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Salman Khan talk at TED 2011 (Transcript)

The other thing that happened — and even at this point, I said, “Okay, maybe it’s a good supplement. It’s good for motivated students. It’s good for maybe home schoolers.” But I didn’t think it would be something that would somehow penetrate the classroom. But then I started getting letters from teachers. And the teachers would write, saying, “We’ve used your videos to flip the classroom. You’ve given the lectures, so now what we do … ” — and this could happen in every classroom in America tomorrow — ” … what I do is I assign the lectures for homework, and what used to be homework, I now have the students doing in the classroom.”

And I want to pause here for — I want to pause here for a second, because there’s a couple of interesting things. One, when those teachers are doing that, there’s the obvious benefit — the benefit that now their students can enjoy the videos in the way that my cousins did. They can pause, repeat at their own pace, at their own time.

But the more interesting thing is — and this is the unintuitive thing when you talk about technology in the classroom — by removing the one-size-fits-all lecture from the classroom and letting students have a self-paced lecture at home, and then when you go to the classroom, letting them do work, having the teacher walk around, having the peers actually be able to interact with each other, these teachers have used technology to humanize the classroom. They took a fundamentally dehumanizing experience — 30 kids with their fingers on their lips, not allowed to interact with each other. A teacher, no matter how good, has to give this one-size-fits-all lecture to 30 students — blank faces, slightly antagonistic — and now it’s a human experience. Now they’re actually interacting with each other.

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So once the Khan Academy — I quit my job and we turned into a real organization — we’re a not-for-profit — the question is, how do we take this to the next level? How do we take what those teachers are doing to their natural conclusion? And so what I’m showing you over here, these are actual exercises that I started writing for my cousins. The ones I started were much more primitive. This is a more competent version of it.

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But the paradigm here is, we’ll generate as many questions as you need until you get that concept, until you get 10 in a row. And the Khan Academy videos are there. You get hints, the actual steps for that problem, if you don’t know how to do it. But the paradigm here, it seems like a very simple thing: 10 in a row, you move on. But it’s fundamentally different than what’s happening in classrooms right now.

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In a traditional classroom, you have a couple of homework, homework, lecture, homework, lecture, and then you have a snapshot exam. And that exam, whether you get a 70 percent, an 80 percent, a 90 percent or a 95 percent, the class moves on to the next topic. And even that 95 percent student, what was the five percent they didn’t know? Maybe they didn’t know what happens when you raise something to the zero power. And then you go build on that in the next concept. That’s analogous to imagine learning to ride a bicycle, and maybe I give you a lecture ahead of time, and I give you that bicycle for two weeks. And then I come back after two weeks, and I say, “Well, let’s see. You’re having trouble taking left turns. You can’t quite stop. You’re an 80 percent bicyclist.”

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So I put a big C stamp on your forehead and then I say, “Here’s a unicycle.” But as ridiculous as that sounds, that’s exactly what’s happening in our classrooms right now. And the idea is you fast forward and good students start failing algebra all of a sudden and start failing calculus all of a sudden, despite being smart, despite having good teachers, and it’s usually because they have these Swiss cheese gaps that kept building throughout their foundation. So our model is learn math the way you’d learn anything, like the way you would learn a bicycle. Stay on that bicycle. Fall off that bicycle. Do it as long as necessary until you have mastery. The traditional model, it penalizes you for experimentation and failure, but it does not expect mastery. We encourage you to experiment. We encourage you to failure. But we do expect mastery.

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This is just another one of the modules. This is trigonometry. This is shifting and reflecting functions. And they all fit together. We have about 90 of these right now. And you can go to the site right now. It’s all free. Not trying to sell anything. But the general idea is that they all fit into this knowledge map. That top node right there, that’s literally single digit addition. It’s like one plus one is equal to two.

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And the paradigm is, once you get 10 in a row on that, it keeps forwarding you to more and more advanced modules. So if you keep further down the knowledge map, we’re getting into more advanced arithmetic. Further down, you start getting into pre-algebra and early algebra. Further down, you start getting into algebra one, algebra two, a little bit of precalculus. And the idea is, from this we can actually teach everything — well, everything that can be taught in this type of a framework. So you can imagine — and this is what we are working on — is from this knowledge map you have logic, you have computer programming, you have grammar, you have genetics, all based off of that core of, if you know this and that, now you’re ready for this next concept. Now that can work well for an individual learner, and I encourage, one, for you to do it with your kids, but I also encourage everyone in the audience to do it yourself. It’ll change what happens at the dinner table.

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By Pangambam S

I have been a Transcriber and Editor in the transcription industry for the past 15 years. Now I transcribe and edit at SingjuPost.com. If you have any questions or suggestions, please do let me know. And please do share this post if you liked it and help you in any way.

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