Full Text of Rethinking Learning with Salman Khan at Stanford GSB.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: MP3 – Rethinking Learning with Salman Khan at Stanford
JD Schramm – Lecturer in Organizational Behavior at Stanford
I am thrilled to see so many people here on a Thursday evening. And I actually, just so that we can understand our marketing efforts a little bit better, I would love to know, just a show of hands, Stanford GSB students. If I can see where the GSB students are? Excellent, excellent. Greetings in the balcony. Stanford undergrad students, welcome. We love having you here. Members of the rest of the Stanford community, faculty, staff, alumni, that sort of thing. And from the Harvard community, who has joined us besides our speaker? Welcome. We are delighted that you are here. Tonight is a chance for two great schools to come together. And we are delighted for the evening, that we are going to spend with you.
My name is J.D. Schraum. I’m a faculty member here at the GSB. I teach courses in Communication, and I also have the privilege of leading the Master in Communication Initiative, which is a series of non-credit offerings to help students build their abilities to speak, write, and participate more effectively.
Behind me you will see some of the events that are coming up through the rest of the quarter. If you don’t have the moment to write them down quickly, you can go to our website, which is simply gsb.stanford.edu\mastery, and that will open up the world of master in communication to you.
When we were looking for a speaker for this evening, we really wanted to find somebody who had made their success because of their ability to communicate effectively. And, last year I had the privilege of seeing Salcon at the TED Conference. Saw him speak at a company here in the Bay Area, and we began our dialogue to have him come in.
Before I introduce the student who will introduce Sal to you, there’s one event in particular that I want to be sure that I mention to you. And that is, that we have a viewing of the TED Conference this year. It will happen from February 28th to March 2nd, and we have a site license, to broadcast the full TED Conference, here to the GSB. To our GSB students, I encourage you to sign up by going to our website. You’ll also see information about it, in the distributions that come out to you, through email. But that is, we’re excited about having that event here.
You did not come here tonight to hear from a professor. You came to hear from an entrepreneur. And so to introduce him, I’m delighted to welcome to the stage Luke Peña. Luke is a second year MBA student in the joint degree program, between the School of Ed and the School of Business. And Luke, if you could come forward.
Luke Peña: From age eight to age 13, my home was my classroom. And I was my own teacher. Now I have the privilege of standing before you as Luke Peña, joint MBA MA Education degree student, Co-President of the Stanford Education Club, and proof that non-traditional students can find the path to success. It’s my great honor and privilege to welcome you all here tonight. And my responsibility to remind you to please not use your cell phones and computers during tonight’s event.
Back to the classroom of my youth. I was a hyperactive child with a hyperactive mind. Traditional schools evaluated me and determined that I would require either medication, or special education courses. My mother disagreed. So my mother decided to homeschool me, and serving as my teacher through the fifth grade. I took tests every year to make sure that I was performing at or above the level of my peer group in traditional schools.
When my mother decided to return to undergraduate school to pursue her degree, I became my own teacher. And for the next five years I relied on a variety of non-traditional education resources to guide my learning. Without access to these resources, I would never have found my own passion for education. I would have never survived grade school, and I would never have found my way here to Stanford. I know that there are countless other students, traditional and non-traditional, who require and desire and desperately need these innovative resources to create their own education opportunities.
Khan Academy is creating these very opportunities for students around the globe. Along the way, Khan Academy is redefining the very way we think about teaching, about learning, and about education. The organization is committed to changing education for the better by providing a free, world-class education anywhere, anytime. The Khan Academy website now provides self-pacing software and includes over 3,000 instructional videos on its YouTube channel, covering everything from basic arithmetic to college-level science and economics. It’s the most used library of educational videos on the web with 3.7 million unique students per month, over 88 million lessons delivered, and over 260 million exercises completed. A growing number of classrooms around the world are relying on Khan Academy to build student mastery of topics, and to create space in class for dynamic, project-based learning.
Khan Academy owes its success to its founder Salman Khan. Khan was helping a young cousin with math in 2004, communicating by phone and using an interactive notepad. When others expressed interest, he began posting his hand-scribbled tutorials on YouTube, and demand took off.
Before founding Khan Academy, he was the portfolio manager at Khan Capital Management, and the Senior Analyst at Wohl Capital Management. Sal received his MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was president of the student body. He also holds a Masters in electrical engineering and computer science, a BS in electrical engineering and computer science, and a BS in mathematics from MIT, where he was president of the class of 1998. While at MIT, Sal was the recipient of the Eloranta Fellowship, which he used to develop web-based math software for children with ADHD. Children not unlike myself.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Sal Khan.
Salman Khan – Founder, Khan Academy
Thank you much. This is very exciting. So, so how many of you all have been to the site, or used the site and, in some way? Oh good. So this is a good, good, good audience.
So I guess, how many of you have not been to the site? Oh good, so, so I have something to show you.
So for those of you who have not been to the site, I have a little montage that shows what, what the videos look like. But what we’ll see over the course of this, and I actually do want to make it as much of a conversation as possible. There’s microphones and all the rest. I’m going to talk for like, I don’t know, 10 or 15 minutes. And then I just want to have questions, comments, anything else. But we’ll see, Khan Academy is much more than just a library of videos that initially I started creating, and now we have a few other people working on as well. But let me just show, oh yes.
All right that wasn’t too bad. Oh, oh, okay, there’s other things happening in the background. Okay, all right, very good. So here we go.
[Video: We can integrate over the surface and the notation usually is a capital sigma. All these interactions are just due to gravity over interstellar, or almost you could call it intergalactic. So the right slot is i plus 1. This animal’s fossils are only found in this area of South America. Nice clean band here. They create the Committee of Public Safety, which sounds like a very nice committee. Notice, this is an aldehyde, and it’s an alcohol. It’s some type of infectious disease.
Exactly so the key is, when you start to look at data, you have to look at all aspects of it.
It’s their $30 million, plus the $20 million from the American manufacturer. If this does not blow your mind, then you have no emotion.]
Well-educated audience. You appreciate Euler’s identity and The French Revolution, that’s very good.
So just to get you up to speed, and a little bit of this was covered in the introduction, and this slide, and actually some of the data from the introduction was a few months old, and this is old, too. What we’re actually now pushing about five million unique students a month. They’re doing two million exercises a day, actually, and, growing. And you know, out in Silicon Valley we get used to a million here, million there. Oh, you know, that’s not so exciting until you get to ten million or whatever else. But, but in education these really are large numbers. And, you know, I didn’t do that to pick on Harvard, but, but that is, and actually since these numbers are older now that, on a monthly basis, we’re serving six to seven times the number of students that Harvard has served since 1636. And we’re growing 400% a year, so it’s, you know, we’ll see where that goes.
But before we go in kind of the present of what Khan Academy’s up to, I want to talk a little bit about how it happened. Because it’s, you know, I still kind of wake up in the middle of the night and wonder about this very strange journey that you’re kind of catching me hopefully in the middle of. Or maybe very close to the beginning of, hopefully. It’s been good so far.
As was introduced, 2004 I had just gotten married. I was a newly minted MBA, graduated in 2003. Was working in Boston as an analyst at a hedge fund, and I had family visiting me from New Orleans. Right after my wedding in New Jersey, they came up to Boston. My 12 year old cousin, Nadia, her younger brother, Arman, who’s two years younger and then the youngest, Ali. And I showed them all the sites in Boston, and I was very impressed with Nadia. I hadn’t seen her since I had left from, you know, I grew up in New Orleans where, since I was in high school. So, she was like two or three years old, and now she was 12 years old, super smart girl, and I kept encouraging her. I was like oh, you know, you should think about some of these fancy schools that are in town, and all the rest. And her mom told me, one morning before Nadia had woken up, that this is very nice, Nadia views you an older brother figure and all the rest. But, she’s actually having trouble with mathematics. And I had trouble believing this. You know this, one I, we were having conversations and she seemed at least super, she intimidated me among half the conversations. And on top with that, we shared a certain amount of DNA.
