SOS Response To OnLine Ed = Next False Idol For Inner-Cities

Post Reply
Posts: 1708
Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:43 pm

SOS Response To OnLine Ed = Next False Idol For Inner-Cities

Post by johnkarls »

12 days ago, I posted an “SOS distress call” for any and all Good Samaritans who had time during the following week (since I didn’t) to investigate the following two question with regard to the on-line tutorials of the Khan Academy --

(1) Why anyone would think that on-line instruction would be effective for any adolescent unless s/he is supervised by a parent, rather than being policed solely by the equivalent of a customer-service chat-line; and

(2) Why anyone would think that inner-city children who live in a single-adult household headed by a druggie who turns over all receipts to the pusher so that the kids have to steal in order to eat -- would receive adequate supervision so that they actually turn on their computers and pay attention to Khan Academy programs (much less cope with them successfully with only the equivalent of a customer-service chat-line).

Either we have a severe shortage of Good Samaritans or our Good Samaritans had other priorities.

Since some time has freed up in the last day or so, I have attempted to tackle my own request.

First things first, our regular participant identified in my 11/5/2015 posting solely as [Redacted] is a retired attorney who ranks at the top end of the proverbial 1%, both in terms of wealth and income.

However, [Redacted] is also virtually unique in the sense that in addition to participating in our group, [Redacted] constantly participates simultaneously in both classroom and on-line Adult Ed courses on many different subjects.

So, of course, the question becomes whether [Redacted] is so egocentric in assuming that everyone else in the world is like [Redacted] that anyone, including inner-city children, should have no trouble generating the enthusiasm to actually turn on a computer and call Khan Academy courses and successfully cope with them with only the equivalent of a customer-service chat-line.

[Redacted] refused to disclose whether the idea that inner-city children should be able to cope with an on-line education course is an idea encountered in a reputable journal, or self-generated by egocentrism.

Accordingly, an Advanced Google Search was conducted to ascertain whether there were any articles in reputable journals that had opined that on-line courses are suitable for inner-city adolescents.

There were four suspects =

(1) A 10/9/2012 Fortune Magazine article by Salman Khan himself and entitled “The Khan Academy Founder, Salman Kahn, Tells The Story Of The Rocky, Serendipitous, Amazing Early Months Of Running His Web-Based School” -- it follows immediately below as the first Reply to this posting.

However, it offers no insight vis-à-vis the two questions.

(2) An 8/24/2010 Fortune Magazine article by an other-wise unidentified David A. Kaplan entitled “Sal Khan: Bill Gates’ Favorite Teacher” -- it follows below as the second Reply to this posting.

Like Item (1), it recounts how the Gates Foundation began bank-rolling the Khan Academy in 2009.

The unidentified David A. Kaplan claimed that “Khan Academy holds the promise of a virtual school: an educational transformation that de-emphasizes classrooms, campus and administrative infrastructure, and even brand-name instructors.”

But the unidentified David A. Kaplan did quote the President of the largest U.S. private-equity firm specializing in for-profit education as saying that “[The Khan Academy] is a solid supplemental resource, particularly for motivated students. But it’s not an academy -- it's more of a library.”

(3) An 11/2/2012 Forbes Magazine article by Michael Noer (Executive Editor of Forbes Magazine) entitled “One Man, One Computer, 10 Million Students: How Khan Academy Is Reinventing Education” -- it follows below as the third Reply to this posting.

However, it offers no insight vis-à-vis our two questions.

(4) A 1/6/2014 Forbes Magazine INTERVIEW OF SALMAN KAHN by Peter High (President of Metis Strategy, a CIO firm he founded in 2001, advisor of many corporate Chief Information Officers, and author of articles in the Wall Street Journal, CIO Magazine, CIO Insight, and Information Week) and entitled “Salman Kahn, The Most Influential Person In Education Technology” -- it follows below as the fourth Reply to this posting.

Salman Khan makes some very-insightful comments =

He states that anyone’s ability to take advantage of on-line learning depends on both motivation and a proper foundation for the particular on-line course. He points out that quite often an on-line student has gaps in that foundation, and that the gaps are often not apparent before the student flounders and the cause of the failure is assessed.

He also states: “I don’t think we are a threat or competition to traditional education in any way. This is not versus Barnes & Noble. We don’t believe that you should ever replace physical education. Even in a thousand years, a computer will never be able to do so."


As Salman Khan states, on-line education will never comprise “competition to traditional education in any way.”

It is a shame that he was not asked the question whether on-line courses are “competition” for textbooks.

Because for the vast majority of adolescents, it seems intuitively obvious that on-line tutorials (even with the equivalent of an on-line chat-line) will never teach successfully the overwhelming majority of adolescents, but that the tutorials could easily substitute for textbooks if the on-line tutorials prove to be more effective than textbooks for adolescents.

However, it should be appreciated that this conclusion in no way detracts from the vast amount of good that is accomplished by the Khan Academy for adults who have the necessary motivation and have the necessary foundation, such as [Redacted] has.

And even though Salman Khan admits that on-line tutorials are NOT “competition for traditional education in any way,” we would do well to keep AN EAGLE EYE on Bill and Melinda Gates and their Foundation -- (1) which may well begin peddling the Snake Oil proposition that on-line education -- as a substitute for teachers (vs. a substitute for textbooks) -- is the next experiment to perpetrate on our inner-city children, and (2) which may succeed in convincing America to Wander in the Wilderness for yet another decade worshipping yet another False Idol.

With regard to what Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation might be about to perpetrate next with regard to inner-city children, please read the following Addendum.

Respectfully submitted,

John Karls

Addendum Re PBS Newshour Report

On Thursday 11/12/2015, the MacNeil-Lehrer Report (aka the PBS Newshour) featured a curious report entitled “An Innovator Who Says Kids Can Learn Anything On Their Own”!!!

