Salman Khan, fully Salman Amin "Sal" Khan

Khan, fully Salman Amin "Sal" Khan

American Educator, Entrepreneur, former Hedge Fund Analyst, Founder of the Khan Academy, a free online education platform and nonprofit organization

Author Quotes

Yeah, for an organization of 50 people, 7 are devoted to analytics/learning science. We have post docs from several universities who are doing learning science research on the platform. We also are constantly running on the order of 20 experiments at any given moment to understand how to optimize student learning and engagement.

You can go to a university that has many professors, but when you take intro to American History, you get only one source. You?re getting that one professor. We think we can provide more voices than what is traditionally provided.

You can standardize curricula, but you can?t standardize learning. No two brains are the same; no two pathways through the infinitely subtle web of knowledge are the same. Even the most rigorous standardized tests demonstrate only an approximate grasp of a certain subset of ideas that each student understands in his or her own way. Personal responsibility for learning goes hand in hand with recognition of the uniqueness of each learner.

You know what I think a lot of people don't realize is that there's actually been research in the space to study the lecture, and it's pretty decisive. It's never been really contradicted that people can pay attention for about 10 to 18 minutes. Afterwards, they start zoning out, then they can kind of recheck-in for about 10 minutes, then they zone out for an even longer period of time and that keeps going on. And studies have shown that when you do lecture at someone, that you actually retain some of the early information. You retain very little of the latter information. And just as you described, a lot of the reason why we do it this way is really logistics. Logistics come from - coming from a reality where we didn't have any other technologies to deliver the information. So we - for the most part in colleges and K-12 around the world, we still have a bunch of students sitting there for 60 to 90 minutes being lectured at.

You?ll also think about things that you wish you?d done just little bit better, call them regrets if you want. I have a sense of what those regrets might be. They?ll be like, I did all right but I wish that I had spent more time with my children. I wish that I told my spouse that I loved them more frequently. I wish that I spread more positivity, empowered more people, validated more people, and smiled more often, and laughed more often. I wish that I had a chance to spend more time and hug and tell my parents how much I loved them before they passed.

We?ve always known that one-on-one is the best way to learn, but we?ve never been able to figure out how to do it.

What I didn?t want was the dreary process that sometimes went on in classrooms ? rote memorization and plug-in formulas aimed at nothing more lasting or meaningful then a good grade on the next exam. Rather, I hoped to help students see the connections, the progression, between one lesson and the next; to hone their intuitions so that mere information, absorbed one concept at a time, could develop into true mastery of the subject. In a word, I wanted to restore the excitement ? the active participation in learning and the natural high that went with it ? that conventional curricula sometimes seemed to bludgeon into submission.

We?re not out to fight some political battle. We?re out to build stuff that?s useful.

They preferred the automated version of their cousin (Khan), to their cousin! they can pause and repeat their cousin...they can review something they learned a week ago ...they can watch it on their own time at their own pace

Unfortunately, the standard classroom model tends to ignore or even fly in the face of these fundamental biological truths. Stressing passivity over activity is one such misstep. Another, equally important, is the failure of standardized education to maximize the brain?s capacity for associative learning.

The only thing that kept me going were small acts of validation, letters from people around the world saying, ?This really helped. I got an A on my algebra exam.? or ?This is the reason I was able to go back to college or whatever else. Then all of a sudden really when I was almost at the lowest point, I was about to give up I got the biggest act of validation, one in a series really.

The second idea I want to share, all of these are works in progress, is the idea of being a life-long learner. That is something I want to stress as much as possible. Given the phase that you?re about to enter, the next ten years or so, it?s your chance to ask the naive questions which I later learned were the profound questions, the ones that are actually going to be the game changers. It?s your chance to really invest in yourself. One thing that I have, a unique vantage point of the Khan Academy, is that we see all of these lifelong learners and how much it?s changing their own views.

The worst time to learn something is when someone is standing over your shoulder going, ?Do you get it?

These are the kinds of curious, mysterious, and original minds that often end up making major contributions to our world; to reach their full potential, however, they need the latitude to follow their own oblique, nonstandard paths. That latitude is seldom found in a conventional, box-shaped classroom in which everyone is supposed to be doing the exact same lesson, and differentness is generally used as a negative.

Portability and self-pacing ? are essential aids to active, self-motivated learning. For a student to truly take ownership of his education, however, there?s another resource that?s required: easy and ongoing access to the lessons that have come before. This is where Internet-based learning offers a huge advantage over textbooks and other conventional materials. Lessons never disappear.

Some things are as simple as changing the types of hints given for an exercise. Others are things like seeing what happens if we give students "growth mindset" quotes (quotes that emphasize effort/perseverance over ability) while doing math problems (based on the work of Carol Dweck at Stanford).

Sometimes we see what teachers are doing in class, and we realize that it should be a feature in the videos or the software. For example, we?ve created a profile of the students for the teachers to look at. But teachers have started to use it in a different way. They?re asking students to look at their profiles and come up with their own goals. And right now the kids are looking at it and writing their goals on notecards. So we thought we should automate that process and build it in. And using that profile, Khan Academy can make suggestions too. So students can say: ?These are my 20 goals for the month.? ?These are my three definite goals and these are my three stretch goals? and you can look at it at the end of the week compared to where you were. So we?re learning a ton from the teachers themselves. And we?re actually going to hire some of them. There are teachers who were laid off, some of the best teachers the district has. It was a travesty at first, then we thought, Gee, we could hire them. These teachers have been masterful with the technology and what to do with it. They weren?t afraid of the ambiguity.