And so I told Nadia’s mother, that I find that hard to believe. And when Nadia woke up, I said, well what’s going on? And she said, I took a placement exam, and there’s unit conversion, ounces to gallons, kilo, you know, kilometers, meters, miles, things like that. And she says, I just don’t get that. My brain just checks out. And I told her, I was like, look Nadia, I’ve had conversations with you last few days. We even did, I remember these little brain teasers while we were waiting for the fireworks over the Charles River. And I said, all of that stuff that we’ve been talking about is ten times deeper and more conceptual than units. And I’m not saying this just as a kind of a pep talk. You can do this. And, and, I think like a lot of, not just children frankly, people who’ve disengaged with some content, they appreciate the pep talk. But they’re like oh, okay, you know, that’s nice but it probably doesn’t apply to me.
And so I said, well, let’s make this happen. You go back to New Orleans. They still lived in New Orleans. And, every day after work, I’ll, we’ll get on something. We’ll get on the conference phone and will use Yahoo Doodle or something, and, and we’ll work together. And she agreed. I think she was skeptical, but she says, oh, I have this cousin, kind of an older brother figure who wants to spend time with me, worth a try.
And long story short, they went back to New Orleans, we started working together. The first month was hard, but she eventually did get past that. And then we started just doing random topics, algebra here and there, and she actually became an advanced math student. And then I’ve coined the phrase I became somewhat of a tiger cousin. Perhaps better than a tiger mom. And I called her school and I said she should retake the exam. You don’t understand what she’s accomplished. There was some resistance on that part and, and I’m like oh then, her mom isn’t telling me this. It’s I’m telling and, but, she was able to take it, and she took the exam and she ended up becoming a very advanced math student. She ended up taking calculus her freshman year in high school. She ended up taking math at University of New Orleans through most of high school, so she became this really advanced math student. That same student who thought she couldn’t get units.
But I was excited. My day job, I wasn’t able to exercise some of these, these same ideas. So I started tutoring her brothers, things started to go well with them. Then I would call up random family members, and say, can I tutor your kids? And there was kind of a tone like, oh, things must not be going so well at the hedge fund. Sal’s looking for a back-up job. Which is kind of true, I guess. But so that’s what happened.
And you fast forward to 2006 and I had a cohort of about 15 or 18, yeah, about 15 to 20 family, friends and relatives around the country that I was tutoring after work. And it was interesting, I mean, but it wasn’t as good as those interactions with Nadia where it was one on one. I started writing a little bit of kind of fairly primitive software initially, so that I could give them example problems, I could keep track of what they were doing. I mean, it’s amazing when you, as soon as you keep track of things and you see the real-time data, you start saying, why is Ali doing problems at three in the morning? This is, you know, irrespective of algebra, this is an issue.
But I started doing that. And in 2006, the firm I was working for, actually I was working at Wohl Capital Management. It was a two person and a dog firm, the dog was our Chief Economist. And Dan’s wife who, Dan was my boss, his wife became a professor at Stanford Law School. And so we moved the firm out to Palo Alto, actually it was on Menlo Park. And I was based out here. And in 2006 I was having dinner in San Mateo with a buddy from college and I was showing this software that I was building. And it gave you hints and generated problems, and I was telling him about all these — actually I wasn’t making videos yet. I was telling him about these tutoring sessions I was doing. And I told him my only frustration is, is that now when I do these sessions, I do a session with Sasha. I’m like, oh, I wish he was there when I covered that same material with Arman or with Nadia last week or last year. A lot of times when I did these video tutorials, you know, I would ask them, whoa, do you get this? Does this make sense to you? And there would be kind of this pregnant pause and they would say, yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it, I get it. And you know they didn’t, but you didn’t want to push the issue and make them feel weird about it and all the rest. They just didn’t want to waste my time. And you would have these things happening. There was a sense that they had basic questions, but they were afraid to ask. You know, they forgot how to divide decimals even though they’re in ninth grade. And they didn’t want to embarrass themselves, because I’ve been telling them that you’re smart, and you can do all of these things.
And my buddy, he told me, well, you know, there’s this thing called YouTube. Why don’t you make some tutorials on YouTube and put them up there? And my initial reaction I, no, no, that doesn’t make any sense. YouTube is for cats playing piano. It’s not for serious mathematics. But then I went home that weekend and I got over the idea that it wasn’t my idea, which is hard for an MBA, sometimes. And I gave it a shot and it was funny. You can, yeah you can look at those first videos there that, that are I mean literally November 2006, least common multiples, some basic algebra, things like that.
And interesting things started to happen. One, I pointed my cousins and family friends, these people I was tutoring. I pointed them to the videos, I said what do you think of them? And you know, I joke a lot about this if any of you all saw the TED Talk, I talked about this too, but it was absolutely true. The first feedback they gave me was that they preferred me on YouTube than in person. And I still haven’t clarified how broad of a statement that is. If it’s just math, math videos or, or not. But that meant a lot and all of these ideas of, when the live session, being afraid to ask questions, being afraid to admit that you might have forgotten something before. Being afraid to ask this person you respect or this person who respects you, asking them to repeat something. You’re afraid you’re wasting them time. Now, all of a sudden, they had it all on demand. They can pause and repeat as much as they want. And they could watch it. They could watch it when they’re ready for it.
And when we’re doing the live sessions, there’s a huge value there, and we’ll talk about that in the future. We think that a lot of what we’re doing is only going to enhance the live session. I was taking interest, there was this bond that was forming, but the hard parts were, after work, some days I wasn’t on my A game. I had a bad day at work or whatever. And many times I could imagine Nadia the girl, the guy that she had a crush on asked some other girl to the prom. And she was just depressed, and she’s not that interested in the least common multiple or whatever, whatever else. And so, that was a pretty interesting thing, so I just kept making more and more videos. My wife at this point was a medical resident, so I had a lot of time on my hands.
And the videos were out there. I kept doing more and more videos. And then, like, I guess a lot of stories like this, I started to realize that people that I was not related to were watching the videos. And the initial comments were things like, thank you, or, or this really helped. And I don’t know how much time you all have spent on YouTube, but most of the comments aren’t quite positive, if you’re, or G-rated for that matter. But so just that, thank you, this helped. But then started to get comments coming in and as the traffic grew the comments got more and more, we get higher volume and we started getting really touching comments. My children have dyslexia, my children have ADHD and this is the only thing that is getting through to them. I got a letter early on from a kid who was about to drop out of high school and he said, this was, these YouTube videos were the only thing that got him to re-engage with the content. Early on I got a, a letter from a parent, saying that they’re praying for me. And you know, I was an analyst at a hedge fund. This was other than my investors, I don’t think there was much prayer going on.
So, I just kept going. And that was the other discovery that started to happen, is that this wasn’t — you know, when you look at an algebra textbook, and a calculus textbook, there are these thousands of pages and all that. You immediately assume oh, there’s, you know, I can’t just make a dent in that. There’s no way I could cover. But, you have like 70 or 80 videos, hey, that’s a pretty good scaffold of algebra. There’s now like 600 or something on the site. But that was a pretty good scaffold of algebra. Do a few more, that’s a pretty good scaffold of calculus. And you start realizing that, in a lot of the world, people say, oh, you should focus on platform, not content. Content doesn’t scale. But education content really does scale. If it’s done once, it can be used forever. Calculus isn’t changing every, every three years, as the textbook publishers would have you believe.