The transcript of that report follows below as the fifth Reply to this posting.

NB: Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation are very-significant benefactors of the PBS Newshour, Bill and Melinda Gates are regularly featured on the PBS Newshour to present their ideas, and the PBS Newshour regularly features seemingly-objective reports that extol the virtues of the ideas of Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation.

Now read the PBS Newshour transcript (Reply No. 5 below), keeping in mind the cardinal rules of Salman Khan regarding proper motivation and proper foundation.

The PBS Newshour report begins by describing an experiment in India of embedding computers in a wall IN A DELHI SLUM NEXT TO SUGATA MITRA’S SOFTWARE COMPANY to see whether any slum children used the computers.

They did!!!

So what would Salman Khan say was the sine qua non MOTIVATION???

The slum was next door to the software company. So the slum children had obviously seen the software-company employees arriving and departing in flashy clothes, nice cars, etc., etc.

So of course, they ALREADY KNEW that computers are the ticket to better things!!!

And what would Salman Khan say was the sine qua non FOUNDATION???

The slum children depicted using the computers obviously knew how to decipher, if not read, what appeared on the computer screens.

And they obviously knew how to point & click the computer mice, if not type on the keyboards.

And they probably had other foundational skills in addition to these basic skills.

Then the PBS Newshour report spends the bulk of its time focusing on a single classroom in Harlem’s Public Elementary School No. 197, in which fourth-grade students are offered the opportunity to concoct a question for investigation, and then research the answer using six computers to access on-line resources.

The question they concocted???

Why do dogs chase cats???

What would Salman Khan say was the sine qua non FOUNDATION???

The same skills as the children in the Delhi slum = the ability to read and the ability to type (or at least point & click mice). Plus they would have to know how to use computer search engines. And who knows what other foundational skills were required, unless you are an education expert???

And what would Salman Khan say was the sine qua non MOTIVATION???

The same motivation that underlies all exercises in our K-12 schools, whether it is a physics or chemistry lab, a trip to a museum, using sports information to make math calculations, etc., etc.

And all the excitement that surrounds having a PBS film crew in your classroom must also be quite a motivation. After all, how many of those Harlem kids ever got a chance to travel from their school, which is located in the Harlem Hospital Center at Fifth Avenue & 135th Street, the mere 25 blocks due north to Yankee Stadium to see a game, much less APPEAR ON TELEVISION WHILE WATCHING THE GAME???

Balance In The PBS Report

At least THERE WAS BURIED IN THE MIDDLE of the PBS report a statement from Mike Trucano, who was identified as an expert on global education technology for the World Bank for 20 years -- “The answer isn’t technology. The answer is providing children with a rich learning environment, with a highly capable, competent, committed teacher there alongside them to help guide their learning. Thinking that technology alone and kids left to their own devices can educate themselves in the way that we hope and become the types of people they want to be, I think, is ludicrous.”

Nevertheless, keeping an EAGLE EYE on the machinations Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation would appear to be one of the most important things we can do to insure the future of America.

Posts: 1708
Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:43 pm

Reply No. 1 - 10/9/2012 Fortune Magazine Article

Post by johnkarls »

When Sal Khan met Bill Gates - Fortune
Oct 9, 2012 - The Khan Academy founder, Salman Kahn, tells the story of the rocky, serendipitous, amazing early months of running his web-based school.

When Sal Khan Met Bill Gates
By Salman Khan – 10/9/2010

The Khan Academy founder, Salman Kahn, tells the story of the rocky, serendipitous, amazing early months of running his web-based school.

By early 2009, tens of thousands of students were watching tutorials on the Khan Academy every day. The software I wrote for my cousins had become so popular it was making my $50-a-month web host crash. The possibilities surrounding the academy were so exciting that I had trouble doing my day job properly. And soon I quit.

In retrospect I was unbelievably naive. Despite already having more views on YouTube than MIT OpenCourseWare and Stanford combined, the Khan Academy was still a one-person operation run out of a closet. Then I got an unexpected and providential e-mail from Ann Doerr, wife of famed venture capitalist John Doerr. She suggested we have lunch. When Ann asked how I was supporting myself and my family, I answered, “I’m not; we’re living off of savings.” She nodded, and we each went our ways. About 20 minutes later I got a text message as I was parking in my driveway. It was from Ann: You need to support yourself. I am sending a check for $100,000 right now. I almost crashed into the garage door.

Two months later I got another text message from Ann.

At Aspen…hundreds of people in audience…Bill Gates on stage, talking about you.

My mind immediately pictured all the half-assed videos I had made for my cousins — where my son is screaming in the background or I’m trying to cram in a concept before my wife comes home from work. Did Bill Gates really watch those?

After about a week, Gates’ chief of staff called. He told me that Bill would like to fly me to Seattle to meet and see how he could support the Khan Academy. I was staring at my calendar as he was asking my availability; it was completely blank for the next month. Sitting in my closet and trying to sound as cool as possible, I said, “Sure, I think I could squeeze something in.”

The meeting happened on Aug. 22. I was waiting in a conference room with several other people from the Gates Foundation. They reassured me that “Bill is just another human being. He’s completely cool.” After a few minutes all the people in the room began to look a bit more serious than they had 30 seconds before. Bill Gates had walked in and was standing behind me. Yeah, just another human being. I spent the next 15 minutes talking about what I thought the Khan Academy could do and how we would do it. He asked me a few questions and then said simply, “This is great.” Two days later, an article came out in Fortune magazine titled “Bill Gates’ Favorite Teacher.” The headline was unreal. The article made my mother cry. It seemed that it was time for me to move out of my closet office.

