Blended Learning, Cost of Education, Domestic, Education Quality, Flipped Classrooms, High school / Secondary 2, International, Not-for-Profit, Open Source Education, Publishers, Required, Startups, STEM / Science, Technology, Education, Math, Students, Technology, University & College - Written by on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 6:13 - 1 Comment

MIT’s Next Commencement Speaker Sal Khan Compares His Alma Mater to Hogwarts

“I think MIT is the closest thing to Hogwarts on this planet,” Khan told MIT's The Tech. Photo by Kevin Krejci via Flickr under Creative Commons

Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, will be the commencement speaker at MIT next spring (Fri., Jun 8) according to the campus newspaper The Tech. At age 35, Khan is the youngest commencement speaker in at least 30 years, reports Ethan A. Solomon in the newspaper.
Khan, who received two bachelors and a masters at MIT in the 1990s, went on to Harvard Business School and to work at hedge funds and consulting firms. He started the Khan Academy in 2006 as a non-profit educational website that now has 2,700 instructional videos on math, science and other topics. He is expanding the project into schools and with online exercises thanks to millions of dollars in support from Google and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Khan told The Tech about how his experience at MIT and knowledge of its open courseware project influenced his ideas on starting Khan Academy. He also explains why he keeps the site free:

“I think the way it had evolved, it kind of dawned on me that a lot of the pleasure I was getting out of Khan Academy, and the impact Khan Academy was having, was by virtue of it being unfettered and uncommercial,” Khan told The Tech yesterday evening. “It’s almost a naive point of view, [but] people were saying how this was changing their lives.”

“The model is that the incremental cost is so much lower than the incremental value,” he added. “The incremental value is almost priceless.”

Khan Academy is now run by a 20-member team and has eclipsed MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) in terms of videos viewed. Khan Academy’s YouTube channel has over 100 million total upload views, compared to MIT’s 32 million.

Khan says that part of the reason for keeping Khan Academy free was a desire to make it an “institution,” like universities. Though people reached out to him about starting it as a business, Khan thought, “a successful institution, that’s even more exciting — that’s even more epic.”

He out-innovated his alma mater in some regards as his videos are attracting more viewers now than MIT’s open courseware. They also have different approaches as his videos are 10 to 15 minutes and focused on a given topic while MIT lectures on OCW are more than an hour-long and can be more wide-ranging on a topic according to The Tech. The article notes that Khan was senior class president as an undergraduate at MIT. He was on the commencement committee, which advised the school president on keynote speakers (that year President Bill Clinton and AIDs researcher David Ho spoke on campus).

“MIT is one of those places that people either love it or hate it. I was firmly in the former,” said Khan.

“I think MIT is the closest thing to Hogwarts on this planet,” said Khan, referencing the famous wizarding school of the Harry Potter series. “You’re taking all of these kids from around the country and the world … they’re all a little bit off-the-charts in one way or another. And you’re bringing them all together and they’re having this tremendous shared experience. It’s a magical shared experience.”

“I had a sense of wonder,” Khan continued. “To be surrounded by people who are acting on that wonder is a pretty heavy experience.”

Some suggest Khan and his work as a prime example of open source learning disrupting traditional learning. Perhaps he is changing and disrupting some aspects of learning and tutoring. But his life and comments indicate that he is not an “uncollege” guy, a drop out or drop out fan like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg (both Harvard drop outs) and Peter Thiel (a Stanford grad who, nonetheless, is paying smart young entrepreneurs to not go to college). Rather, Khan’s success seems to come from his experiences at MIT and Harvard. And perhaps part of his goal is to prepare other students for such schools? Perhaps he thinks more schools and students of MIT quality should exist?

Via The Tech (“Khan Academy founder Sal Khan ’98 will deliver 2012 keynote”)

Here is Sal Khan giving a Ted Talk, his best explanation of his Khan Academy

1 Comment

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Paul Glader
Dec 7, 2011 9:31

Tom Barett makes some observations questioning Khan Academy here….
Here is how he opens the piece:

“There has been a great deal written about Khan Academy just recently and the concept of personalised instruction and how this is somehow revolutionary or some sort of game changer. But why is it engaging at all? Where does this type of instruction lead us?

In my opinion the instructional maths videos posted on the Khan Academy are “resources” and the structure surrounding it suggests some sort of recipe for how to best use it. We might call this the “pedagogy” as this term refers to strategies or styles of instruction – and the full-fat version of Khan Academy use has it’s own style, heavily tilted towards personalised instruction and feedback.”

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