So, just kept going, and by 2009, frankly I had trouble focusing on my day job. And I was working at another fund out here in Palo Alto, Connective Capital. And so that introduction, there was a brief moment of Khan Capital, but it never got beyond Khan’s capital, so I kind of just, which wasn’t significant, by the way I’m dressed, you can tell. But, so, I had trouble focusing on my day job, and so I kind of had a sit down with my wife and we figured out, well, someone’s got to realize this is like the highest possible social return on investment. That just for one guy’s salary or whatever, you can educate, at that point I think we were getting, already we have on the order of about a million students per month. Actually, no, we had several hundred thousand students per month, but that could only grow over time. And even if I got hit by a bus these videos, in theory, could keep teaching. And if we could build out a platform and a virtual school, we could reach an infinite number of students and translate and all the rest.
And so, somewhat naively, I had already set up Khan Academy as a not for profit and I’m happy to answer any questions about why, why we decided to do that. But so I take the leap of faith. I had no experience really starting a not for profit, even how do you raise money for, or any of that. But, it was just this idea that someone should hopefully realize that this is worth doing. And so like a lot of I think entrepreneurial stories for profit or not for profit, you quit. There’s always a few leads that you think, oh those are going to happen next week, and then they don’t. And, about eight months into it, you start getting really stressed, and, I started updating my resume and, you know, seeing if the hedge fund world would have me back after I completely flaked out. God forbid starting a not-for-profit.
And but then something interesting happened. I had this little link on the site, a PayPal link. College students around the world were — they were giving $10, $5, which meant a lot. But all of a sudden a $10,000 donation came in, over PayPal. And so, I checked who it was and it was a woman by the name of Ann Doerr. And so I immediately emailed her back. And she was actually, I saw the address, she was in Palo Alto. And I said, well, you know, thank you? If we were a physical school, you would now have a building named after you. If it’s which is, and, talking to the folks here, I hear that’s a very good deal. I don’t think $10,000 quite, quite cuts it. Maybe the podium, not even, yeah, the water fountain.
But, so, Ann immediately emails back and says, whoa, I’d be interested in talking to you. So we literally, we met at one of the Indian buffets on University Ave. And, she says, well, where are you going with this, what do you want to do? And her first question actually was, how are you supporting yourself? And, in as proud a way as possible, I said, I’m not. And she kind of nodded and she said, well where are you hoping to take this? And I had these, I had these slides, and I said, well, we could build out the software that I started with my cousins, and we could reach more students. We could translate it, we could have interactivity on the site. We could do as much as possible of creating a real virtual interactive experience. And, she kind of nodded.
And then, you know, I got back in my car and, and Ann actually got on her bike. She rode her bike to the buffet, which I was very impressed. And when I was driving it to my driveway, I got a text message from Ann. And it said, you should be supporting yourself. I just wired you $100,000. So, it was a good day. It was, it was almost, almost crashed into the garage. And as we will see in this story, Ann’s text messages are always good things. So this wasn’t, this wasn’t that long ago. This was literally about, not even two years ago. This was May of 2010, and, right around that same time, actually a few weeks later, but these were all kind of unrelated events some folks at Google brought me in. You know, I say, you know, there’s two major institutions in Mountain View, Google and the Khan Academy. It’s they don’t laugh as much.
But they brought me in and it was kind of mysterious meeting. They said you know a lot of our children are using your stuff. We even use some of your finance stuff. It’s interesting for us. What would you do if you had more resources? And I kind of made the same pitch. And they all nodded and then you know, I kind of assumed and by this point I had spoken to many foundations and I’d become fairly cynical about things. I was like, okay, this isn’t going to work out. But at least Ann, I can continue to do this and pay my mortgage and whatever else.
And then in July of that, so this is July of 2010, I was running a little summer camp for, it was actually in Portola Valley. And I had this little game, it was mainly for middle school students. Six of the students were playing a game of Risk, and then the other 20 students were trading securities based on the outcome of the game of Risk. And while that was happening, literally a trading floor, it’s a very good game, actually, maybe the business school should look into it. But while that was happening, I got a text message from Ann. And the text, you know, text messages are kind of hard to figure out which one came first, and all the rest. But it was like, Bill Gates, 600 people, Aspen, talking about you. And I was like, Ann knows people that Bill Gates would talk about, so maybe this was, you know, some type of, she wouldn’t have a — she didn’t seem like much of a prankster here. But I was like, is, what’s going on here? So I immediately, I went on to, and I booted the nearest 7th grader off of a computer. And I said, what’s going on here? And people are already commenting, and blogging and putting it on Twitter. Bill Gates, in front of, he was in the Aspen Ideas Festival, and the stage, the main, whatever, pavilion, he just started talking for ten minutes about how he and his children were using the Khan Academy, and it was like the one thing that he was most excited about. And my brain immediately said, those videos were for Nadia, not for Bill Gates. This is, you know, I have to really rethink some of those.
But then, and it was, and I mean the video’s actually up on our site now. It was very surreal, and I didn’t see it that first day. I saw it a few days later when the video actually got posted. And then I was in this very strange, surreal world, because this event happened some place in reality. But, I was like you know, what do I do now? Do I call him, you know? Can I find his number? I don’t think so. And, but luckily, that kind of tension got alleviated. About two weeks later, I got a call from, I guess, Larry Cohen, who was able to find my number, Bill Gates’ Chief of Staff. And he says, you know, Bill, you probably heard, is a big fan. He uses your stuff. He actually told me that Bill has three monitors, and I’ve seen it, and apparently, Khan Academy is like, he’s regularly watching videos on there. And, he’s like, you know, if you have time, Bill would like to meet you. And I was looking at my — I have my calendar open for the whole month, right, right at that moment. And it was completely blank.
And so, I was like yeah, you know, maybe like next Wednesday, 2:45, I could fly right into Seattle. And, right in between a bath and laundry, I can squeeze, squeeze Bill Gates in. And, so I flew up to Seattle, met with Bill Gates, which was a surreal meeting, you know? 20% of my brain was in the meeting, the other 80% was, this is Bill Gates! That’s Bill Gates! What would happen if I hit him? What would happen if I didn’t want to but you can imagine. So, but you know, I presented, and there was an awkward moment where I had these, I called them my slide placemats, and I walked around. And I was like, oh, you know, I use these because I don’t trust PowerPoint. These things are always — I think he found me charming.
But, long story short, he said, oh wow, this makes sense. I’m a big fan, what would you do, I give, we make a virtual school, and all the rest. And he’s like no, this is great and he nodded. And when he nodded five people in the back of the room took notes. And I was like, make sure you got that. And so it looked like things were going good and right around that same time another meeting with Google. Google said, well what would you do with $2 million. And I said, is this an open question, because I’ve got needs, you know, I could — there’s not a, they clarified it. And, so I kind of made the same idea.
And so, October 2010 all of these things converged. The Gates Foundation funded us to really get office space, hire up our core team. Google funded us, translated into ten languages, built out the core software, and this is what we started to build. And actually some of this was already — the primitive version was there before the funding happened, but now we got essentially competent people to work on some of this stuff. And this is what we call a knowledge map. And it’s constantly changing. There’s like sixty nodes right here. It’s now 300 and we’re exploring different ways to visualize this right now. But the idea is very simple. That top, that top star there is the most basic mathematics, level one addition. And once you get, once you’ve shown proficiency in that, it moves you down this knowledge map. And right now, the bottom end of it, you have things like calculus and, whatever else. And, actually, we can see it. So this is one for getting the intuition of a derivative. Where you’re trying to do, where you take the slope of a tangent line at any point and you’re essentially plotting out the derivative by picking out the slope of the tangent line. And so we’re trying to make that knowledge map goes as broad and deep as possible. Our videos you saw, they go into things like finance and macro and micro economics and things, you know, there’s a little bit of medicine and things like that. But right now our exercises are mostly math, but we’re hoping to get that as broad and as deep as possible.