Adapted from The One World Schoolhouse, published this month by Twelve Books

This story is from the October 8, 2012 issue of Fortune.

Posts: 1708
Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:43 pm

Reply No. 2 - 8/24/2010 Fortune Magazine Article

Post by johnkarls »

Sal Khan: Bill Gates' favorite teacher - Aug. 24, 2010 - Fortune
Aug 24, 2010 - The homemade tutorials of the one-man Khan Academy are sparking a revolution - and Bill Gates and John Doerr are paying close attention.

Innovation in Education: Bill Gates’ Favorite Teacher
By David A. Kaplan, contributor - August 24, 2010: 5:53 AM ET

FORTUNE -- Sal Khan, you can count Bill Gates as your newest fan. Gates is a voracious consumer of online education. This past spring a colleague at his small think tank, bgC3, e-mailed him about the nonprofit, a vast digital trove of free mini-lectures all narrated by Khan, an ebullient, articulate Harvard MBA and former hedge fund manager. Gates replied within minutes. "This guy is amazing," he wrote. "It is awesome how much he has done with very little in the way of resources." Gates and his 11-year-old son, Rory, began soaking up videos, from algebra to biology. Then, several weeks ago, at the Aspen Ideas Festival in front of 2,000 people, Gates gave the 33-year-old Khan a shout-out that any entrepreneur would kill for. Ruminating on what he called the "mind-blowing misallocation" of resources away from education, Gates touted the "unbelievable" 10- to 15-minute Khan Academy tutorials "I've been using with my kids." With admiration and surprise, the world's second-richest person noted that Khan "was a hedge fund guy making lots of money." Now, Gates said, "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. It was a good day his wife let him quit his job." Khan wasn't even there -- he learned of Gates' praise through a YouTube video. "It was really cool," Khan says.

In an undistinguished ranch house off the main freeway of Silicon Valley, in a converted walk-in closet filled with a few hundred dollars' worth of video equipment and bookshelves and his toddler's red Elmo underfoot, is the epicenter of the educational earthquake that has captivated Gates and others. It is here that Salman Khan produces online lessons on math, science, and a range of other subjects that have made him a web sensation.

Khan Academy, with Khan as the only teacher, appears on YouTube and elsewhere and is by any measure the most popular educational site on the web. Khan's playlist of 1,630 tutorials (at last count) are now seen an average of 70,000 times a day -- nearly double the student body at Harvard and Stanford combined. Since he began his tutorials in late 2006, Khan Academy has received 18 million page views worldwide, including from the Gates progeny. Most page views come from the U.S., followed by Canada, England, Australia, and India. In any given month, Khan says, he's reached about 200,000 students. "There's no reason it shouldn't be 20 million."

His low-tech, conversational tutorials -- Khan's face never appears, and viewers see only his unadorned step-by-step doodles and diagrams on an electronic blackboard -- are more than merely another example of viral media distributed at negligible cost to the universe. Khan Academy holds the promise of a virtual school: an educational transformation that de-emphasizes classrooms, campus and administrative infrastructure, and even brand-name instructors.

Quick, free, and easy to understand

Distance learning and correspondence courses have been around since the invention of mail. And private, for-profit schools flourish; the University of Phoenix has half a million students enrolled, most of them online. Other private operations, like the Teaching Co., specialize in amalgamating "great courses" from nationally known teachers: the 12-hour Game Theory in Life, Business, and Beyond, from one academic star, costs $254.95 on DVD.

What's remarkable about Khan Academy, aside from its nonpareil word of mouth and burgeoning growth, is that it's free and prizes brevity. Remember your mumbling macroeconomics teacher whose 50-minute monologue in a large auditorium could bore the dead? That isn't Khan. He rarely cracks wise -- if you want shtick, check out Darth Vader trying to teach Euclidean geometry on YouTube ("The Pythagorean theorem is your destiny!") -- but in less than 15 minutes Khan gets to the essence of the topics he's carved out.

Online critics question whether he amounts to a dilettante who's turning learning into pedagogical McNuggets. But while you obviously don't learn calculus in one session -- the subject is divided into 191 parts, which doesn't include 32 more in precalc -- Khan's components seem to hit the sweet spot of length and substance. And he covers an astonishing array. There are the core subjects in math -- arithmetic, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and statistics -- and the de rigueur science offerings, like biology, chemistry, and physics. But Khan also gives lessons in Economics of a Cupcake Factory, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Alien Abduction Brain Teaser.

The seeds of education

Like so many entrepreneurial epiphanies, Khan's came by accident. Born and raised in New Orleans -- the son of immigrants from India and what's now Bangladesh -- Khan was long an academic star. With his MBA from Harvard, he has three degrees from MIT: a BS in math and a BS and a master's in electrical engineering and computer science. He also was the president of his MIT class and did volunteer teaching in nearby Brookline for talented children, as well as developed software to teach children with ADHD. What he doesn't know he picks up from endless reading and cogitation: His gift, like that of many teachers, is being able to reduce the complex. "Part of the beauty of what he does is his consistency," says Gates. Of Khan's capacity to teach, Gates, who says he spends considerable time trying to help his three kids learn the basics of math and science, tells Fortune, "I kind of envy him."

In the summer of 2004, while still living in Boston, Khan learned that his seventh-grader cousin, Nadia, in New Orleans was having trouble in math class converting kilograms. He agreed to remotely tutor her. Using Yahoo Doodle software as a shared notepad, as well as a telephone, Nadia thrived -- so much so that Khan started working with her brothers, Ali and Arman. Word spread to other relatives and friends. Khan wrote JavaScript problem generators to keep up a supply of practice exercises. But between their soccer practices, his job, and multiple time zones, scheduling became impossible. "I started to record videos on YouTube for them to watch at their own pace," Khan recalls. Other users tuned in, and the blueprint for Khan Academy was created.

