.

Well there are a number of reasons that this is the case.  The first is that it eliminates a lot of the administrative work that the teacher would normally have to do.  Most time consuming of this would be correction of tests and homework.  K.A.  helps this hugely.  K.A. offers the teacher a chance to “coach” all their students.  This gives the teacher a dashboard from which they can give out homework and tests via the K.A. website.  The best thing about this is once the work is listed, the teacher is not required to correct it, as it is fully automated.  In fact, a wider range of statistics are available to the teacher, all which require no time or effort from the teacher.  These statistics could prove to be invaluable to teachers and the likes as they can see exactly where students are struggling and adjust their teaching technique accordingly.

Another benefit of K.A. is that teachers’ one-to-one time with the students are much more beneficial.  Firstly, there is more time available due to an automated system being used and secondly the teachers method of teaching is much more well-adjusted to the students’ needs.

All of this means that a much more personal educational experience is possible.  Picture a classroom where all the learning is done at home, at the ease of the student, and classroom time is spent doing exercises where the help of the teacher is always at hand.

 

 

So, you’ve been introduced to the creator of K.A. (Khan Academy) but still have no idea of how the website is useful to the education system at all. Well let me start by telling you how the current education system has many deficiencies in it. I will make my argument on how the K.A. can help the flawed system and maybe be a big player in the future of the education system.

Firstly, I’ll go over some of the problems of the current education system. Although many different countries have different approaches to teaching, I’m going to be focusing on the education I received in primary and secondary school.

What, in my opinion was wrong with the educational system I was involved in.  The teachers weren’t used to their full potential.  That is, that a lot of time and effort of theirs was wasted on either administrative work or sticking to a certain approach to teaching that wasn’t allowing the maximum benefit to be received by students.  Just to expand on that last point, the current system uses the approach of teaching at school and working at home.  What’s wrong with that is that if a student doesn’t understand the lecture given by the teacher in class, they will be lost when attempting to do their homework. This creates a horrible circle in which some students are falling behind and other are not, so in order to correct this the teacher must either carry on, and thus let pupils fall behind, or the teacher could go back over topics and slow down the students that aren’t finding that specific topic difficult.  This in my opinion is the single biggest flaw of the education system.  And in the next post I’ll go over some elements of Khanacademy which correct this problem.

 

 

Khan Academy was formed as a result of Salman Khan, a former hedge fund analyst. In 2004, he used YouTube to uploaded tutoring videos for his cousins, as it seemed to be the best approach for a man with little time free in his week to be delivering what was usually a similar, if not the same lesson. His videos gained much positive feedback from his family as well as others who sought maths tutorials online. Following about 5 years of uploading videos, and a huge amount of positive feedback, he took the major step of quitting his job and focusing full-time on making videos.  He also wanted to improving the learning environment on khanacademy.org, a site he chose to develop as to provide a more structured database of the video tutorials he was uploading to YouTube.  Bill Gates said in an interview, sometime after Khans TED talk  that “I’d say we’ve moved about 160 IQ points from the hedge fund category to the teaching-many-people-in-a-leveraged-way category.”

Here’s the first video that Khan uploaded: Here’s a link to the First Videothat Khan uploaded.