And this right over here is a more basic one, and if you ever need help, the videos are there. This is basic subtraction, literally and, the one thing I always emphasize, I talked a lot about this at the TED Talk is, we did this kind of the way is common sense. If you learned, if you went to music class, you won’t – do a harder piece until you do master an easier piece. If you’re in Tae Kwon Do, you don’t take the black belt test until you’re already at a, I don’t know, what is it, brown belt, or a green belt, or whatever. You only progress once you’re ready for it. And that’s how it works in video games and everything else. But that’s not how it works in the traditional academic model. In a traditional academic model, what is fixed is, how long you have to learn something, and when you have to learn something. And what’s variable is, how well you actually learn that topic. And in everything else, and I would say, natural learning. And in this, we just said, well let’s do the opposite. Let’s make variable when you learn it, and how long you have to learn it. And what’s fixed is a high level of mastery. So that you can build on that foundation. I mean, the analogy I say in, in the traditional academic model, and it’s not picking on anyone. It’s the model that we’ve all been, frankly, indoctrinated into, is I’m building a house, I lay the foundation. I go get the inspector to come by. And the inspector says, okay. Yeah, this foundation’s about 80% structurally sound and I say, great. That’s passing. Let’s build the first floor.
And then they do the first floor, oh 70%. Oh that’s passing, let’s build a second floor. And then when the fourth floor collapses and takes the whole thing down with it, I blame the fourth floor contractor. Instead of saying what, I had these gaps this whole time, that were just making my whole building less and less structurally sound, and that’s exactly happening frankly, with math education. But I think probably with most forms of education, especially things that assume some level of mastery of more basic ideas.
So we started up. We got our office space, and, and interesting, and as you can see, a lot of this stuff was unplanned serendipitous events. Right when we got our office space, actually right before we got our office space, the Los Altos school board, right here, Los Altos said, hey we heard your are doing some stuff. Why don’t you come meet us. So we met them and they’re like what would you do. If you could do anything you wanted with a fifth grade class room? And we said well we would have every student learning at their own pace. They would master concepts before moving on. And the role of the teacher instead of giving this one size, one pace fits all lecture, the teacher would get data, would get analytics so that they can do focused one on one interventions. Or even better they can pair up students with each other so that they can teach each other and get even deeper learning.
And kind of surprising, they two days later said, sounds good. Well, let’s start after Thanksgiving. And so we had to hire up a little bit. And so, this right here is a dashboard from that Los Altos pilot. And we’re constantly iterating and trying to improve these things. But the general model is, each column here is one of those concepts on that knowledge map. Each row here is one of the students in the class. Green means, and actually there’s a fancier version of this now, this is a few months ago. Green means a student is proficient in it, blue means they’re working on it, but no need to worry, and red means they’re stuck. So the model is, hey, instead of one size fits all lecture, why don’t I get that, why don’t I get one of those students who’ve already mastered Exponents level 3 to tutor this student right over here who is having trouble with it. And if that doesn’t work, then I as a teacher can go do a focused one on one intervention.
And what’s neat about it is, and we’re actually seeing this in the classroom is it’s optimizing the most scarce resource in the classroom. Which is actually the time with other human beings. And so now, people talk about teachers, teacher to student ratio. What we think we’re optimizing is, the student to valuable time with the teacher ratio. Or even better, the student to valuable time with other human beings ratio, because you also have the other peers that you’re learning from and actually, one of the pilots, it was interesting. The teacher spent a significant amount of time mentoring a subset of the fifth graders STAs. Fifth graders. STAs.
And we wanted to arm them with as much data as possible. And so, it should not freeze like this. Let me see. Well, there’s a very nice chart that shows up. All right let’s try this again. Oh there you go. So this tells us a teacher what the student’s been working on, and actually students have access to all of these things. And we found that the best way to teach elementary school students to read bar graphs is to make the bar graphs about them. We are all narcissist inside — this tells a student, a parent, a teacher and all of this is free. It’s all available right now. You can go be, and come your cousins, or your nephews or, coaches right now. This tells the teacher what a student’s been focused on, videos and exercises. You can drill down as much as you want. This gives granular data on exactly what problem the student did when. Now we have features you can click on. You can actually see the narrative of that problem, what the students, what choices they got wrong, what did they get right. What hints did they use?
And this right here is just another dashboard for teachers, but for us, it tells us kind of the most powerful narrative here, and something frankly we didn’t expect, is that the horizontal access here is just days working on the site. Vertical axis is just a count of the number of those modules that a student shows proficiency in. So each of those lines is essentially the progression of a student in the class. And what we’re seeing in every class we’re working with. We have Los Altos and Los Altos regular classes and Los Altos remedial classes and San Jose and East Palo Alto. When you start a class, right at the beginning there are some kids that race ahead, some kids in the middle, and some kids that are behind. In a traditional model like, okay, these are the kids that are going to be doctors, engineers, lawyers, they’re going to apply to Stanford and all the rest, these are average kids, these kids are the remedial kids.
But what we’re seeing is if you allow students to work at their own pace, at their own time. And you don’t know who these students are. It’s really unpredictable. We’re going to try to fine tune the analytics so we can predict this even better. If you give them a chance to build their foundation, start from one plus one. All of a sudden that student, and that blue student is one of them. Ten days into it slightly below average, actually right out the gate, reasonable did below average, after 70 something days best student in the class. And we’re seeing it over and over again, in every context that after two, three, four months, the best dude in the class is often a kid that you thought was a remedial student, two, three months ago. And we’re seeing it over and over and over again.
And just to give you a sense of the energy of these classrooms. Because sometimes when you say, oh, computer learning, blended learning. People imagine kind of a Vulcan borg reality of kind of things plugged in. Like, you know? And kids just doing this all day. And I want to show you this classroom, and actually even this classroom, the visuals aren’t exactly, because whenever the press tries to take it, they’re like, oh, this is what the program is, so I want to, we want to film kids doing the program. We’re like no, no. What’s cool about this is, because this is 10%, 20, 30% of class time, it frees up all this other time for peer to peer tutoring, for project based learning, whatever else. But the media always wants to get the kids actually on the computer. So there is that in this footage, but it does capture the energy level in these classrooms.
[Video: From Mountain View California NBC’s Kristen Welker has our story tonight.
What makes fifth graders cheer? Would you believe math?
Student: Yes, I’m starting to really like math now.
These kids are learning with the help of Khan Academy, an online school.
You got it right.
Videos that are interactive and fun, explaining difficult concepts in a conversational way.]
And there’s a fun story that came out of that actual — when that reporter visited that classroom. She saw a little fifth grader working on trigonometry, normally 11th grade, 12th grade type material but she was doing sine, cosine, tangent. She understood the ratios of the triangle. The reporter sits down next to her and says so, do you think this is fifth grade math? And the girl got a very mischievous grin on her face and she goes no, I think it’s sixth grade.
So you know the anecdotal stuff was great, the teachers were happy, the students were happy but, we still have to measure it. At least measure like you know like, make sure harm isn’t being done here because there are these state tests. This is a public school. We’re not teaching to the test in the videos. I don’t use necessarily the same words that are going to show up on the assessment. There are kids in those classrooms that are doing fourth grade math, there are kids in those classrooms doing tenth, 11th grade math and how are they going to perform on a fifth grade assessment, or in one of the seventh grade assessment? And we were particularly worried about the seventh graders. The fifth graders was standard Los Altos demographic, high performing school district. The seventh, the two seventh grade classes that piloted it, these were, it wasn’t Los Altos, which is a affluent school district. But this was a remedial math class in Los Altos. And most of these students in this class, were students who were either diagnosed with learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD. And many of them were essentially from the other side of El Camino. They were essentially part of the — the parts of Mountain View that were thrown into the Los Altos School District. So these were actually traditionally underperforming students.