The act of doing anything does help you learn. Fundamentally, if you are passive in anything, you're probably not that engaged. And I think a lot of students do take notes literally just to stay awake, literally to be engaged. A lot of students, they don't, you know, they don't use their notes later on. It's just really to somewhat stay engaged. But that's the whole point. If we want students to stay engaged, going through this exercise of taking notes while listening to a lecture, and oftentimes not being able to listen because they're taking notes, let's just make it more active. Instead of doing this change-ups every 10 or 15 minutes, let's make the whole classroom change up. Let's make the whole classroom - students teaching each other, students having a conversation with each other. The one thing I point out a lot in the book is, you know, we talk about this human experience of education. But when students are sitting in a classroom and there's someone lecturing at them, maybe they're taking notes, you're in room with 30, maybe 300 other people of a college level, that's a very dehumanizing experience.

The first thing I really want to think together about is how you can leverage that validation that you?re about to get to increase the positivity in the world, to increase the net happiness in the world, to help and hopefully empower others. I personally believe it will probably come back to you. A free world-class education for anyone anywhere.

The flipped classroom is an idea that predates Khan Academy. It is the idea of getting lectures at home and doing problem sets (traditionally done as homework) in the classroom with the teachers and students. We became associated with it because I started receiving letters from teachers as early as 2007 who were using my videos in this way (and I mentioned it halfway into my TED talk). I think it is great in that is focuses class time on interaction and allows students to access explanations as they need them. At Khan Academy, however, we think that removing lectures as the focal point of the classroom allows you to go even further. Now you could allow every student to move at their own pace while getting help from the teacher and peers. Once every student can go at their own pace, then you can ensure they master concepts much more deeply before moving on to more complex topics.

The goal of Khan Academy has always been to be much more than a video library. I actually started working on the exercise/teacher-tool part of Khan Academy before making the first video (and the first video was just to complement this software). We have always been about trying to use technology to make learning and the classroom more interactive so much of what most of our team is focusing on right now is the interactive content and teacher dashboards.

Most of the kids, as expected, rocketed through the early concepts. But some didn?t. A few got stuck on things as fundamental as two digit subtraction problems. Some had clearly never learned their multiplication tables. Others were lacking basic skills regarding fractions or division. I stress that these were motivated and intelligent kids. But for whatever reason, the Swiss cheese gaps in their learning had started creeping in at a distressingly early stage, and until those gaps were repaired they had little chance of mastering algebra and beyond. The good news, however is that once identified, those gaps could be repaired, and that when the shaky foundation had been rebuilt, the kids were able to advance quite smoothly. This was in vivid and unexpected contrast to the group that had started at the fifth-grade level. Since they?d begun with such a big head start, I assumed that by the end of the six-week program they would be working on far more advanced concepts than the other group. In fact just the opposite happened. As in the classic story of the tortoise and the hare, the 1+1 group plodded and plodded and eventually passed them right by. Some of the students in the ?head start? group, on the other hand, hit a wall and just couldn?t seem to progress? presumably because of gaps in earlier concepts. In comparing the performance of the two groups, the conclusion seemed abundantly clear: Nearly all the students needed some degree of remediation, and the time spent on finding and fixing gaps turned out both to save time and deepen learning in the longer term.

Now, we have very on-demand ways to access media, obviously, things like YouTube, obviously, things like Khan Academy, what I work on. But there's other efforts. There's edX at MIT and Harvard doing where - and a lot of med schools have actually been doing this for a little while where students are getting the information delivery, the lecture at their own time and pace. And there are benefits to that because you can pause. If there's a word you don't understand, you can look it up on the Internet. You can go ask a friend. If you forgot a little bit of your view material from a couple of years ago, no need to be embarrassed and raise your hand in the middle of class and stop everyone's learning. You can go review that material, and you don't have to take notes because it's always there. And then when you go to class time, you can use that for something more valuable like a conversation or a project or some type of peer-to-peer learning.

One thing I want to stress, I?ve gone through ups and downs and you only have one perspective for your own life but I suspect many of you are going to have higher ups than I?ve had and many are going to have lower downs. I worry about that sometimes. The ones of you that have higher ups just keep them in perspective. It?s inevitable some of you are going to race ahead and be so successful that none of us can imagine it right now. Keep them in perspective. Enjoy the successes but when your ego starts feeling a little bit large keep in mind the sun will supernova one day the galaxies will collide we are sees small little mammals on the small planet, there?s 100-200 billion stars in just our galaxy alone. Just have peace in the little success and when you have a hard time and you will, and those are both painful periods and you might stumble at the start your first few times out the gate. Also keep them in perspective, those stresses, put them in perspective of the universe.

Our goal right now is, on videos and exercises, let?s as quickly as possible do a really solid first pass, use as much data as possible to iterate on it, and improve it. Then we?ll learn from the data. We know from the data that it?s much more appropriate for a lot more people than what they?re getting now.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Khan, fully Salman Amin "Sal" Khan
Birth Date

American Educator, Entrepreneur, former Hedge Fund Analyst, Founder of the Khan Academy, a free online education platform and nonprofit organization