Blended Learning, Continuing Education, Domestic, Elementary / Primary / Junior, Flipped Classrooms, High school / Secondary 2, International, Not-for-Profit, Open Source Education, Required, School teachers, Startups, STEM / Science, Technology, Education, Math, Students, Technology, University & College - Written by Wired Academic on Friday, December 30, 2011 21:43 - 0 Comments
Hundreds of Fans Question Salman Khan: The Reddit Interview Gone Wild
We came across a fascinating, crowd-sourced interview happening on Reddit between video impresario Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, and hundreds of his site users and fans. They ask salman_khan_academy myriad questions (2,000 or so) on myriad topics related to his uber-popular free online lessons. We’ve edited down the best questions & responses (cutting out clutter and immature comments). The interview shows new tidbits on Khan, a major player in digital learning and education innovation today and, guaranteed, into 2012. You learn more about his personal life here. The interview also reveals future strategies, including moves by Khan Academy to bring in other lecturers in addition to Sal Khan, including possibly celebrities. It reveals the next courses coming online Khan Academy: Micro and Macro Economics, Computer Science and Accounting. Link to the full, unedited interview and related video is at the bottom.
Q - As an aspiring teacher, do you have any tips for new teacher?
SK - All of my best teachers talked with the students rather than at them. They were also unscripted but had deep subject matter expertise. EDIT: just added this verbal answer to this and many of the other questions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DVDI-HF4Eg
Q – Which subject did you enjoy teaching the most?
SK - I know it might sound cheesy, but I get a kick out of all of them. I won’t make a video on a topic unless I think there is something interesting about it and I enjoy it. The reality is that most things are really interesting if you look at it the right way.
Q - Where has your site had the biggest impact? Are you seeing much use from developing nations? Can you share your best success story?
SK - We’ve gotten some pretty powerful testimonials. We’ve also been seeing good results in the schools using it in Los Altos. I’ll post some of my favorite stories below this comment:
Got this a few weeks ago from South Africa:
I home school our two daughters. One had an excellent maths experience at school – the other (now aged 10) had huge gaps in her understanding. The visual knowledge map is so incredibly helpful to her and I – she can see what the next step is and not lose sight of the big picture. I am working through the videos and exercises myself too, building up the sections on my knowledge map so that I can stay ahead of the game for my daughters. Sal is our tutor: polite, concise, friendly, and efficient in delivering knowledge. Most importantly, this work is given for free. For a family functioning on limited resources when we started our home education journey, this is invaluable. Thank you so much for your gift to humanity. I am deeply deeply grateful – you have changed our children’s lives.
Blocked name for privacy (although I think he is probably cool with sharing it):
Hi my name is ****** ** and I’m a second year student in the University of Western Australia (UWA) majoring in Physics and Maths. I was originally from Singapore where I spent the first 15 years of my life failing school, day after day I would not understand a word the teacher was saying as they said, “you must remember this or you won’t get a job in your future.” and every year I would fail school. When I was 14, I started failing pretty badly and fell into a world of drug addiction. When I was 15, my drug addiction got so intense that it affected my grades so badly that I had to be held back a grade in my high school in Singapore. Finally in January 2008 (the year I was 16), my parents decided to move to Perth in Western Australia. They had me enrolled in a private school where within 8 months I was expelled for fighting and drugs. At the end of that ordeal and closely evading arrest, my parents had me enrolled in a local public school where I was faced with the worst problem of my entire life. The final exam of high school that determines if you go to University or not was coming, and I had no idea what to do as I never listened in class since I was 13. All I could do was expand a bracket and that was it, no factorizing, solving an equation or doing trigonometry. I first met the Khan Academy in December 2009 where I stumbled on his videos on Complex Numbers on YouTube. I had a whole load of heavy weight subjects like Literature, Physics, Advanced Maths, Chemistry and Biology. Everyday when I came home from school, it would be a 4pm – 10pm study session driven by my own fears. With 5 years of work to catch up on and only Khan Academy helping me, it was a grueling experience. I failed every test and exam that year, thankfully none of those tests and exams contribute to your final University determination grade. I worked through the Khan Academy playlists on Basic Algebra, Trigonometry, Physics, Chemistry and Biology before moving on to the “higher level” things like Calculus and Differential Equations. Thanks to Salman Khan for quitting his day job as a Hedge-fund Analyst, he has allowed a drug addict whom the public would look down upon to persevere through his A levels and come out on the other side with a result good enough to get into Western Australia’s best University. I hope and pray that the Khan Academy will expand to do subjects like Modern Physics and Maths topics like Topology, Differential Geometry and so on. In any case, I thank you Salman Khan, and the effort you have put into the Khan Academy. You’ve opened doors for us that we would have never been able to unlock alone.
