Khan's Classroom: The Future of Online Education

The free, non-profit, online learning website, Khan Academy, has delivered 700 million lessons to kids and adults around the globe. Its founder, Sal Khan, is taking Chicago by storm as he launches his newest initiative, LearnStorm, a math challenge that more than 30,000 local kids have already signed up for.

Chicago Public School is partnering with Khan Academy and Hyatt Hotels Corporation for the challenge, which starts Jan. 29 and runs through April 1. The Chicago region joins Idaho, the San Francisco Bay Area and Ireland as participants.

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Khan founded Khan Academy back in 2006 after discovering that YouTube videos he made for his cousins to help them learn math were getting more and more viewers. The online learning website also has a YouTube channel that features lessons on subjects like math, grammar, chemistry, biology, economics and more. Khan has personally made thousands of tutorials.

Here to give us our own tutorial on Khan Academy is its founder, Sal Khan. Below, some highlights from our conversation.

On what online learning means for the future of teachers in classrooms

“I never viewed the virtual as a replacement for the physical,” Khan said. “I always thought, well, if students could get lectures at their own time and pace, if they could get exercises at their own time and pace, it frees up the classroom to do deeper things, do simulations [and] do games.”

“As a parent myself, if I had to pick between great technology and no teacher versus great teacher and no technology, I would pick the great teacher any day.”

“Teachers are already so overworked, they have so much to do … well, we can give them the software, give them the tools, so that students can learn at their own pace, and when they come to the classroom, they can have more focused interventions, dialogues [and] projects with their teachers.”

On freeing up classroom time by reducing time spent on lectures 

“In a world now where you can get an on-demand video on exponents, or on logarithms or on factoring polynomials, teachers don’t have to spend valuable class time on that anymore,” Khan said. “I think most people recognize that the most important part of the learning process is the doing as opposed to the listening.”

“The teacher has real-time information on, okay, so-and-so is doing well, but he over there, he’s struggling, so let me do a focused intervention on that one issue. In an ironic way, it really makes the classroom, using technology … more human in a lot of ways.”

On measuring perseverance, not just ability 

“If someone has the right mindset, they can learn what they need to learn, but the key is how do you give people that mindset?” Khan said. “We can see if a student not only is progressing, but they’re progressing at stuff that is challenging for them, that when they get something wrong, they don’t give up, they keep going, that we can reward them for that perseverance.”

Khan said students who are participating in the LearnStorm challenge will be rewarded for more than just the right answers. Khan Academy will also be measuring “hustle.”

“Ability in math has always kind of been easy to measure. I can give you a test, and hey, if you got it all right, you seem to know that material. But I think anyone you talk to in any industry will tell you, yes, it’s nice to know math or science or reading or writing, but what’s even more important is the mindset – when you fail at anything, that you don’t give up.”

Want to test your long division skills? Watch a Khan Academy video on long division:

Khan Academy also has lessons on personal finance. Watch this video on buying stocks:

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