Khan continued to work for the small hedge fund he had joined after Harvard, Wohl Capital Management. He said he took away "under $1 million" before the Silicon Valley-based hedge fund wound down, and briefly started his own fund in mid-2008, which didn't really get off the ground because of the financial crisis. ("I called it Khan Capital," he says, "but it never got much beyond 'Khan's Capital.'") He used his nest egg to buy a house with his wife, Umamia, a rheumatology fellow at Stanford Medical School, and as a reserve when he gave up his investment career. On a typical day he tapes a few tutorials, answers posts from students, calls experts when he's stuck on how best to explicate a concept, and fields queries from curious potential backers.

He maintains he has no interest in monetizing the operation by charging subscriptions or selling ads. "I already have a beautiful wife, a hilarious son, two Hondas, and a decent house," he declares on his website. But that hasn't stopped the inquiries, the most notable from John Doerr, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and his wife, Ann. Not long ago a PayPal donation on Khan's site came in for $10,000 (a typical gift is $100). Khan e-mailed the donor. Her name was Ann Doerr. He knew of a John Doerr but just assumed the name was more popular than he realized. He e-mailed her to say thanks. She suggested lunch.

When they met, Ann Doerr told him she couldn't believe hers was the largest donation. "This is, like, criminal," she said. "I love what you're doing." When he got home, he found a message from her: "There's $100,000 in the mail."

Khan is using that money to pay himself a salary. Later, he met John Doerr and has since relied on both Doerrs for entrée to others in the philanthropic establishment. After Gates mentioned Khan in Aspen, John tweeted it to his Silicon Valley legions. In July the academy received another $100,000 -- from John McCall MacBain, a Canadian entrepreneur who made a fortune in publishing. "If I had a million dollars," Khan says, he'd fund software development of more automated problem sets and extensive translations of his videos. Gates, whose foundation spends $700 million a year on U.S. education, plans to talk to Khan soon as well.

An academy or a library?

Khan has his skeptics in the education business. They don't doubt he means well and is helping students, but they question the broad impact of any tutorial that doesn't test performance or allow student-teacher discussion. "It's a solid supplemental resource, particularly for motivated students," says Jeffrey Leeds, president of Leeds Equity Partners, the largest U.S. private equity firm specializing in for-profit education. "But it's not an academy -- it's more of a library."

But Khan intends nothing less than "tens of thousands" of tutorials offering the "first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything." The advances envisioned by Leeds and others wouldn't hurt either. The education industry can use all the innovation it can find.

Posts: 1708
Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:43 pm

Reply No. 3 - 11/2/2012 Forbes Magazine Article

Post by johnkarls »

One Man, One Computer, 10 Million Students: How Khan ... ... nts-how-kh...
Nov 2, 2012 - Despite the cramped, dowdy circumstances, youthful optimism at the Khan Academy abounds. At the weekly organization-wide meeting, ...

Nov 2, 2012 @ 10:00 AM 343,933 views
One Man, One Computer, 10 Million Students: How Khan Academy Is Reinventing Education
By Michael Noer, Executive Editor of Forbes Magazine
This story appears in the November 19, 2012 issue of Forbes

The headquarters of what has rapidly become the largest school in the world, at 10 million students strong, is stuffed into a few large communal rooms in a decaying 1960s office building hard by the commuter rail tracks in Mountain View, Calif. Despite the cramped, dowdy circumstances, youthful optimism at the Khan Academy abounds. At the weekly organization-wide meeting, discussion about translating their offerings into dozens of languages is sandwiched between a video of staffers doing weird dances with their hands and plans for upcoming camping and ski trips.

Pivoting, Salman Khan, the 36-year-old founder, cracks a sports joke appropriate for someone who holds multiple degrees from MIT and Harvard. It involves LeBron James (a Khan Academy fan), three-point shots and sophisticated algorithms called Monte Carlo simulations. The company’s 37 employees, mostly software developers with stints at places like Google GOOG +0.41% and Facebook, are the types who know when to laugh. And they do.

It’s a prototypical Silicon Valley ethos, with one exception: The Khan Academy, which features 3,400 short instructional videos along with interactive quizzes and tools for teachers to chart student progress, is a nonprofit, boasting a mission of “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” There is no employee equity; there will be no IPO; funding comes from philanthropists, not venture capitalists.

“I could have started a for-profit, venture-backed business that has a good spirit, and I think there are many of them–Google for instance,” says Khan, his eyes dancing below his self-described unibrow. “Maybe I could reach a billion people. That is high impact, but what happens in 50 years?”

It’s a fair question, with an increasingly sure answer: The next half-century of education innovation is being shaped right now. After decades of yammering about “reform,” with more and more money spent on declining results, technology is finally poised to disrupt how people learn. And that creates immense opportunities for both for-profit entrepreneurs and nonprofit agitators like Khan.

How immense? According to a report from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, global spending on education is $3.9 trillion, or 5.6% of planetary GDP. America spends the most–about $1.3 trillion a year–yet the U.S. ranks 25th out of the 34 OECD countries in mathematics, 17th in science and 14th in reading. And, as in so many other areas of American life, those averages obscure a deeper divide: The U.S. is the only developed country to have high proportions of both top and bottom performers. About a fifth of American 15-year-olds do not have basic competence in science; 23% can’t use math in daily life.

It’s those latter statistics that motivate Khan. The site covers a staggering array of topics–from basic arithmetic and algebra to the electoral college and the French Revolution. The videos are quirky affairs where you never see the instructor (usually Salman Khan himself, who personally has created nearly 3,000 of them). Instead, students are confronted with a blank digital blackboard, which, over the course of a ten-minute lesson narrated in Khan’s soothing baritone, is gradually filled up with neon-colored scrawls illustrating key concepts. The intended effect is working through homework at the kitchen table with your favorite uncle looking over your shoulder.