Q - This is really interesting. I’m 19 years old and currently enrolled at my university as a dual degree in Math and Music, simply because I couldn’t choose between the two and I figured that even if I ended up flourishing more in music, math would still hold a more steady career path. Yet at the same time, music seems like it would yield a much more eventful and (probably) fun lifestyle. Is there any advice you can give to me from your experiences with both? This is also somewhat of a study break for me, since I want to get a head start on learning Differential Equations and Linear Algebra for next semester.
Q - Good to know that o chem is hard for you too.
SK - Yeah, it took some time to get the intuition for it. It would have been easy just to list reactions for people to memorize, but it only becomes interesting when you see the underlying themes.
Q - Your accounting videos saved my grades. How do you decide which topics to cover?
SK - Some combination of need and my personal interest. Need could come from a really popular subject that a lot of people have trouble with (like organic chemistry) or a narrower subject where there aren’t good explanations out there (like credit default swaps)
Q - Hi, My name is Abhinav and I am 8 years old. I am doing this with permission of my Dad. I like khan academy and use it a lot. My question is – Why do you have questions and test for only math and not other subjects.
Q – Hi there Sal, I’m a student in a terribly bureaucratic city school system. One of the biggest problems I see is that many inner city students simply don’t care or are apathetic. Do you have any suggestions on how we can motivate them to learn (and enjoy it too) so that they can ‘make the curve’?
SK - Hard question and I don’t claim to know the answer. We are trying to experiment with some inner city charter schools and the results seem to be good (to early to make any definitive statement). I think giving the student ownership of their learning and not forcing them through content that frustrates them is a first step, but, by no means, is a complete solution.
Q - When recording your lectures do you have a particular student you’ve made in your mind that you are talking to? Does that student change depending on the videos difficulty or message? (I know it used to be your family but has it changed now that you have a much larger audience?
SK – I try to think of myself before I knew the topic. I try to think of what confused me.
Q – How much preparation goes into the lecture in terms of research? Do you have notes with you as you lecture? Do you consult people for certain subjects?
SK – Depends on the video. Some require no research, some I spend a few hours on. I do, every now and then, ping a friend to get clarification on some edge-case.
Q – If you had the opportunity to talk to the president about the education system what would be the one thing you wish he would understand most?
SK – That high school and college degrees are not ends by themselves. They are supposed to be means to an end and that end is a happy and productive life.
Q – Could you cite examples of foreign education systems which you think the U.S. should mimic?
SK – No. I actually think the U.S. is no worse than any comparable country (think about any similarly diverse and large country). The US does have major problems with the education system, but at least the culture of the country is one that promotes creativity and entrepreneurship better than any place that I know of. I would make the US Education system more American (promoting creativity, ownership of learning, and independence) and less Prussian (moving together in an assembly line).
Q – Who are a few people who you respect greatly in terms or character or achievement?
SK – Mark Twain. Muhammad Yunus. Bill Cosby. Richard Feynman. Bill Gates (regardless of how you feel about Microsoft, he has redefined philanthropy and is directly saving a ridiculous number of lives. He’s also amazingly smart and down to earth) .
Q – Would you ever seek a government position involved in education such as Secretary of Education?
SK – No. I would feel helpless sitting on top of a bureaucracy. Would want to make videos or work with team on the software rather than sit in meeting or pass legislation.
Q – In the future where you would like video lectures to be the primary source of receiving the information who would you like to see making certain videos? Who would you like making the videos on quantum mechanics for example? Do you think the videos could benefit from having teams write them?
SK – Definitely never want teams writing or scripting videos. Would ruin the connection with the student. I’ve spoken to a few interesting people about quantum physics. I think Bill Cosby would be an amazing teacher.
Q – You’ve shown the world how the teaching of math, science, and a little bit of history can be changed for the better. Do you have ideas on how the teaching of english (or the native tongue of where ever these videos are watched) and foreign language could be altered in a similar manner?
SK - We’ll experiment with language. Not sure what approach will work best.