And what was neat, is we saw that narrative again. And we were worried about this, because we are like, our product is new, we don’t want to be blamed too. You know, maybe they won’t work with this group of students. But what was amazing for us, and frankly for Los Altos the district is that this is where we saw some of the most profound gains. So what we saw, 2010 were, was the distribution of scores for this, for this cohort, entering in, 23% were proficient. And they were the low end of proficient. That’s why they were in this class. 47% were basic, 23% below basic, 6% far below basic. And then after six months, and this is exciting, the 6 plus 35, 41% were now proficient or better. And the whole curve it shift. There were no longer any far below basic. The whole distribution shifted in the right direction.
But what was really neat and what we had never expected was, what Los Altos had never expected is, this was a remedial math class. Some of these kids, diagnosed with learning disabilities. 6% of these kids were now advanced. 6% of these kids had leapfrogged ahead of students who were not placed in remedial math class. And there was no way frankly of predicting who they were until we frankly, we saw the data. And normally these classes are kind of the graveyard of your academic career, but it actually was able to accelerate these students.
So the last thing I want to share with you and I have a couple other slides if you all ask a question about them is a story we got this past summer which is pretty exciting. We get a lot of testimonials and letters and if any of you all have any, feel free to share it with us, it’s good for company morale but, I want to share something because for us it highlights how much potential there is out in the world, human potential, intellectual potential. And how it can just be tapped into, if you just give people, just a little bit of the right tools.
[Video: “My name is Mark Halverstad. Growing up I was really always a C student. I think I was really pretty much always pretty pitiful in school. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten higher than a B+ in any math class ever particularly. I pretty much thought that the only thing I was good enough to do in college was major in music. And I went off and I got a music degree in Saxophone. But I sort of almost felt that it was more, I was getting it because I was terrible at everything else. And I worked as a saxophone player for a few years. Really what I wanted to do was do electrical engineering. And the last thing that I remember completely not getting was trig identities. So I went to YouTube and I did a search for trig identities, and Khan Academy was the first thing that popped up. Watched a bunch of videos in the trig playlist to kind of get caught up to speed. I watched all the videos in the calculus playlist. I watched all the videos in the physics playlist. I watched a bunch of videos on dividing decimals and even on a, subtraction by borrowing. I watched a lot of videos on arithmetic. That was in 2007 I did that until the fall of 2010 and in the fall of 2010 I took a leap and I decided to go back to school and went to Temple University. Majored in electrical engineering getting a second bachelors. And keep in mind I don’t think I’ve ever gotten about a B+ in math classes then, I was really a straight C student growing up. And I just finished this year. First year back in college. I got a 4.0 GPA for the entire year. I got perfect scores on both of my calculus final exams and also on my chemistry final exams. I ended calculus, chemistry, both calculus classes to end chemistry with an average higher than a 100%. There are some Khan Academy videos that I probably listened to the same concepts over 20 or 30 times and there is no tutor in the world I could have paid to have sat next to me and repeated the same thing over 20 or 30 times without at least them getting a little bit judgemental or at least them get thinking, oh well, this guy really never is going to get this concept and he should just give up. Where the understanding really happened was watching those videos. And also working through the Khan Academy software and everything. The impact for me in my life, I really see it growing exponentially over the next 20 or 30 years. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you.”]
So I’d love to take questions now. I know there are some people who have to leave at six o’clock, so feel free to leave if you have to leave, at six o’clock, but I’d love to take as many questions until they get boring.
Audience: Thank you so much for, for joining us. I’m [Greg Vibe], an MBA and Masters of Education dual degree student. Actually taking a class on non-profits and writing about Khan Academy. We had to look at the mission statement. And it’s incredibly inspirational to educate, your free, world-class education to anyone anywhere. But when thinking about it and watching the videos and playing with it in the TED talk, a lot of what gets me excited and has got the media excited is the idea of blended learning. And so I was wondering, do you see your mission pivoting at all? Are you still focused on global education because I think sort of rural kids in Africa, so, what if you had another $2 million, what’s the next for you? Where would you go with that mission?
Salman Khan: Yeah, no, so I mean the most difficult thing right now as an organization is that we have an abundance of opportunity, because there’s like, okay, there’s the just the standard student who just needs help. Right, like this student right here. You have the blended learning opportunities, what’s happening in Los Altos. And not just Los Altos we’re seeing it at Eastside Prep in Palo Alto and some of the Charter schools kid. There’s the possibilities if you go into rural Africa, or rural India, go places where they don’t have teachers right now. And all of sudden you can give them something better than maybe even what they would otherwise have access to. The way we’re thinking about it right now, is in the near term, let’s continue to focus on these students, because out of the four point whatever million they’re using, this is 95% of them. And this is, we can reach it. And we think that, that problem is 95% the same problem as how do we — what can we do in a classroom? If we can get someone, education is the spectrum of things. I mean and we can debate for hours about what it means. But there’s a general sense that at this end, there’s kind of your core academic skills, understanding what a derivative is, learning to apply algebra, understanding the conceptual physics, and as you get further and further here it becomes more open ended and more broad. You know, this is starting a company, composing a sonata, painting a picture. Something very open ended, and right now most schools are very focused right over here. And what we’re saying is we think this, we can do this stuff pretty well with data and analytics and iterate over the content but, that doesn’t mean we’re replacing schools. That means it’s an opportunity for schools to move up this progression, and as we get better and better we’re just going to push the envelope here and that the physical environments can get better and better, and the way we’re thinking of it strategically is we don’t want to try to do everything at once, and just be a flash in the pan and we want to prove that this is real — we’re going to start in the U.S., primarily English, although we are translating into ten other languages right now, and then we’ll explore, and — there are already, frankly, NGOs, I mean we heard there’s people using it in rural Mongo, I think all of Mongolia is rural but, they’re using this, we heard some Burmese refugee camps were using it. So I mean, so this stuff is already happening. We’re putting it out there. If someone wants a DVD, here’s the DVD. You want to thumb drive with all the videos? Here you go. You want an offline copy? Someone’s Jerry-rigged, it to do that. We’re open in that way, but our organizational focus right now is just to really make sure that it’s a substantive contribution to what happens first, around us.
Audience: I had two questions, actually. One was you talked about capturing the potential of human talent out there. So the obvious question is, there are a lot more students in the class than teachers in that class. So, how do you capture the peer-to-peer learning? Because kids learn better from other kids than from adults. The second question is do you have any plans in terms of your strategy to break the any of this content — textbooks. Pythagoras’ theorem never change and yet there’s copyrights on that.
Salman Khan: And there’s really a copyright on Happy Birthday.
Audience: So, how do you plan to address that? Because that is really what’s holding education back in my humble opinion.
Salman Khan: Yeah. So, the peer-to-peer, which I’m a — Just, I mean, just my own personal experience in high school and whatever, I’m a big believer in peer-to-peer. I mean, I think you all are probably experiencing a lot of the learning is happening, the two nights before an exam, where there’s significant peer-to-peer activity mostly academic going on And so, what we’re, I mean that’s what’s interesting about us working with physical classrooms. You know, there’s 10,000 classrooms based on data they’re doing it in some shape or form. We’re directly working with 50 of them, and, we have these notions and — but the teachers have some pretty good ideas. The students have some pretty neat ideas, and we’re seeing what kind of things naturally emerge. And the neat thing is, is that, if you kind of allow students to get self directed, and they’re all learning at their own pace, a lot of this stuff just organically emerges. If you don’t tell, as long as you don’t tell students, be quiet, put a finger on your lip, listen. If you just say, learn at your own pace, and do what you need to do to learn, a lot of this peer-to-peer starts emerging. Kids start just naturally going to the whiteboard. This is what I can tutor you in. This is what we can help with, and/or this is what I need help in. And what we should, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to observe the best practices and seeing if we can put that in the system. So, we saw students setting goals for themselves on notecards, and then seeing how they did — so it’s almost pulled out as a feature, we saw students printing out their achievements and showing it to other friends, so it’s like oh, we should have public profiles, if you want to share it, you can share it with other people.