Or make that the planet’s favorite uncle. Over the past two years Khan Academy videos have been viewed more than 200 million times. The site is used by 6 million unique students each month (about 45 million total over the last 12 months), who have collectively solved more than 750 million problems (about 2 million a day), and the material, which is provided at no cost, is (formally or informally) part of the curriculum in 20,000 classrooms around the world. Volunteers have translated Khan’s videos into 24 different languages, including Urdu, Swahili and Chinese.

“Sal is the world’s first superstar teacher,” says Yuri Milner, the Russian physicist turned venture capitalist who was an early investor in Facebook, Twitter and Groupon GRPN +0.00%.

Beyond admirers like Milner, Khan’s meteoric success has attracted the financial support of a bevy of high-profile, socially minded backers, including Ann Doerr, the wife of billionaire venture capitalist John Doerr; Bill Gates; Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; NewSchools Venture Fund, whose CEO is the former president of the California State Board of Education; and Google, whose chairman, Eric Schmidt, serves on the academy’s board. In total Khan has raised $16.5 million, with assurances of more to come.

“The numbers get really crazy when you look at the impact per dollar,” says Khan. “We have a $7 million operating budget, and we are reaching, over the course of a year, about 10 million students in a meaningful way. If you put any reasonable value on it, say $10 a year–and keep in mind we serve most students better than tutoring–and you are looking at, what, a 1,000% return?”

Posts: 1708
Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:43 pm

Reply No. 4 - 1/6/2014 Forbes Magazine INTERVIEW Of Salman K

Post by johnkarls »

Reading Liberally Editorial Note = The following article begins using the acronym "MOOC" in the first paragraph and thereafter uses it frequently without ever having explained what it means. It appears to mean "Massive Open Online Course" which is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web.

Salman Khan, The Most Influential Person In Education ... ... n-educatio...
Jan 6, 2014 - Salman Khan of Khan Academy. I have had the a good fortune of speaking with good number of the leaders in education technology today.

Jan 6, 2014 @ 08:55 AM 28,913 views
Salman Khan, The Most Influential Person In Education Technology
By Peter High, President of Metis Strategy, a CIO firm he founded in 2001. He has advised many of the best chief information officers at multi-billion dollar corporations in the United States and abroad. He’s written for the Wall Street Journal, CIO Magazine, CIO Insight, Information Week and several other periodicals.

I have had the a good fortune of speaking with good number of the leaders in education technology today. Since so many of these players have emerged from academe, the competition between companies is fierce certainly, but there is also a collegial willingness to acknowledge the successes of other companies. In the case of non-profits like edX, CEO Anant Agarawal says, the more companies that enter this space, the merrier. (Stay tuned for my interview with Agarwal on January 20th.) Several of these leaders acknowledge that the most influential person to the MOOC landscape has been Salman Khan. As Agarwal lists the genesis of the MOOCs, he lists Khan and his Khan Academy first among the major players. Sebastian Thrun acknowledged in my interview with him that “I stumbled into this after listening to a gentleman named Sal Khan of Khan Academy. In his speech he noted that he had tens of millions of students in his classes. I was teaching at Stanford at the time and had tens of dozens of students in my classes, and I felt I should try something different and see if we could do what I do and scale it to many people.” In fact, in my podcast interview with Thrun, as he listed those who had been most influential to him over the course of his career, he listed Khan on the short list.

With this in mind, I looked forward to meeting this education guru. I met him in his office, and had a chance to see the microphone he uses for the tutorials that he delivers. He was informal, dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, and the microphone that I used to record our podcast interview was perched on a log that stood in between us. He was affable, bright, and the leadership skills that enabled him to be class president of his senior class at MIT and of his class at Harvard Business School before becoming a serial entrepreneur was quite clear. What followed as a fascinating conversation about the genesis of Khan Academy, his thoughts on the future of education, and his beliefs about the balance between technology enabled learning versus classroom learning.

(To listen to an extended audio interview with Salman Khan, visit this link To read the past interviews in the education technology innovation series, including interviews with Sebastian Thrun, Daphne Koller, and Mike Feerick, please visit this link. To read future interviews in this series, including interviews with Anant Agarwal of edX, and Dean Daniel Huttonlocher of Cornell NYC Tech, please click the “Follow” link above.)

Peter High: Sal, there is the famous story of your cousin, Nadia, who needed some help with her math class in seventh grade as the genesis of the idea that has become Khan Academy. What insights in the early days helped you understand the scale of the need that you hoped to fill?

Salman Khan: I grew up with plenty of smart people. They would beat me at chess, they could solve brain teasers before I could, but then they would struggle in algebra. These were incredibly smart people who simply did not have the foundation in math that I had. I saw the same thing with my cousin, Nadia. She had actually gotten “A”s and “B”s in every math class. Despite that, she had some serious gaps in her knowledge that became more significant as the content became more difficult. This really hit me as a real opportunity.

My background is in software, and I have always had these romantic notions of starting writing software that could help people learn, so I started writing a little tool that would give Nadia and her brothers and the other people I was working with practice problems. I didn’t trust them when they said how long it took them or whatever else. I put a database behind it and that became a useful tutorial tool because I could see where they had gaps, I could intervene appropriately, and I could give them as much practice as they needed.

I realized that I had an issue with scaling this. The software was appropriate for tens of people, but video together with analytics connecting the software to the videos would be necessary to take it to the next level. So I started doing those to complement the software idea, and they took on a life of their own and it reinforced that there was a need that was not being met effectively.

