The Sal Khan Revolution

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If you’re in education, you must have heard of him by now. He’s the self-effacing, fast-talking, visionary behind The Khan Academy. The charismatic brainiac who’s created more than 2,000 instructional videos about everything from photosynthesis to the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Sal Khan has worked up quite the celebrity within the educational world. As former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein recently noted, “Sal Khan has 50 million people on a site that doesn’t sell sex.” He must really be onto something.

Even big shots like Bill Gates are jumping on the Khan bandwagon. With millions of dollars already invested in Khan’s vision, his free YouTube videos (the full collection of which make up The Khan Academy), will profoundly change what we know as classroom instruction. What started as a simple way to help his niece through her algebra homework has become a revolutionary way of teaching.

In the Los Altos School District, his videos have been incorporated into two fifth-grade and two seventh-grade math classes, and will likely expand to other grades and possibly even schools in the district next year.

Here’s how it works: Students watch the videos in class (all of them produced by Khan), take “gamified” assessments that determine whether they understand the concept, and move on to the next level when they’re ready. The teacher can monitor each student’s progress with a dashboard: the green bar shows they’re proficient, blue indicates they’re working on it, and red alerts teachers that students are stuck on a problem.

This approach seems to work for one simple reason: The fact that students can go back and replay the videos as many times as they need to understand a concept eliminates what Khan calls the “Swiss cheese” gaps in knowledge. Unlike with traditional classes, a student can’t move to the next level until he’s understood the one before it.

It’s pretty cool stuff and so intuitive. Have you incorporated any of Khan’s videos into your lessons?

Check out Khan’s recent TED Talk below.

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