First Person: A conversation with Sal Khan

Founder of Mountain View-based Khan Academy discusses his career and goals

Watch full video

Sal Khan is revolutionizing education, one 10 minute YouTube video at a time. He has produced more than 2,700 segments covering everything from first grade addition to venture capital.

Khan, a former hedge fund analyst, has recently won financial support from the Gates Foundation, Google and other backers to maintain the Mountain View-based Khan Academy as an independent, commercial-free non-profit serving more than 2.5 million unique visitors per month and 200,000 to 300,000 views per day -- a 10-fold growth spurt this year thus far.

Khan is currently collaborating with Bay Area school districts, including Los Altos, San Jose and Oakland, to explore how his videos can be used to enhance education and leverage limited resources, as well exploring ways to work with students worldwide.

Interview by Lisa Van Dusen. Video by Rachel Hatch.

Related material:

Feature story: Teacher to the world

— Palo Alto Online staff

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Posted by parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 26, 2011 at 11:26 am

We should convince Khan to move to Greenmeadow, the best community inside Palo Alto.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Another article about this modern approach to education.
He sounds like a generous, fabulous person and a great teacher.
I saw a national tv news story about Khan Academy being used on laptops at an acclaimed Los Altos elementary school (Bullis Charter, I think) and it was hinted that some teachers may be threated initially with the idea of a kid at a laptop and teachers as facilitators. However it works so effectively - kids move ahead at their own pace and the key point is they DO move ahead on learning and understanding fo' real - that there isn't any justification for teachers being threatened. That said, I am waiting for teachers unions to oppose this program being used in more widespread fashion. Let's see.

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Posted by OldSchoolMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Maybe a great supplemental material. Good teachers are not replaceable. Human factor is priceless. There is a reason why toddlers are given toys first, then a computer. I agree, that it is a convenient individualized method of education. But, it doesn't promote research skills. Click hint and it's all available for review.

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Posted by LAParent
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Sep 27, 2011 at 9:33 am

Santa Rita Elementary, in Los Altos, just recently rolled out their Khan Academy curriculum plan for math. It is in conjunction with other math work taught by the teachers. It is complementary and mostly done at home. It seems to be working out fairly well. But of course it's new for teachers, students and parents and it may take some time to get used to it and more time to see how well it is being implemented. But I think it is particularly useful for the kids who like to work on their own schedule. An added benefit is that it gets these kids more familiar with the use of computer as an educational tool, rather than a device for playing games.

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Posted by John Jacobs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 27, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Khan Academy has great potential as a supplement to a well-designed math curriculum. Technology is inherently motivating for kids, and the idea of being able to "work ahead" of the group is also very appealing. However, a critical part of teaching mathematics effectively is posing interesting questions to kids, having them interact with each other in pairs and groups, as well as with the teacher, around those questions, checking for conceptual as well as procedural understanding in incremental steps as the lesson proceeds and having students try to apply what they have learned through interesting word problems. The Khan folks understand that as of now, their material is focused mostly on the procedural, but even then, you can't really see the students' methodology as they work online. Are they counting on their fingers? Are they making lots of little marks on a piece of paper? Do they really understand what they're doing? The good thing is that the Khan Academy folks are really reaching out to teachers now piloting the materials to solicit feedback in order to improve the product. At best, however, online material in any form can only be a supplement, not a substitute, for an effective classroom teacher.

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