I realized that there are many people who are very good students, but they think of themselves as bad students. At the end of the day what they are really missing is way to understand where their gaps are and a way to address those gaps. The problem is by the time you are in algebra class and if you are a little shaky on decimals, there has not been a good way to address that traditionally. The class is going to move on.

PH: What feedback did you get from students in the early days that helped you determine how to shape the company and its offering?

SK: Some of the strongest testimonials that I got back in the early days were from students who indicated that they thought they were simply bad at a given subject, and they were on the verge of giving up hope when they found our videos. This has been inspiring to me. A member of our team failed calculus three or four times and dropped out of college because of it. Later he embarked on a successful IT career and got to the point where he had to re-learn calculus. He did so using Khan Academy. He joined our team and now is one of our top engineers. He didn’t realize he had all these gaps in his formative mathematics and that was what was keeping him passing calculus. It is not about smart or not-smart, or motivated or demotivated; it is a lot about how strong your foundation is, and how confident you are. One’s perception of themselves has a much bigger role than has been acknowledged to determine who succeeds and who does not.

PH: Do you anticipate a point at which Khan Academy or other comparable companies will change the way in which teaching is done in the classroom?

SK: I don’t think we are a threat or competition to traditional education in any way. This is not versus Barnes & Noble. We don’t believe that you should ever replace physical education. Even in a thousand years, a computer will never be able to do so.

Before the Prussians came up with the current educational model 200 years ago, the only people who got an education were the elite, the nobility and usually only the male nobility. So the Prussian model has served us incredibly well, democratizing education, and allowing us to have it at an industrial scale, so to speak.

As we ask, “What is the ideal experience?” The physical classroom should be changed such that learning is not as passive an experience as it has been traditionally. Students shouldn’t just be listening to a lecture; they should be interacting with peers; they should be working at their own pace; they shouldn’t be isolated from people who are more advanced than they are or people who are less advanced than they are. We ought to use these as opportunities to mentor other people and be mentored by others. This is where Khan Academy comes in. If the computer can give them the right problems at the right time and give the teacher feedback; well, then teachers don’t have to use time for homework review.

PH: In the early days, you performed all lessons. Needless to say, that is not a scalable model. What was the process of expanding beyond you?

SK: In the early days, there was such a direct need for my cousins and then once I started, I realized how much I enjoyed making the videos. I started with algebra and enjoyed that. I then moved on to trigonometry. Next, I did geometry. I eventually got pre-algebra. It kept growing and growing, and it was one of the best intellectual adventures for me. I viewed this as a challenge. I am not a chemist, but I understood chemistry at one point. I delved back into the books I used in school. I moved on to history.

The company is called Khan Academy and I kind of cringe sometimes because it was literally almost a joke. It makes it sound like a major institution, and it is no longer just me, of course. In 2006, the name was kind of a joke, and I did not quit my job until 2009. In 2010, we set up as a not-for-profit. In 2010, we had our first real funding from Gates foundation and Google. We could get office space and hire people. We have more than 40 people now. Three-fourths of them are software engineers.

As you mentioned, I can no longer do everything, even for the things I have done, it is probably not ideal for everyone. We want other voices and other ways of thinking. I have focused on bringing in new people who have a similar enthusiasm and sensibility.

PH: How do you compare Khan Academy to the other prominent MOOCs like edX, Udacity, or Coursera?

SK: We have some comparable content and people from the same universities that they have signed up. We have Stanford Medical School content on Khan Academy for instance. So it isn’t where the content is coming from or who is making it. It is more of how the content is expected to be consumed and what it means to consume it. As other MOOCs move toward accreditation, there may be the perception that it is replacing the physical educational environment. As I mentioned earlier, we explicitly do not intend to do so. With some other courses, there is the perception that “Well, this is the Harvard course.” I think the risk there is that you know the reality– is it is not the Harvard course.

The other distinction is attempting to virtualize a physical analogue. So there is something called a course today, but it starts on a certain date. It ends on a certain date. There are lectures, and there is homework. Then there is a project. Then there is an exam and everyone kind of moves together. That has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is it does create a cohort like a fact. The disadvantage of kind of going together at the same pace is that it still is the kind of for like were depression model of education, where anytime you are forcing to people together at the same pace, it becomes a filter. It begs the question, “Who can keep up with this pace?”

Khan Academy can help you learn, but we are never going to say that we are somehow a replacement for a physical classroom. So that is why we have invested really heavily in teacher dashboards, teacher diagnostics. Teachers being able to assign exercises, it is coming out soon, so to some degree the teacher could use Khan Academy within their courses. However the teacher decides to do it. It is not a pre-packaged course for them. It could be asynchronous. We could be in the same classroom. You might work on negative exponents. I might work on fractal exponents. That is completely okay. So that is where I would draw some distinctions on how we operate. We are also differentiated by our mission statement: A free world class education for anyone, anywhere.

PH: You mentioned your use of the dashboards that you are developing for teachers and the diagnostics that you are putting together to help them gauge progress to use an additional aid to determine how the students are doing. What is on your own dashboard to determine whether Khan Academy is making appropriate progress?

SK: In Silicon Valley, growth is number one. You grow at all costs. That is what drives your valuation. We also believe that growth is important, as it means that we are adding value to people. But for us it is really about the average learning per user that we want to maximize and the way we think about that, well first we have to really invest in really strong diagnostic exercises assessments, because if we don’t have those then there is no way of really measuring the impact that the videos or the text might have. So we are doing a very deep course right now and the common core, we are working with a lot of the common core groups you know to make sure that we are really going deep, really doing conceptually that when we are confident that a student is proficient at something We look at how well do we engage the user? How much time they spend? You know we are always running experiments. Five percent of the users see different little tweaks to the system to see if it engages them more. We look at what interventions get them to a proficient state faster. I also did a very good job of hiring people smarter than myself across the organization. So we have some very, very good people who are thinking very seriously and working with third party researchers at universities and cognitive scientists to understand how we can measure learning and retention.

