Events & Presentations

Salman Khan talk at TED 2011 (Transcript)

Thank you.


Bill Gates: I’ve seen some things you’re doing in the system that have to do with motivation and feedback — energy points, merit badges. Tell me what you’re thinking there.

Salman Khan: Oh yeah. No, we have an awesome team working on it. And I have to make it clear, it’s not just me anymore. I’m still doing all the videos, but we have a rockstar team doing the software. Yeah, we’ve put a bunch of game mechanics in there where you get these badges, we’re going to start having leader boards by area, and you get points. It’s actually been pretty interesting. Just the wording of the badging or how many points you get for doing something, we see on a system-wide basis, like tens of thousands of fifth graders or sixth graders going one direction or another, depending what badge you give them.


Bill Gates: And the collaboration you’re doing with Los Altos, how did that come about?

Salman Khan:Los Altos, it was kind of crazy. Once again, I didn’t expect it to be used in classrooms. Someone from their board came and said, “What would you do if you had carte blanche in a classroom?” And I said, “Well, I would just, every student work at their own pace on something like this and we’d give a dashboard.” And they said, “Oh, this is kind of radical. We have to think about it.” And me and the rest of the team were like, “They’re never going to want to do this.” But literally the next day they were like, “Can you start in two weeks?”


Bill Gates: So fifth grade math is where that’s going on right now?

Salman Khan:It’s two fifth grade classes and two seventh grade classes. And they’re doing it at the district level. I think what they’re excited about is they can now follow these kids. It’s not an only-in-school thing. We’ve even, on Christmas, we saw some of the kids were doing it. And we can track everything. So they can actually track them as they go through the entire district. Through the summers, as they go from one teacher to the next, you have this continuity of data that even at the district level they can see.


Bill Gates: So some of those views we saw were for the teacher to go in and track actually what’s going on with those kids. So you’re getting feedback on those teacher views to see what they think they mean?

Salman Khan:Oh yeah. Most of those were specs by the teachers. We made some of those for students so they could see their data, but we have a very tight design loop with the teachers themselves. And they’re literally saying, “Hey, this is nice, but … ” Like that focus graph, a lot of the teachers said, “I have a feeling that a lot of the kids are jumping around and not focusing on one topic.” So we made that focus diagram. So it’s all been teacher-driven. It’s been pretty crazy.


Bill Gates: Is this ready for prime time? Do you think a lot of classes next school year should try this thing out?


Salman Khan:Yeah, it’s ready. We’ve got a million people on the site already, so we can handle a few more. (Laughter) No, no reason why it really can’t happen in every classroom in America tomorrow.

Bill Gates: And the vision of the tutoring thing. The idea there is, if I’m confused about a topic, somehow right in the user interface I’d find people who are volunteering, maybe see their reputation, and I could schedule and connect up with those people?


Salman Khan:Absolutely. And this is something that I recommend everyone in this audience to do. Those dashboards the teachers have, you can go log in right now and you can essentially become a coach for your kids, or nephews, or cousins, or maybe some kids at the Boys and Girls Club. And yeah, you can start becoming a mentor, a tutor, really immediately. But yeah, it’s all there.

Bill Gates: Well, it’s amazing. I think you just got a glimpse of the future of education. Thank you.


Salman Khan: Thank you.


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