So what we’re trying to do is if, we’ll eventually hopefully have a place where if you need help, there’s other people in the community who can help you. You can have cloud, cloud tutors at any given point, someone has office hours in that subject. So we’re going to explore all of that.
In terms of the textbook industry, and I say this somewhat to protect my own safety. I don’t think us by ourselves is a catalyst but, I think they’re facing a major problem, because whether it’s — you look at, there are these kind of transitional solutions where people are doing free books, open-source textbooks, you know. I think, actually, they kind of signed their death certificate when they did this $15. A textbook cannot cost most than $15 on an iPad. And there’s no barriers to distribution now with this, so that’s going to bring its cost down very quickly. But I think it raises an even broader question, what does a textbook do? It does two things. It tries to teach you some new concept. And right now it’s done in this very kind of cryptic prose, and then they give you some practice problems. And they give you the answer to every other problem in the back of the book. And so, we think online video, especially when you can track what’s being used, how effective it is, and all the rest with analytics is better than that prose, you can pause and repeat, you get human intonation, human emotion, and we think adaptive exercises where you get data and analytics and instant feedback, and hints, is better than the, the stuff at the back of the book, and if that’s available for essentially free I guess this is a case study in an industry, soon to be collapsed, I guess this is,
Audience: [Inaudible Question]
Salman Khan: So, the question is — again, this is a very good question. YouTube is a — you know what? Video by itself is a one-way stream. And if someone uses it well, it can be somewhat active. You can pause and repeat, and you can say oh, I need to go watch that now and you can be a little self-directed about it. This is still a passive mode, and so frankly, most of our resources are more on the interactive side. The videos are there to complement it, but we are also trying to work on things where the videos are also giving you questions. And that, there’s questions associated with videos. When you’re reviewing, we can give you those conceptual questions, and then we can know, hey, maybe you should go watch this video over there. And the other thing that’s happened, we’ve just seen this on YouTube is, someone says oh, that was a good video, I don’t quite understand what you meant by this, by orthogonal at minute three. And then someone else on YouTube says, hey, you just need to go watch this other video, where it’s defined a little bit more, when the videos are granular, almost every video is an answer to someone’s question. And they somewhat, to some degree, just have to be directed to that answer, and that’s where the community, and we’re only just starting to explore that.
Audience: Yeah, hi I’m [Hamdaan] and I’m at the GSB, and I’m from Bangladesh, and I wanted to tell you that, people are mighty proud of what you’ve done back home, so.
Salman Khan: Oh, yeah, no, it’s surreal that yeah. I got a call from Muhammad, you know, I was like Muhammad who?
Audience: So my question is you guys are registered as a non-profit, and a lot of people see your biggest potential as being virtual school or sort of spreading the reach of education to impoverished communities in Africa and Asia, so. But how do you see the fact that you’re operating on a non-commercial platform, reducing your scalability?
Salman Khan: Yeah, so that’s a very good question and it’s a question you get in Silicon Valley a lot, that a not for profit doesn’t scale. That, how are you going to get the capital, how are you going to attract the talent, all of these questions. And I think it’s worth kind of clarifying just you know what a not for profit is. Not for profit essentially means no one owns it. The capital structure, there’s no owner. It’s owned by society. It can, in theory, I mean, our mission is to actually give the content away for free, but Stanford is a not for profit. You can — they can generate revenue. What a not for profit says, is all of that revenue gets re-invested into the business. It gets reinvested in the mission. While in a for profit, some gets reinvested in the mission, and some of it can get dividended out or stock buybacks or whatever else. So, it’s a fundamental, it’s a capital structure thing.
In terms of the access to capital, I mean, it’s a huge space. I mean, just think about public education is like a trillion dollars a year. You think about how much the Gates Foundation alone spent almost a billion dollars a year in the U.S., so there are people, philanthropists, many people in Silicon Valley who got the capital, so this is what they care about. They want to invest in education, especially if there’s a high social return. And, any way you’re on our spreadsheets, our total invested capital to date is less than $3 million. And we’re reaching four and a half million students per month. This time next year it might be 20 million, three years it might be 100 million students. And the content’s not going away, we can only improve on it. So it’s an infinite social return.
The other question, this was a question that we actually took very seriously is, can we attract the talent? You know, there’s no lottery ticket at the Khan Academy. You’re working here. There’s not a stock option that you can become a billionaire. We do try to pay very competitive salaries in Silicon Valley. But it’s like, can we attract the best talent? And it was an open question, I would say about six months ago. But what we’ve seen in the past, actually we saw this before the first, we’ve seen this throughout, is not only can we attract good talent, we’re attracting the best talent. I don’t know if you all saw the press release. The number one employer, Google, just joined us. And, I mean, I guess you can afford to do what do what he likes but, but we’re getting the best talent, even people who aren’t independently wealthy. I mean our, our lead engineer, Ben Kamens, who was the head engineer at Fog Creek Software, Joel on Software. Our lead designer, the head designer there, we got the head of high frequency trading from one of the top hedge funds in the world is now our head of analytics. We are getting Santanu Sinah who is our president, was about to make partner at Mackenzie. I mean, these are the best talent out there, and what you realize is there’s actually been psychological studies on this, is that people are happiest, and are the most productive, and you will get the best talent. You take money off the table. You do have to pay enough that they can live, they can get a mortgage, they can buy their Honda Accord, and all the rest. But you take that off the table. You don’t have to pay millions, you just have to pay a good, I would say upper middle class salary, in Silicon Valley. And if you do that, if you’d have intellectually satisfying work and they have a mission to pursue, they’ll be the most productive people on the planet, and we’re actually seeing that. The people that — the resumes that we’re getting, the energy level in the company, it’s better than any hedge fund we’ve worked at, it’s better than any management consulting firm that many of our teams have worked at, it’s kind of been an unbelievable experience. So we’re feeling pretty good about — we’re in uncharted waters. There’s only a few, I would say highly scalable not for profits out there. You know, Wikipedia’s kind of in that space. Kiva is in that space. We’re in there. Mozilla Foundation. We’re all kind of in there. We’re all a little bit different. But I think we are facing, there’s an inflection point in society where there’s a space for these type of, I would call them new institutions to emerge.
Audience: Hi, I’d like to ask a question about a phrase you used that’s near and dear to my heart, because I taught the subject for 12 years in high school. How many people here are familiar with project based learning? You’ve heard, yeah, okay, good, good. Theodore Sizer, Brown University basically, this is a nutshell description. Students go in depth into a subject by showing what they understand about science and math as it is applied to a real world situation, and since you mentioned that phrase, I was just wondering what you might be doing about developing it as an adjunct for students that, who turn around, learn a subject, and then teach it to others, through.