PH: You mentioned that you mission is to provide free world class education for anyone, anywhere. The key is that the courses are free — so on flip side of that, what is the revenue model? How do you see yourself continuing to be able to afford this strong talent as you continue to scale the business?

SK: Right now our total budget is about the same budget as a medium size high school, and we are reaching millions of students. I think the social return on investment will continue to be compelling to philanthropists and foundations. As we grow, hopefully less of my time will be spent on fundraising, and more will be spent trying to make the experience on Khan Academy better and deeper. To do so, we are licensing content to some for-profits that are trying to use it in some commercial way. We are open to that as long as our brand is used in the right way. We started to do some brand partnerships; so the most famous one is with Bank of America. If you walk into Bank of America now you will see a little banner where they say, “Better money habits – a partnership with Khan Academy.” They are using our video content on financial literacy and capital markets and accounting, for example. They have developed their own portal. Executives there have told us, “People trust Khan Academy, because you guys have built a brand here, and you are a not-for-profit.” I was really impressed they genuinely are in this to educate their customers. It not just some type of a marketing ploy. These are example of reasons why I feel good that in five or six years, we won’t have to be completely philanthropically supported. I should mention that one thing that we have ruled out: we won’t charge for learning. We won’t put ads on the site. If we do that, it will mean the electricity is about to go off at our headquarters and we can’t pay our bills.

PH: You have children of your own. How do you plan to use Khan Academy with them?

SK: My son is four. We normally say Khan Academy starts being kind of interesting for a third or fourth grader, but you know I was trying to work with that especially if you have, it is so important to have the human in the room that can get beyond where the technology really fails and we learned how we can fix the technology. I hope that in a couple of years, my son goes to a school where Khan Academy is part of the experience.

I hope that when he is six or seven or eight years old, he gets a chance to be tutored by his peers, to tutor his peers, to do projects with the teacher. I hope that he has time next to the teacher for one-on-one learning even if it is for 15 minutes a week, as opposed to five days per week of sitting in his chair, pretending that he is paying attention looking at the clock to see when class ends. It is just a very unhealthy thing, especially for kids that young, where they want to move, they want to explore. They are naturally curious and it is almost that the traditional Prussian model suppresses that natural curiosity.

PH: You have had a chance to experience the American education system, you’ve been an entrepreneur in this space, and now you are parent to a young child entering it anew, have you thought much about education reform in our country?

SK: I really fundamentally believe that we need to move to a world where it is about competency. What level of competency do you have of algebra? And you know it is not okay to get a C in algebra, but it doesn’t mean that you are a bad person or that you are not hardworking or not capable. It just means that you don’t work on it harder, because no one is benefitting from you getting a C in algebra and then you going and taking algebra 2 or taking pre-calculus after that. It is much better for you to learn algebra at a reasonable level of proficiency. And so I would like to move to a world where you learn, how you see fit, it is personalized

The other reform is we want to see classrooms that are much more human. The people interact with each other. At the conclusion of my education, I should be able to prove to you that I am a critical thinker. I can prove to you that I can write. Here is my portfolio of creative work as evidence of this capability.

Peter High is the President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. He is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs, and the moderator of the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. Follow him on Twitter @WorldClassIT.

Posts: 1708
Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:43 pm

Reply No. 5 - PBS NewsHour Report

Post by johnkarls »

An Innovator Who Says Kids Can Learn Anything On Their Own
Official PBS Newshour Transcript -- 11/12/2015


It started with a hole in the wall. Sugata Mitra, working for a software company in Delhi, cut a gap between his firm and the slum next door, putting out an Internet-connected computer for kids in the community to use. That simple experiment has turned into a radical idea that children can teach themselves in self-organized learning environments. Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

GWEN IFILL: But, first, how a simple experiment in India has turned into a radical idea, whether students should teach themselves by giving them a computer and stepping back. Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports, part of our Making Sense series, which airs every Thursday on the NewsHour.

STUDENT: Why do dogs chase cats?

PAUL SOLMAN: I have absolutely no idea. A public elementary school in Harlem, New York, is adopting a radical idea that threatens the education industry as we know it, SOLEs, Self-Organized Learning Environments.

STUDENT: How do you make a computer?

STUDENT: How come father seahorses have babies, but the females don’t?

PAUL SOLMAN: The students come up with the questions, and then choose one to answer. The man behind the idea, Sugata Mitra, visiting from England.

SUGATA MITRA, Newcastle University: OK, so now here’s what’s going to happen. Listen carefully. You’re going to work with these six computers; the question is, why do dogs chase cats? And, of course, you can talk as much as you like, you can walk around, you can move, you can look at other people’s work. You can do whatever you like.

PAUL SOLMAN: A crowd of onlookers in a nearby room, waiting to know if, given six computers and just 20 minutes, these kids can really self-organize and learn the answer on their own.

SUGATA MITRA: Do you have any idea? I have never actually thought about it. Of course, everyone knows that dogs chase cats.

PAUL SOLMAN: No. My guess is cats are a symbol of something they could eat, but don’t eat? I don’t know. That’s my best shot. Mitra’s first experiment in self-organized learning took place years ago and far away, at the turn of the 21st century here in Delhi, where he worked for a huge Indian software firm. Worried about information poverty and the digital divide between those who can afford computers and those who can’t, Mitra simply cut a hole in the boundary wall between his firm and the fetid slum next door and put in a computer, connected to the Internet, and watched.

SUGATA MITRA: I put it there and we opened it, and by the same evening, Vivek, who was doing the main observation, came back and said that the kids are browsing. And by the second day, a whole bunch of kids were browsing and doing various functions.

