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.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3LKAlDz9ig – (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 …
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