Salman Khan: Absolutely, so right now, I think the whole education debate is actually slightly distorted. You have one camp where they say oh, we need more open-ended, project based learning. And then you have another camp saying oh, well if you do that, our kids aren’t going to do well on the SAT, and they’re not going to do well on the state exams. We have to do more traditional, academic, a lot of problem solving, a lot of traditional types of problems. And I think there’s two issues. I think one on the project based learning side. Projects in and of themselves, there’s a huge spectrum of what they can be. In one spectrum, they can be very cookie cutter, paint by numbers kind of stuff that a lot of us might have done in elementary school, whatever. And the other spectrum, they can be hugely open ended. They could be starting a business, painting a picture, building a robot, inventing something, whatever. And so what we see as our role is, I think a lot of what I’ve described, we can be a catalyst for freeing up physical human time. And we think the best use of that is broadly described as project based learning. But what we are seeing is, now that you free up this time, it’s actually becoming — some teachers immediately they say oh, there’s things that I’ve always wanted to do with this time, and I can now do it.
But there’s a lot of teachers saying wow, this is kind of scary. What do I do with this extra time now in the classroom? And so we’re exploring that. And what we’re saying is, it shouldn’t even be one class anymore. Let’s explore the boundaries. When every student learns at their own pace, why group them by age group? Why separate calculus from physics, from art, from history, from statistics? Have them all happening at the same time. Why have a bell ring every 55 minutes? Why be afraid to go deep in a subject, because you’re going to miss class? All of these things shouldn’t be questions anymore. And so we’re pushing the envelope with as many existing schools as possible. There’s this school in Los Angeles, the Marlboro School, Marlboro Academy that is actually doing that. They have seven to 12th grade girls, all in the same class teaching each other, going back to the peer-to-peer learning. And so far, it seems to be pretty profound. Next year they’re going to double the number of students, and they are going to double the number of teachers, but the teachers are going to be in the same room together, which is also something that’s kind of unheard of in a traditional academic model. And we are bringing people on — we’re running a summer camp this summer to explore what can you do with the physical environment? Like that Risk game that I talked about where kids are — they’re learning what a market is, and probability and all that. What can you do in a physical environment? Building robots, starting businesses, whatever else.
And so, what we want to do is see the best practices, document them. If we can make tools for them, so they can happily use in a classroom, we want to build them. Or at minimum, document them so that other teachers can mimic them anywhere in the world.
Audience: Thanks for being here. I just wanted to know what’s your curriculum ideology, if there’s any ideology behind what you’re doing? And what, as you have studied doing, doing these videos, what do you think that you’re doing better than say traditional teachers in the classroom, that makes kids get it faster?
Salman Khan: Yeah, so the ideology question. This is something I like to stress. I don’t think there’s one thing I said here, that’s kind of new, in terms of an idea. I mean, the more that I talk to people, the more that I realize wow, someone’s been writing about this 100 years ago. Someone’s been writing, and there’s even been studies that people said, wow this really worked. And for some reason it gets lost. So, I don’t know exactly what the ideology would be called. I mean and it’s very scary when you label things, because then there’s people in the other camp, who immediately try to – if you say that you are constructivist, and they’re like, oh constructivism where we need to be – but I would say it is a combination of mastery-based learning, so this idea that you should learn things well. You don’t have to be the absolute expert on exponents before you do basic equations. But you should have a solid foundation so that you don’t get tripped up later. I would say, highly influenced by constructivist thinking, that you really do learn well when you explore things. But at the same time you have to relax the tension that the world is assessing you based on these exams. And so we think hopefully we can help do both at the same time. I think there’s kind of self-paced learning peer-to-peer learning, I mean, whatever you want to call it. But, I mean, we’re just trying to do what kind of makes be practical about it, not be too dogmatic about one or the other.
In terms of kind of why the videos have resonated with people, it’s an open question, I mean, people comment on it. I think there’s been a couple things. I think it was really important that I started off making them for my cousins. I think if in 2006, Bill Gates kind of descended, and said Sal, here is X million dollars, make some videos that are going to reach hundreds of millions of people. I probably would have made things not too different from what you get on a DVD from McGraw Hill. I probably would’ve made these very fancy computer graphics, and those, the next stage in photosynthesis, it sounds like your GPS device. The reason why those look that way is because when a decision maker, superintendent, or even sometimes the teacher, so when anyone looks at it for 30 seconds they’re like, oh, that’s professional. That looks cool. That’s using computer graphics. And decision makers are never actually sitting down and say, am I actually learning photosynthesis here, am I actually understanding photosynthesis, do I actually feel a human connection with this person? And, I think what was neat, early on for me is, I was like, it was a human to human. Even today when people watch the videos, they feel like I’m their older brother. I’m their neighbor. You don’t see my face. Faces are highly distracting, especially when they have a unibrow. And so you take that out so it really feels, it really feels like, or an Indian Ray Romano, I’ve sometimes been referred to. But it really feels like we’re sitting next to each other at the kitchen table. The focus is on the content, you know. The voice is kind of there. I mean, I’ve actually gotten letters from people saying, when they normally think they think in their own voice, but as soon as they see an equation, they start hearing, well, let’s think about this now. They hear this, you know, so I don’t know. I think it’s the conversationality of it. It feels human. It feels, you know, I think a lot of education material is made very top down. Some group, some politician or executive says we need to make content in this area. Then they go hire a bunch of experts and I’m not being disparaging of the experts, but when you have a crowd doing it together, they have fights on what the content should be, they should write, they’ll write scripts. And at the end they go and find some teacher or somebody, and they pay them by the hour to essentially read their script.
And that whole process is saying the least important thing in this process is the actual content, and what we’re saying are the most important thing is. Even I’m the executive director of the Khan Academy but I still spend at least 50% of my time making content because that’s what’s going to resonate with students. We put a high priority on our developers that are making actual content that students are using. We’re not, we’re not just all oh, strategy’s everything, platform is everything. The content is what actually, that’s where the rubber hits the road.
Audience: Hi. I’m an undergrad here at Stanford and, I was fortunate enough to attend Montessori School for until 7th grade, and one of the strengths I see of Montessori School is kind of exactly what you’re doing in letting people go at their own pace, so in 2nd grade I was already starting algebra. And I could be at a totally different level in reading and so I’m wondering –
Salman Khan: Do you have like four PhD’s now?
Audience: And so I’m wondering to what extent you’ve looked at existing models like Montessori, it’s kind of like what his question was and to what extent you’re maybe working with Montessori schools to kind of make Montessori scalable when it’s been criticized as something that can only work in small schools where teachers are highly paid?
Salman Khan: Yeah, you know, and I’m not an expert here, I mean, like a lot of people I always thought Montessori was something that goes through, pre-K and maybe kindergarten and I’ve only started learning about Montessori programs that go much deeper. And we’ve actually just been reached out by Montessori, I think their K through 12 on the East Bay. And I think they hear a lot of what we’re saying and wait that’s what we’ve been doing forever, that’s what you know, that’s what Montessori is about. Self paced learning, kids teaching kids, kids experimenting with things and yeah we’re eager to kind of — we have a long way to go. We think we’re in the beginning of the first inning. But, a lot of what we’re talking about actually is maybe the missing link in Montessori is that yes, a self paced learning all of that but how does the — how do we know that you’re learning things? Or how can we — how does a teacher have data to intervene properly? Or how does the student know that they’re learning things and things like that. And so, there’s a certain level of you can have a scaffold of, kind of this type of self paced learning that I think makes people more comfortable with the really open ended stuff. So yeah, I think they’re one and the same very, very, very complementary.
Audience: How do you, given that – in creating the content for Khan Academy, you focus on academic subjects like math. Here we’ll teach you math in extremely granular patterns, or we’ll teach you biology or chemistry or whatever. So why couldn’t you extend this to nearly any other form of human learning? I don’t want to, like think of like — I don’t like, I don’t want to, like imagine Khan Academy as like some self help course. But why couldn’t Khan Academy have a course in procrastination?
