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  • Khan Academy founder returns home as big name in US school reform

    Based in Silicon Valley, he has become one of the biggest names in U.S. school reform, lauded for the Khan Academy , a free online collection of more than 4,100 video tutorials in mathematics, science, finance and history. CNN's "Money" called him "Bill

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    For example, he said, many of its U.S. users are adults searching for help with “daily math” and finance problems, so future courses could include “math for moms” or “math for traders.” Earlier this year, Khan Academy announced a partnership with the

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Learn more: http://www.khanacademy.org/video?v=44cYyG0LSzQ What it means to buy a bond.



Khan Academy founder returns home as big name in US school reform - NOLA.com

One of Sal Khan's sharpest memories from his student days at Phoebe Hearst Elementary School in Metairie was of being removed from regular class occasionally and put in a group of accelerated students. There, the teacher said he could do whatever he wanted.

"I thought it was some joke. I thought I was getting away with something," Khan recalled. "But if I really think about it, that allowed for my natural curiosity not to be squashed. All students have that. There's something about staring at a blackboard and not being able to talk (that) suppresses something."

Khan still holds this approach to learning, one that reserves classroom time for discussion instead of lecture and promotes individual exploration for the basics, and he's using it to make waves in the education world.

Based in Silicon Valley, he has become one of the biggest names in U.S. school reform , lauded for the Khan Academy , a free online collection of more than 4,100 video tutorials in mathematics, science, finance and history. CNN's "Money" called him "Bill Gates' favorite teacher," and the Microsoft billionaire's foundation has poured grant money into helping Khan Academy grow from a few YouTube broadcasts initially intended in 2004 for Khan's younger relatives to one with videos used in 30,000 U.S. classrooms and by countless students in their own homes.

This weekend, Khan, 36, returns home as something of an education wunderkind. He was scheduled to deliver the commencement address for his alma mater, Grace King High in Metairie, a public speech at the University of New Orleans and another commencement address for Benjamin Franklin High in New Orleans .

The message: "Being with humans is always the gold standard, so classroom learning shouldn't be based on lecture," Khan said.

It's Khan's hope that teachers, with the help of the videos his academy has created, will use them to apply a front-end learning model called the "flipped" classroom. Over the past decade, some research has shown that having students learn course material before coming to school, then using class time to re-establish their knowledge, is more effective than a classroom lecture followed by homework reinforcement.

The model has gained a significant amount of traction, and Khan Academy is one of its biggest proponents. The website proposes that students watch the videos of the subject materials on their own, after which teachers help with interactive, hands-on projects and discussions.

"They're working at their own pace, and the teacher is liberated to mentor students, work on projects with them, differentiate instruction for them. That's the ideal," Khan said.

Khan didn't set out to reform education. After graduating as Grace King's valedictorian in 1994, he studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and eventually became a financial analyst.

But while he was working in Boston, a relative back home asked whether Khan could tutor one of his cousins in math, as she was having trouble. Khan began uploading video tutorials to YouTube. Soon he realized they were reaching a much wider audience than his cousins.

He had found his true passion. On a whim in 2009, he quit his job and began using his savings to devote all his time to online lessons for students, eventually calling it Khan Academy.

The organization's big breakthrough came the next year, when Gates endorsed it during a speech at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Since then, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been a big supporter of the organization.

Three years later, the academy has expanded from Khan's home to an office that employs about 30 educators and programmers. The site remains entirely nonprofit, propped up by donations and financial support from the Gates Foundation, Google, Bank of America and others.

For all the positive notice, however, the "flipped" classroom idea in general and Khan Academy in particular have their skeptics. A common observation is that Khan himself, though he is teaching in the videos, has no teaching background, and that he seems to have only one approach to learning.

"The problem with Khan is there aren't other ways offered to do problems. But especially in math and science, there are many ways to solve a problem," said Steven Anderson, an independent education technology consultant based in North Carolina.

Anderson, who often advises teachers on how best to incorporate technology, said he always advocates caution with the flipped classroom model as well as the Khan videos.

"We need to be thinking critically about what Sal Khan and Bill Gates want to feed us, and determine, 'Do I have good pedagogy first? Am I teaching kids the right way?'" Anderson said. "And then look at how I can supplement that instruction. I have yet to see a good flipped classroom."

Frank Noschese, who blogs about his experience teaching physics at John Jay...

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