Online Education Pioneer Salman Khan Wows Crowds at the University of New Orleans
Online education pioneer Salman Khan made good last night on his mission to provide free, accessible high-quality education with a profound speech he gave at the University of New Orleans.
During his talk, the founder of Khan Academy identified the classroom of the future as one where questions are asked all the time, students receive supplemental materials to their curricula in online videos and educational software that allows them to review and absorb the material at their own pace, where students work in groups and two teachers serve as facilitators.
"The thing that is traditionally expensive and scarce doesn't have to be," said Khan, who believes the world is at an "inflection point" in history where a transformation of work and education is about to take place on a worldwide scale. "It's like we're living in a science fiction book and I look forward to going on this adventure with y'all."
Khan highlighted his views on education for two hours on Monday, May 20 in the University Center ballroom. "Reimagining Education: A Town Hall Meeting with Sal Khan" was hosted by Benjamin Franklin High School, Tulane University, 4.0 Schools, Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation and UNO. More than 300 visitors attended the talk and booksigning, where Khan signed copies of his New York Times bestseller, The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined.
The week is a busy one for the New Orleans native. Khan gave the keynote address on Saturday during the graduation of his alma mater Grace King High School at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner. This morning, he spoke at Benjamin Franklin's 53rd commencement.
Khan, who has seen his videos educate students as far away as Mongolia, stumbled into the education phenomenon he describes as a "a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere," he said. In 2004, he was a hedge fund analyst in Boston. His younger cousin in New Orleans needed help understanding unit conversion and he offered to help her long-distance using videos and an online messaging system.
Soon, "word had gotten around that free tutoring was going on" and more cousins wanted to enjoy the system. Within 18 months, he had set the system up on YouTube, boosted by comments from users. His cousins preferred the on-demand version of their cousin, he said.
"What they were saying is: The first time you're trying to get your head around a subject, you don't exactly want someone standing around you saying 'Hey, do you understand it?'"
The Khan Academy has made more than 5,000 videos instructing students on a variety of subjects from kindergarten to advanced college-level courses. Khan estimates the series has received more than 1 billion hits and has reached about 50 million students in 216 countries. Khan Academy videos are now used regularly in 50 U.S. classrooms.
In the future, the courses will be translated to all major world languages from Spanish to Farsi, Khan said, flashing video highlights depicting shoeless children in Africa and orphans in Mongolia who are already using the system to improve their education.
This fall, UNO educators will put the Khan Academy method to work teaching 120 Benjamin Franklin High School students in a dual enrollment pre-calculus program for high school and college credit. Students will watch the instructional videos at home and use class time to discuss concepts, practice problems, show mastery and take quizzes or tests. Khan Academy videos and UNO online teaching technology will help to provide additional instruction for students at home.
During a question and answer session at the UNO event, educators noted the Khan Academy's differentiated instruction and mastery-based strategies and asked how Khan saw the future role of the teacher in the classroom.
Khan was quick to say that the technology is designed to complement -- not diminish -- the role of teachers. He said a Teach for America expert recently told him that the best teachers are those who can form deep connections with their students and get students to change their own mindsets.
"The ideal case is that you have human beings around you. There should always be nothing but questions," said Khan. "This is about virtual allowing physical to actually be physical, to be the actual teaching resource that it is."