But what we want to do is to use the natural conclusion of the flipping of the classroom that those early teachers had emailed me about. And so what I’m showing you here, this is actually data from a pilot in the Los Altos school district, where they took two fifth grade classes and two seventh grade classes and completely gutted their old math curriculum. These kids aren’t using textbooks, they’re not getting one-size-fits-all lectures. They’re doing Khan Academy, they’re doing that software, for roughly half of their math class. And I want to make it clear, we don’t view this as the complete math education. What it does is — and this is what’s happening in Los Altos — it frees up time. This is the blocking and tackling, making sure you know how to move through a system of equations, and it frees up time for the simulations, for the games, for the mechanics, for the robot building, for the estimating how high that hill is based on its shadow.
And so the paradigm is the teacher walks in every day, every kid works at their own pace — and this is actually a live dashboard from Los Altos school district — and they look at this dashboard. Every row is a student. Every column is one of those concepts. Green means the student’s already proficient. Blue means they’re working on it — no need to worry. Red means they’re stuck. And what the teacher does is literally just say, “Let me intervene on the red kids.” Or even better, “Let me get one of the green kids who are already proficient in that concept to be the first line of attack and actually tutor their peer.”
Now I come from a very data-centric reality, so we don’t want that teacher to even go and intervene and have to ask the kid awkward questions: “Oh, what do you not understand?” or “What do you do understand?” and all of the rest. So our paradigm is to really arm the teachers with as much data as possible — really data that, in almost any other field, is expected, if you’re in finance or marketing or manufacturing — and so the teachers can actually diagnose what’s wrong with the students so they can make their interaction as productive as possible. So now the teachers know exactly what the students have been up to, how long they have been spending every day, what videos have they been watching, when did they pause the videos, what did they stop watching, what exercises are they using, what have they been focused on?
The outer circle shows what exercises they were focused on. The inner circle shows the videos they’re focused on. And the data gets pretty granular so you can see the exact problems that the student got right or wrong. Red is wrong, blue is right. The leftmost question is the first question that the student attempted. They watched the video right over there. And then you can see, eventually, they were able to get 10 in a row. It’s almost like you can see them learning over those last 10 problems. They also got faster. The height is how long it took them.
So when you talk about self-paced learning, it makes sense for everyone — in education-speak, differentiated learning — but it’s kind of crazy when you see it in a classroom. Because every time we’ve done this, in every classroom we’ve done, over and over again, if you go five days into it, there’s a group of kids who’ve raced ahead and there’s a group of kids who are a little bit slower. And in a traditional model, if you did a snapshot assessment, you say, “These are the gifted kids, these are the slow kids. Maybe they should be tracked differently. Maybe we should put them in different classes.” But when you let every student work at their own pace — and we see it over and over and over again — you see students who took a little bit [of] extra time on one concept or the other, but once they get through that concept, they just race ahead. And so the same kids that you thought were slow six weeks ago, you now would think are gifted. And we’re seeing it over and over and over again. And it makes you really wonder how much all of the labels maybe a lot of us have benefited from were really just due to a coincidence of time.
Now as valuable as something like this is in a district like Los Altos, our goal is to use technology to humanize, not just in Los Altos, but on a global scale, what’s happening in education. And actually, that kind of brings an interesting point. A lot of the effort in humanizing the classroom is focused on student-to-teacher ratios. In our mind, the relevant metric is student-to-valuable-human-time- with-the-teacher ratio. So in a traditional model, most of the teacher’s time is spent doing lectures and grading and whatnot. Maybe five percent of their time is actually sitting next to students and actually working with them. Now 100 percent of their time is. So once again, using technology, not just flipping the classroom, you’re humanizing the classroom, I’d argue, by a factor of five or 10.
And as valuable as that is in Los Altos, imagine what that does to the adult learner who’s embarrassed to go back and learn stuff that they should have before, before going back to college. Imagine what it does to a street kid in Calcutta who has to help his family during the day, and that’s the reason why he or she can’t go to school. Now they can spend two hours a day and remediate, or get up to speed and not feel embarrassed about what they do or don’t know. Now imagine what happens where — we talked about the peers teaching each other inside of a classroom. But this is all one system. There’s no reason why you can’t have that peer-to-peer tutoring beyond that one classroom. Imagine what happens if that student in Calcutta all of a sudden can tutor your son, or your son can tutor that kid in Calcutta? And I think what you’ll see emerging is this notion of a global one-world classroom. And that’s essentially what we’re trying to build.