PAUL SOLMAN: So Mitra built more holes in more walls, 1,000 more, in fact, which led to more experiments, and more questions.

SUGATA MITRA: The hole in the wall experiment showed that children can learn to use computers and the Internet on their own. What else could they learn?

PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, back in Harlem, the kids are hard at it, the clock ticking.

STUDENT: Well, cats are small and even though they have nails, dogs are like the males.

STUDENT: We should only try to get the most correct answer.

STUDENT: He might injure the cat by biting it too hard.

STUDENT: It says, others preserve cats as prey.

STUDENT: A dog-cat fight can be devastating.


STUDENT: Thank you.

STUDENT: Write it in your own words. And we need to hurry up. There’s only seven minutes. Let’s concentrate.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN. The hole in the wall experiments made Mitra famous, a star on the stage, a threat to the education industry as the world knows it.

SUGATA MITRA: Could it be that we don’t need to go to school at all? Could it be that at the point in time when you need to know something, you can find out in two minutes? Could it be that we’re headed towards or may be in a future where knowing is obsolete?

PAUL SOLMAN: Knowing obsolete? We don’t need schools?

MIKE TRUCANO, Education and Technology Policy Specialist, World Bank: I think it’s irresponsible to say we can do without teachers.

PAUL SOLMAN: Mike Trucano has worked on global education technology for the World Bank for 20 years.

MIKE TRUCANO: The answer isn’t technology. The answer is providing children with a rich learning environment, with a highly capable, competent, committed teacher there alongside them to help guide their learning. Thinking that technology alone and kids left to their own devices can educate themselves in the way that we hope and become the types of people they want to be, I think, is ludicrous.

PAUL SOLMAN: In fact, Mitra has adapted. Two years ago, he began building schools in the cloud. There are now seven, five in India, two in the U.K., where a teacher gets groups of children to self-organize into learning environments and investigate almost anything, SOLEs or, you might say, holes in the classroom. But this school’s principal, Natasha Spann, was still a devout skeptic when she first heard of Mitra’s lab for self-learning.

NATASHA SPANN, Principal, P.S. 197: So, when I first heard that, I said, get out of here. (LAUGHTER)

NATASHA SPANN: And I said, no, really, get out of here. (LAUGHTER)

NATASHA SPANN: We were already what was considered a focus school, according to New York state, which was a failing school. So, for me to pitch the idea to my superintendent that I’m going to completely get rid of all of the desks and chairs in a classroom and have kids work together by themselves, absent of the teacher, on different levels, that was like, I don’t think so. That’s not happening here.

PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, in this classroom, time was running out, the students finishing up their findings, prepping their conclusions.

STUDENT: Two minutes.

PAUL SOLMAN: It was time for the final presentations.

SUGATA MITRA: Why do dogs chase cats? Who would you like to make the first presentation?

STUDENT: A dog can grab and easily wound or kill the cat by crushing her in his jaws.

STUDENT: He might injure a cat by biting too hard even in play.

STUDENT: Like many things dogs do, chasing cats is instinctual.

SUGATA MITRA: They are the first group who are trying to explain why.

STUDENT: Some want to play with the cat. Others perceive cats as prey and will harm a cat if they catch her.

SUGATA MITRA: Do you see now that every group actually was adding to everybody else and building up a whole — whole picture?

PAUL SOLMAN: Following the SOLE demonstration, we had our own question. But it’s got to be scary to a lot of teachers, no?

SUIMANI MILLS, Fourth Grade Teacher, P.S. 197: When I first did SOLE, so scary.

PAUL SOLMAN: Suimani Mills teaches at PS-197.

SUIMANI MILLS: They utilized the skills that we gave them without our assistance.

PAUL SOLMAN: Leana Borges also teaches here.

LEANA BORGES, Fourth Grade Teacher, P.S. 197: Those critical thinking skills are what students need teachers for. That’s what — that’s the coaching that we do. And then they apply those principles within the SOLE lab.

SUIMANI MILLS: This is the part where you test yourself as a teacher, and you have to walk away from your garden and let them flower and grow.

PAUL SOLMAN: As to the school’s skeptical principal:

NATASHA SPANN: Once I got to see them actually in a session with the question and the learning that came out of it, I said, we have to have this at my school.

ZINA BURTON-MYRICK, United Federation of Teachers: I was seriously surprised that there wasn’t an adult saying, you go to this group or you go to this group.

PAUL SOLMAN: But did union rep Zina Burton-Myrick, here to watch from the United Federation of Teachers, see a threat to her profession?

ZINA BURTON-MYRICK: I would have thought that it would have posed a threat. But after seeing it and looking at how useful a program like this would be, I think that it’s something that I would love to see in other schools in the Harlem community.

PAUL SOLMAN: So does Sugata Mitra disagree? Doesn’t this threaten to destroy one of the largest industries on Earth?

SUGATA MITRA: Yes. If you’re talking about the education industry, yes, they are under threat. They are under threat not of destruction, but of imminent change. They’d better do it if they have to survive.

PAUL SOLMAN: So, is it the beginning of a revolution?

MIKE TRUCANO: I think the jury’s still out. We see amazing things happen from technology use, but we also need to be a bit sober in what’s actually possible and separating the hope from the hype. Just because something is new and different doesn’t necessarily make it better.

PAUL SOLMAN: But for this group of students, more than a third classified as special needs, fully half living in shelters, all of them poor, self-learning is new, different and perhaps better as well.

STUDENT: Sometimes, when you’re stuck, a group — your group can help you out.

PAUL SOLMAN: From PS-197 in Harlem, New York, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting for the PBS NewsHour.

Post Reply

Return to “Participant Comments - The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession - Nov 18”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest