Salman Khan is like most people: when he used to think of YouTube, he thought of “cats playing the piano. No place for serious mathematics.” However, that changed recently when Khan started helping his cousins study for their math classes. Khan lives in Boston and his cousins live in New Orleans, so the easiest way to reach them was online. Now, Khan has extended his tutoring services to more people than just his family through Khan Academy, and with more than 3.5 million students using his videos to study each month, I would have to say that Khan has become pretty successful as an online tutor.
One person who has taken an interest in Khan and his online academy is Bill Gates, who in 2010 said he watched Khan Academy videos with his own children. Then, the Gates Foundation and Google made a $2 million donation to Khan Academy, which really helped Khan make progress on his pet-project. The money is currently being used to translate the materials into 10 languages.
So what is so special about Khan Academy and Khan’s way of teaching? Khan says he wants to help all students learn more effectively by moving away from the traditional lecture to homework to exams methodology of teaching.
“In a traditional classroom, what’s fixed is the amount of time you spend on a subject,” Khan said. The variable is how well you learn it. But when you think about all the things you learn outside a classroom – riding a bike, sports, playing an instrument – what you want to achieve is a certain mastery.”
It seems that this approach to teaching is helping a lot of people understand the subjects that Khan’s videos address. By devoting more time to a subject, we are able to better learn it, and Khan isn’t the only one who has noticed this trend.
“If I just want to tell you stuff, a lecture is very useful, but if I really want you to learn something it’s not that useful,” said Richard Baraniuk, a professor at Rice University and the founder of Connexions, a website that offers open sources for college textbooks. Baraniuk thinks that this traditional teaching method does not allow students “enough time to develop the long-term memory structures required for subject mastery.”
When critics ask Khan about his methodology and it’s effectiveness, he has a really good response for them:
“Our material isn’t just reviewed by Americans or a few professors,” he says. “It’s been reviewed by the world.”
Khan Academy currently features curriculum in four areas besides mathematics: art history, civvies, history, microeconomics, and macroeconomics. To see this world-reviewed material, click here.
Via The New York Times