Salman Khan: Well no, and I have my daughter and, my daughter is now seven months old, my son is three years old. And I’ve been thinking, because, you know, right now I’m not that far from the dating world. I mean, you know, I’m still pretty far, but, but if I give her, them advice now and we time shifted so I give like dating advice, they’ll take it more. So you might see that type of stuff on Khan Academy. But what that said, we actually, I don’t know if there’s a presentation still up. The next slide we’re actually — we’ve started some experiments with the Stanford Med School, and actually have some videos on some of the stuff that we were playing with. I mean, it’s just purely experimentation. But what we really want to experiment, what we want to do. And I’ll show you these videos because they’re kind of fun. I mean these were just, we just tried it out. I just hung out at the med school.
[Video: And so there is a problem right there at that junction.
So at least that part of drug kinetics we need to understand how they penetrate different parts of the body.
If we can get to those patients and get them to skilled health care both in the field and at the hospital, we can affect their outcomes and what the lamina connects to the spinous process.
Remember this is a drug that didn’t even touch the breast cancer. Had a dramatic effect in the survival of these young women.
And so again it just makes this a whole new way in thinking about disease. –]
Yeah, so, what we’re hoping to do over there, and you’re going to see it hopefully over the next year is, I started with a lot of content, we started building this platform, analytics, and all the rest, we’re like, hey, that can be used by anybody. And so hopefully over the next year you’re going to start seeing other, possibly major institutions saying hey, we can start offering courses on this platform, leveraging it in any shape and form. So I would love, I mean I don’t know, how many of you all read Diamond Age? Niel Stevenson? So yeah, I would love this to be the young ladies illustrated primer where — the book is essentially NEO Victorian China, it’s highly, highly hierarchical society. This is like you know, in the future. This nobleman wants to essentially get this engineer to build like the ultimate learning platform for his granddaughter. The engineer thinks it’s so good that he builds a version for his own daughter. And it being China, gets bootlegged. And then it gets in the hands of two thousand orphan girls and they take over the planet. So, yes, that, that’d be a good outcome.
Two more questions.
Audience: Thank you for speaking today so I’m actually a first-year medical student and I recognized Dr. Prober’s voice on there. And I’m meeting with some teachers from the Children’s Hospital school tomorrow at Lucille Packard to see how Khan Academy can be implemented, one, because they are at times under staffed, and two, it might be interesting to assess the cognitive effects of certain treatments downstream, so what, I guess, guidelines, or even cautionary notes would you provide to people who are looking to implement Khan Academy in new settings but perhaps in a somewhat experimental way?
Salman Khan: Yeah, no, we think it’s great. I mean, we think it’s great. I mean, that’s, that’s a fun thing about it. You put it out there. And people are figuring out, I mean, that’s actually an example that we’ve heard, that people are, you know, with children with these, with these kind of chronic diseases that are in the hospital for months at a time. They can learn now, we’ve heard of, actually like child athletes and actors using this because, once again, we actually heard about prisoners I mean, they’re captive audience I mean, but, yeah, yeah, I mean, I would say do it. If you hit road bumps, and it should be relatively self-service, we’re trying to make it more self-service every day. But ping us you know, I’m email@example.com. You can look at our website. Email us, if you have any questions. Because our goal is just to make it as self-service as possible.
Audience: So, hypothetically, if someone were thinking about starting a company in the ed tech space that built off of, built on top of, but didn’t compete with Khan Academy. That’s not exactly my question. So, there seems to be rhetorically a lot of excitement around the potential for individuals to learn from Khan Academy and become more confident in their skills. But in your talk what I saw a lot of excitement from you about was your partnership with schools, Los Altos schools and also the schools of medicine here, so I would say, I would ask, for your vision for Khan Academy, let’s say over the next five to 10 years to be realized, who do you think are going to be some of your key partners generally speaking? And what role do they have to play in kind of the larger educational space in order for Khan to really have the impact that you want it to have?
Salman Khan: Yeah, no and I mean, my answer will probably change every week to this, but the general notion. I mean, I think, going into this class, I think the content providers, I mean, one of the fun things for me about this job is I get to kind of hopefully spend the rest of my life learning and teaching things. I mean, I’m already kind of, you know, and, and that’s a fun thing to do, but there’s no way I can teach everything or even a fraction of everything and so I think catalyzing other people like Dr. Prober and other experts to one, be willing to do this which I think they are and also feel comfortable in this type. You know, not the traditional lecture but the more conversational style maybe two people at the same time. So I think the content creators, I think, and that’s not just video. It could be exercise content, it could be static questions. We’re hoping to experiment with maybe crowd sourcing of questions. I mean it’s crazy that every teacher in the country has a different set of questions. And if they want comments then they have to go pay someone money. They should just be able to pool it, there should be analytics on it, they should be able to create you know, kids going to the computer lab and say give me a test where every kid’s going to get different questions but they’re statistically the same and the distribution looks like this and there’s only a 5% chance that one kid doesn’t finish. And bam, it just happens. That should exist. I mean, there’s nothing scientifically implausible about that. So, I think it’s kind of the community is what we’re going to have to leverage.
In terms of kind of the key partners, I think there’s an interesting, I think the major institutions that, to some degree research institutions that we’re hoping Khan Academy turns into a platform for cognitive education whatever type of research. I mean, you have 2 million kids doing problems every day. I mean, that might be 2 million problems done every day. You could, if you have a better idea of how, a better way for people to conceptualize fractions and you have a good way of measuring it, we’re already doing AB testing. We put 5% of the audience in front of that versus the control. See what, one day you have your data for your PhD. I mean, it sounds crazy. Oh you are doing it. Well you can come by, no. We actually have a post doc guy from Stanford who is about to come on board to do research on our data. So I think the research institutions, I think there’s a very interesting potential, obviously from a content point of view with Stanford, the MITs of the world. I think, the really forward thinking I would say, schools of any age or demographic, whether it’s Marlborough, which is an elite girls’ school in Los Angeles or East Side Prep, which is a highly effective charter school, actually they’re an independent school, but hey cater to an underserved demographic in east Palo Alto. I think those are going to be key. I think it’ll be interesting, I think employers will be key, too. Because I think at the end of the day, all of this, I mean, the end goal, people sometimes confuse, the end goal is happy and productive people. That’s the end gal. And, I guess, a thriving democracy, run by happy productive people. That’s the end goal. And, so I think a lot of it is, well let’s just cut to the chase, how do we get to that end goal, and a lot of employers play a big role of that, how do we, and so everything we’ve talked about is the learning side. But I think there’s, and we could talk for another hour about it, I put some videos on there if you all are curious about it. But I think there’s a whole other dimension of education which is the credentialing side. And I think what we’re in the process of seeing is that the two things are going to get decoupled, which will be a very good thing because it kind of liberates the learning to happen in whatever way’s best. And then the credentials become stronger signals because, you guys Stanford, everyone, you’re going to go anywhere in the planet and people are going to know, oh Stanford, yes. You get an interview. But 99% of universities in the world you spend the money, you take the time, you go there. Even if you learn the stuff tremendously, you go to the next city and much less the next country if you’re like what is this? I don’t understand what this is. And so I think the credentials could become even more powerful kind of more recognized things. And as that happens I think you’re going to see a lot of interesting dynamics in education.
JD Schramm – Lecturer in Organizational Behavior at Stanford
So, we should probably honor our commitment with you that you get home and have some time with your own family. After spending time with us. We do have a small gift for you knowing that you graduated from Harvard Business School, we wanted you to have a taste of the Stanford Business School. So we have autographed books by Jeff F Fort, Chip Keith and Jennifer Aaker, professors. And the requisite Stanford swag.
Salman Khan: Oh, very good, thank you very much. Thank you so much for doing this.