Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Khan Academy

I love Sal Khan.

I don't know the guy, but I love what he's doing and how he's doing it.  There's quite a bit of debate about it.  It's gaining some national attention.  And anytime you can share the stage with Bill Gates you've got something serious going on.  But I love it, and here's why...

Sal is probably about my age (36 as of today, actually), I'm guessing.  Which means he was sitting in a high school math class about the same time I was.  (on a side note, he was probably paying a lot more attention than I was.)  There was very little technology being used in math instruction at that time.  There were probably more than a few CHALKBOARDS in classrooms at that time.  So at some point along the way Sal recognized a demand and supplied the supply.

Most of the debate that I hear focuses on whether or not Sal's Khan Academy is the new wave, the best thing since the previous best thing.  Is the "flipped classroom" going to be how education is conducted?  Is Sal going to save America's education system.  My response?  Who cares.  And honestly, in spite of what he said at his TED talk, I don't think Sal cares.

"...we're on a mission to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace."
             - KhanAcademy homepage

Every time Sal talks about how Khan Academy got started he brings up the fact that he did this for his cousins.  He was tutoring family members.  Very few people tutor family members with the ulterior motive of transforming a nation's educational system.  Sal tutored his cousins, recognized that it was working, probably enjoyed what he was doing, and off he goes.  He was a hedge fund analyst.  It's my guess he didn't go into distance tutoring for the cash.  But it picked up steam, people responded, and now he's got a good thing going on.  Of course when he speaks he's going to talk about the different ways the videos can be used.  Of course he's going to talk about how great his product is, and can be.  It is, however, pretty clear to me what his mission is, since it's right there on the homepage.

I'm a teacher, an (sort-of) administrator, and a father.  Is there really anymore we should want from our students and kids than to have them recognize a need in the world, find a way to fulfill that need, and do it in a way that helps people?

Keep it up Sal.  You've got one fan in me.

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