Q - How would you compare the value of in person lectures to that of online learning?
SK – I’d say that 90% are in 1 take. 99% are 2 takes. I try to clarify my thinking about I don’t do any formal planning/scripting. I find that the best videos are ones where you have a very clear understanding of the topic and you have a big smile on your face and you just think it through with the viewer : ).
Q - Sal, a lot of STEM students are overwhelmed by the challenges and pressures of an education in such a field. Many drop out (recent article in the NYT) as a result because they can’t handle the difficulty. You went to MIT and received 3 degrees. Did you ever have “trouble” with your classes? Any point where you wanted to quit and switch majors? How did you cope with the stress?
SK - Few people get through MIT without a little bit of stress (I once got 15/100 on an exam at MIT) : ) I was lucky, because I had taken a lot of courses at the University of New Orleans while in high school (and had some experience programming for a professor, Dr. Santanilla, there). So I was seeing many of the topics the second time at MIT (and I was ready to tackle them at a more sophisticated level). My best advice I can give you is try to expose yourself to the concepts BEFORE taking a class. You might be able to learn with the class, but there is often little margin of error once the term starts. If you do find yourself in a really stressful bind, take a breath and put everything in perspective. I know many, many people who have rebounded from a bad grade to do amazing things.
Q – Who’s your favorite intellectual historical figure?
Q - I’m a software engineer at Google. How can I help in my free time?
KA - Not Sal here, but I’m on the dev team — the framework we use to create exercises is entirely open sourced and available for contributions at https://github.com/khan/khan-exercises … Some of our coolest and most interactive exercises have come from open source contributors. Check it out.
Q – How fast is Khan Academy catching on? Are there plans to expand / increase the developers of the program?
SK - We’ve had roughly 4 million unique users this past month. Was 1 million this time last year. Our team is now 22 people and we are hiring about 1 person per month. Most of the expansion is on the software engineering side, but we are also adding a few other video producers.
Q - Your favorite book? Movie?
SK - Books: Confederacy of Dunces, Catcher in the Rye, Dune, Ender’s Game (the entire series), Foundation Series, Lord of the Rings, Childhood’s End (Arthur C. Clarke), Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Twain), Tale of Two Cities, Pride and Prejudice.
Q - How big a priority is remaking your older, lower quality videos compared to making new videos? Will they all be replaced eventually? What is the planned scope of the exercise portion of the site? Will it move beyond mathematics? Beyond science? Do you take an active role on this side of the Academy? Any chance for a whiteboard/chat feature, for remote tutoring with students? I’ve used KA for both my own use and for help tutoring someone else much younger than me remotely. It’s helped us both, especially her, a lot. Thank you.
SK - Yes, I have been remaking many of the older, low-res videos that had the bad handwriting. We [are] thinking we are just beginning. Hopefully, KA will have 10 times as much video and exercise content over the next 10 years.
Q - Are you planning to release videos as torrents?
SK – I believe this has already happened
Q - What subjects do you plan on teaching in the future. BTW I love your videos.
SK – Planning on doing micro/macroeconomics in January. Computer science and accounting are also in the pipeline.
Q - Thanks for doing what you do. In the beginning, how long did each video take to prepare and post. What about now? How many people does it take to produce and distribute your content? Where does the money come from? What awesome future plans are in the works?
SK – The first videos took almost no time to prepare for since I thought they were only for my cousins : ) It is probably obvious from the quality… The videos take very few people, but we have a team of 22 working on our site (and working with schools to improve the experience).
Q – Thank you very much for what you do. Does one person make all of the videos? I mostly watch Calculus vids, and it seems like they’re all the same voice. Is that you making them?
SK – I’ve made the bulk of the videos. We do now have 300 videos in art history that are made by Beth Harris and Stephen Zucker.
SK - I was at a beach in Goa, India in 2004 and he was about 200 ft away from me. He was swarmed by fans so I didn’t entertain introducing myself : ) I do think some of his fans have inadvertently learned some math after doing a google search ; )
SK - Universal literacy would be pretty nice. Being able to meaningfully communicate with dolphins would be nice as well (especially if they were literate).
Q – These are softball questions. Answer the criticisms that all you’re really doing is enabling already self motivated people . The people that seem to use your program are already people that probably would of found a way to learn anyways. or Your Los Altos school results could be explained by the kids knowing they are in a special program so already picking inspired kids, they are doing better just on this merit.
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