Monday, March 28, 2011

Salman Khan's Plan

In our previous post we shared Salman Khan's TED talk on Khanacademy. Bill Gates, who is a big fan (and uses KA to teach Calculus to his children) was also there at the end, standing by Khan. During the talk Khan kept stressing old style "one-size-fits-all" type of lecturing as passe - this is perfectly in line with the 3rd Wave - old style lecturing requires "synchronization" between teacher and students which is a 19th century industrial, modernist, backward kind of thinking. Khanacademy works in "asynchronous" fashion -- student can watch, rewind, watch again, jump ahead, do whatever they wish in order to learn the subject material using KA.

Also, what I like most in Khan's recent upgrade to his site is the organization of his topics, all subjects are connected from start to finish. Student can start from, say with arithmetic, and when they finish, be led to the next topic that has the previous subject as a prerequisite, all the way down to, say, differential equations. I would imagine it could work in the other direction too; Being in the area of applied mathematics, I can clearly see a future where a student finds a sample application s/he likes (one of the end points) and follow the knowledge chain all the way back, learning everything necessary to make that application work.

In either direction, typical lectures and even books cannot accomplish this right now. KA, or any other Net / computer based teaching tool can, because of the immense data they can record, connect and present, to millions if necessary.

I also liked Khan's emphasis on peer-to-peer teaching of subjects (between students) - he talks about teachers, but the direction he seems to be going will require little or no teacher involvement at all. And that is great. As we said in our post Fire All Teachers and Sudburry Valley their involvement is unnecessary. Their job can be performed by any grown adult who is just "around", answering questions as they arise while kids learn at their own pace using Khanacademy.

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