Blogging, k-12 education, online learning, public school budgets

Khan Academy = an answer to K-12 schools woes

This past weekend our 10-year old son taught himself how to finger knit via YouTube.  The fact that he took it upon hiumself to do this in the midst Friday night mayhem at our house was not the surprising part. After all as child #4, he has always managed to find a way to occupy himself; having been carted around to his siblings sporting events since he was born. The surprising part (and impressive, I might add) is the fact that he was able to find a resource online showing step-by-step how to do it and then follow the instructions to do it. – (this YouTube video has received 691,024 views & it’s just one of the many videos that popped up on YouTube search for “how to finger knit”)

How to Finger Knit - online learning

As he sat in front of the computer screen weaving yarn in and out of his fingers according to the video instructions, I was struck by how easily an elementary-age student was able to learn through this medium. This generation of young learners are far more open to non-traditional teaching methods than any generation before them.

With school budget cuts currently at the forefront of every public school district’s agenda, I can’t help but wonder what savings schools might incur by tapping into existing resources available through technology and the internet.

In the vastly growing open source community on the web, there are loads of opportunities to enhance or improve learning by using online resources. Utilizing these resources, which have become widely popular in higher ed learning, would undoubtedly lead to cost savings and increased test scores. Both of these are top goals every district is wrestling to ahieve.

A little initiative and research is required to identify methods to match curriculum. Ultimately, such innovative teaching methods could allow for larger classroom sizes, something on the list of potential options for cost savings. The bonus — while class sizes could increase, the opportunity for more individualized learning would also grow by using online learning options.

One incredible resource that has garnered a huge audience and captured the attention of such big hitters as Bill Gates, is Khan Academy … a collection of more than 2,100 videos, providing the chance to “Watch. Practice. Learn almost anything—for free.” Gates has described Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, as a pioneer and has even used some of the online lessons himself.

Khan Academy started out as a personal endeavor with Salman Khan creating a few videos to help his cousins better understand algebra. Those few how-to videos have grown to a collection of more than 2,100 videos and 100 self-paced exercises and assessments, covering virtually every topic from math to physics, finance, chemistry and history. The website currently boasts a staggering figure of 54,713,766 lessons delivered — whoa!

I’ve checked out a couple videos myself and I will say, Sal does a fantastic job explaining difficult concepts in the most layman’s terms. I re-learned the basics of an algebra equation in less than 10 minutes.

The non-profit has a daunting mission … to change education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.

According to the Khan Academy website – here’s how it works for students, teachers, coaches & even parents.

How it works for students

  • Students can make use of the extensive video library, practice exercises, and assessments from any computer with access to the web.
  • Complete custom self-paced learning tool
  • A dynamic system for getting help
  • A custom profile, points, and badges to measure progress

How it works for Coaches, parents, and teachers

  • Provides unprecedented visibility into what their students are learning and doing on the Khan Academy.
  • Ability to see any student in detail
  • A real-time class report for all students
  • Better intelligence for doing targeted interventions
Khan’s effort is a shining example of how we ought to be rethinking and retooling education, allowing for improved learning opportunities that can also provide tremendous cost savings to public education.
I invite you to try out a Khan Academy lesson for yourself. Whether you’re a teacher, coach, parent or student … tell me what you learned from the Khan video you selected.
Finally … I ask this question to K-12 public school administrators & teachers — in the midst of unprecedented budget cuts how can we incorporate an online learning option into our classrooms and curriculum in a way that could help improve learning, achieve outcomes and provide cost savings?
Eager for answers to this question …

Are you engaging your customers/donors through Facebook?

One of the most common questions I hear from small businesses and non-profits these days is “we started a Facebook page, now what?” Launching a Facebook page is easy, using it to grow your business, expand your donor base or further your cause is a bit more challenging.

The key to doing all of the above is engaging your audience. This involves providing them with something worthwhile in posts. In the online world there’s nothing more valuable than a story.

Engaging your audience starts with telling stories. Are you telling your stories? This process and the value of storytelling is best explained by blogger Jay Baer. He talks about harvesting stories and how doing so humanizes your organization. He is right.

“It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, you have interesting stories to tell. Finding and sharing them is the first step toward social media success” explained Baer in a recent post on his blog – Convince & Convert

Baer calls it humanizing, I’ve always called it “peoplizing” Stories of the folks involved in your company or organization. Whether they’re customers, employees, donors, members or volunteers, they all have stories. You just have to ask and they will tell. Sharing these stories with your Facebook friends develops a connection. That connection encourages sales and motivates involvement in your organization. After all, don’t we all prefer buying from and being involved with people we know and trust?

So how do you harvest these stories and condense them to share in the limited 420 characters allowed in Facebook posts? Start by asking. Questions can boost engagement, likes, and shares? Ask some of the following questions and you’ll be surprised at the interaction it will generate.

What brought you here?

Asking this question will generate responses about what your organization means to them, why they dedicate time and energy to your cause. Customers will likely share thoughts about what they love about your businesss. All of which generates conversation and gives you good story-like posts to share via Facebook.

What keeps you coming back?

This question can be asked of customers, volunteers of employees. All of them will have unique comments about why they choose to continue to patronize/support your business or organization. This is definitely worth sharing via Facebook!

What’s your favorite … ?

Asking this question conjuers up thoughts and memories of the best of times spent with your business or organization. Favorite experiences are the best stories to share through social media; they tend to generate additional comments and conversations from others about their favorite expereinces, too.

These questions will get you started harvesting  stories you can share through Facebook. I’d be interested in hearing about companies/organizations doing a good job of gathering and sharing stories and successfully engaging customers/donors as a result.

And, if you implement any of these harvesting strategies, let me know how it works for you.