Khan Academy Transcript
It all started in 2004 when Sal Khan was working as a hedge fund analyst in Boston and his cousin Nadia, a 7th grader in New Orleans, was struggling with algebra. He agreed to tutor her remotely and wound up posting lessons on YouTube. They helped Nadia, but then an odd thing happened - total strangers started using them too.
Khan: I started getting feedback like, "You know, my child has dyslexia, and this is the only thing that's getting into him." I got letters from people saying, "You know, we're praying for you and your family." That's pretty heady stuff, you know. People don't say that type of stuff to a hedge fund analyst normally.
So in 2009, Khan quit his job and working from a desk set up in his closet devoted himself full time to Khan Academy. It's a non-profit with a simple but audacious mission: "to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere." If that goal sounds far-fetched for a guy working in his closet, consider what happened next.
Khan: I was like those are just for Nadia, not Bill Gates. I have to look-- I have to take a second look at some of this stuff.
Khan: Two weeks later I got a call from, from Larry Cohen who is Bill Gates' chief of staff. And he, he says, you know, "You might have heard Bill's a fan." You know, and I'm like shaking. I'm like, "Yeah, I heard." You know. And he's like, "If you have time, you know, love to fly you up to Seattle." And then I was looking at my calendar right then and, for the month. Completely blank. And I was like, "Yeah, you know, I think I could, you know, fly in, you know, between like laundry and a bath and meet with Bill."
That was just two years ago. Today, with the help of more than $15 million in funding, much of it from the Gates Foundation and Google, Khan has been able to hire with competitive salaries some of the most talented engineers and designers in the country. The Khan Academy office has the intense vibe of a Silicon Valley startup. The team is working to create software they hope will transform how math is taught in American classrooms.
We visited a class in the Los Altos school district outside San Francisco where the new Khan Academy software is being piloted.
Teacher Courtney Cadwell: Grab your computer, log in and then open Khan Academy...
Right away you notice something different. There are no textbooks and no teacher lecturing at the blackboard. Instead, students watch Khan videos at home the night before to learn a concept, then they come to class the next day and do problem sets called "modules," to make sure they understand.
If they get stuck they can get one-on-one help from the teacher. Less lecturing, more interaction. What you think of as homework you do at school, and school work you do at home. It's called "flipping the classroom" and 7th grader Laurine Forget says using Khan Academy at home has given her math a big boost.
Laurine Forget: I'm not a big fan of textbooks. I thought that Khan Academy was a lot easier 'cause it's on a screen. It's easy to find the concept you wanna do.
Forget: A lot, yeah.
Gupta: You do that at home?
Forget: Yeah, usually when I watch a video it's because I'm having trouble on the practices. So if I don't understand the video, I can always rewind it or pause it so that I can go back to the module and do what I learned.
Gupta: What, what's the hardest part about learning this way?
Forget: I don't really think there's a hard part.
Even kids who don't have a computer at home can "flip the classroom." Eastside Prep in east Palo Alto keeps its computer labs open until 10 p.m. so kids like sixth grader Alex Hernandez can take as much time as they need to learn a concept.
Gupta: How did you used to do in math?
Hernandez: Pretty bad. Like at a third grade level math. So, you know, Khan Academy has helped me. It's like, it's like opened doors that I couldn't open. It's helped me a lot.
Gupta: A lot of people have talked about the idea that ah, "flipping the classroom" ah, is, is sort of what's happening here. Ah, you take a little bit of issue with that.
Khan: I kind of view that as a, as a step in the direction. The ideal direction is using something like Khan Academy for every student to work at their own pace, to master concepts before moving on, and then the teacher using Khan Academy as a tool so that you can have a room of 20 or 30 kids all working on different things, but you can still kind of administrate that chaos.
Khan academy has created a dashboard so teachers like Courtney Cadwell can monitor each student's progress.
Gupta: So right now, they're all working on things. And you can see that real time?
Courtney Cadwell: Yes.
Gupta: So as you sit here and look at the dashboard, you see how the students are doing individually, and you can see how they're doing as a whole class, and you can figure out who you need to help?
Cadwell: Exactly. And here I can track their progress over time. I can see who's rushing ahead, who's lagging behind. I can see if they begin to stagnate.
A blue bar indicates a student knows a concept, orange - they're still working on it. But if a red bar pops up...
Cadwell: It's kind of the red flag to tell me, "Hey, it's time to step in and intervene." And I can see...
Gupta: Oh, so you can see, not only it's red, but specifically what the problem is.
Cadwell: What they missed. And you can see the number of seconds they spent on each problem.
Cadwell: I feel like I'm using my time more effectively with my students because instead of making the assumption that the entire class is weak in this area, and I need to spend time reviewing this, I can really pull those three, four, five kids, do a mini-workshop, address those needs, and allow those other students to move on to problem solving activities, or project-based learning with their peers.
So far the National Education Association has supported nonprofit technology like Khan Academy in the classroom, as long as teachers are trained properly. But as with any new innovation, Khan says there are always some skeptics.
Khan: I've seen some subset of teachers who say, "Oh, what is this video thing? You know, live human interaction is important." And the reason why that, that bothers me a little bit is that I know that's exactly what we're saying. In fact, we exactly agree with you. That what we're trying to do is take the passivity out of the classroom. So that you, as a teacher, will have more flexibility.
Gupta: Does it minimize the role of the teacher? Does it make it less impactful?
Khan: No, I think it's the exact opposite. We kind of view teachers playing the role of more like a coach or a mentor. Which, once again, I personally believe is a much higher valued thing than a lecturer.
- Watch the Video
- Go Back To Exercise - Khan Academy
- See all the Exercises - Video - Audio_Comprehension