Khan it be done?

Khan AcademyIt appears it can, and that it can start with kindness. It might even turn the teaching profession upside down.

It all started when Salman Khan decided to help out his 13 year old cousin Nadia, who was struggling with Math. Since she lived on the other side of the country, he began to create 7-14 minute YouTube videos that targeted specific math concepts. Then other cousins clamoured to join. Then Sal added exercises and incentives in the form of badges for well-earned achievement. Then other people—thousands of them—discovered his videos, and Sal was so encouraged that he produced even more, branching out into other disciplines such as Physics and Chemistry and finance. Then Sal formed a non-profit organization called the Khan Academy. Before long, Bill and Melinda Gates discovered Sal’s videos and donated 1.5 million to the Khan Academy. Not to be outdone, Google added another 2 million. Now Sal offers over 2,400 videos on his website, every one made by him, and every one is free.

The interesting thing about this phenomenon is the way it just might reverse the usual educational model of teaching in class and assigning problems for homework. Teachers have found that assigning Khan Academy videos for homework and practice exercises for class enables them to give one on one assistance in class to children when they’re having problems. In the classes where this approach has been tested, math results have improved considerably among the students.

One of the things we like best about this story, though, is that Sal created something fantastic for everyone out of an act of kindness. What’s more, everything offered by his non-profit organization is free to everyone. And finally, he did it by pursuing the teaching he loved rather than sticking with a career that was much more lucrative—at least at the time, for who knows where his Khan Academy might take him now.