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Why Khan Academy is so popular—and why teachers shouldn’t feel threatened

Founder Sal Khan discusses his nonprofit venture during NSBA’s annual conference

Sal Khan’s nonprofit now contains more than 3,100 free video tutorials, mostly on math and science—but the site has begun expanding its scope to other subjects, too.

Sal Khan, whose online Khan Academy serves up video tutorials to more than 6 million students worldwide each month, wants to reassure teachers that the free educational service isn’t out to take their jobs—nor is it a statement about a teacher’s ability to deliver a lesson effectively.

On the contrary, Khan said, teachers who are using the service with their students feel more empowered than ever.

“It liberates the classroom,” he told attendees of the National School Boards Association’s 72nd annual conference in Boston, “and teachers’ creativity comes out.”

Warm and engaging, with a self-deprecating sense of humor, Khan discussed his nonprofit venture during an April 22 keynote speech to a few thousand school board members, who interrupted him with frequent rounds of applause.

Khan Academy now contains more than 3,100 free video tutorials, mostly on math and science—but the site has begun expanding its scope to other subjects, too.

What started as an idea to tutor his 12-year-old cousin Nadia from a distance in 2004 has now surpassed 140 million lessons streamed online and is helping 10 times more students learn each month than the entire number of students who’ve graduated from Harvard University since 1636, Khan said.

And the reason for the website’s success is simple: Students can access the content “when and how they want it.”

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Comments:

  1. michaeldufresne

    April 24, 2012 at 3:53 am

    An educational field of dreams: Provide it and they will learn.

    Khan Academy’s success and popular acclaim make me wonder why colleges’ best efforts at online education get such a bad rap.

    I am working to develop high-interest mini-lecture videos and other materials to give the on-site portion of my blended classes more of a flipped, student-inquiry-driven focus. Under our current approach, students are expected to begin prep work prior to each class meeting, but most don’t bother as there is no real incentive. I will require that students post questions or topics for class discussion prior to each class meeting and focus much of the meeting on those suggestions.

    I would be interested in hearing others’ ideas for motivating pre-class engagement!

    Michael Dufresne
    mdufresne@devry.edu

  2. shopeje

    April 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    I am so thankful for this very valuable resource, not only for what it can provide for students, but also for the new doors of practical educational opportunities it opens for teachers, and parents, and those interested in systematic review and learning.
    Dr. James E. Shope, Ed.D.
    Erwin Hill Church of God, Kennesaw State University, and Piedmont College

  3. computerhead

    April 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I have been using Khan Academy for years as a remedial resource for students. And myself :-)

    Khan should get a Nobel Prize for what he has
    brought to the world, particularly the Third
    World. This may sound over-stated at first,
    but they have been passing out Prizes for a
    lot less lately. Why not one for a teacher
    who has been providing intellectual
    enlightenment to the whole world ?

  4. brucebfriend

    April 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Kahn has put together some nice instructional videos for students. For greater utility and customization of this type of resource I would encourage readers to check out Virtual Nerd at virtualnerd.com

  5. ad1ult

    April 27, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Kahn Academy is assisting our Adult Ed students in many ways, but especially in Math. These students are using on-line programmed lessons/reviews/tests and are missing out on the “in classroom teacher touch” that is so important. When they utilize Kahn Academy, they not only see a visual of the Math, but they hear a calm, energetic and understanding voice. Kahn’s sense of understanding the “unseen” student coupled with his sense of humor makes this one of the best and concise methods of distance learning! Thank you!

  6. backpacktv

    May 7, 2012 at 2:18 am

    Khan Academy is an excellent resource for students and teachers, but I think Sal Khan would be the first to admit that it’s only a supplement and not a substitute for students solving math and science problems through lots of practice. It’s all worth noting that other teachers are making an enormous positive impact through education videos like Patrick Jones of PatrickJMT and Robert Adhoot of YahMath.

    -Joe Wagner
    Backpack TV – education videos