Posted by: Deborah D | September 3, 2010

Will the Internet revamp education?

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Will the Internet revamp education?

The Internet has revamped many an institution, so is education next? We certainly hope so. As the Internet has become a necessary corrective to a hopelessly left-wing press, can it also be a corrective to an educational establishment that has become so politically correct, inefficient, costly and mired in politics instead of doing its main job: educating our children? This is one of the more positive stories I’ve read in a long time. Be prepared for this innovator to be attacked by Obama, the educational establishment, Democrats and their union backers (oh, and maybe that left-wing press I wrote about.) They already don’t like home schooling and, apparently, charter school vouchers for inner city children. What will they think of Salman Kahn? This is from Bruno Behrend at the website:

…Is it possible that a short education story in Fortune Magazine and on CNN’s Money site will shake the foundations of America’s overpriced and underperforming education system? One can only hope.

A recent CNN/Fortune Magazine story entitled “Bill Gates’ favorite teacher” told an amazing story of how one young man is revolutionizing the delivery of knowledge over the internet. The site and method is so successful that Bill Gates and venture capitalist John Doerr have snapped to attention at the growing phenomenon of the Khan Academy, an on-line school providing sequenced curricula on a wide range of content – all for free.

The first thing that should come to mind as you read the article is the massive potential value of Khan’s idea, not to mention the value of the 1000s of imitators and innovators who will build on the foundation that he has built. The next thing that we should all understand is the pointless waste of today’s overpriced and underperforming education system. Snip –

The existence of Khan Academy should force us to question everything about how we will educate the coming generations of Americans. Will we still need teachers? Yes, but far fewer than what we have now. We will also need to redefine the word ‘teacher’ way beyond the borders of today’s limited, union-defined monopoly.

Will we still need brick and mortar schools? Probably, but far fewer than the massively wasteful infrastructure we have now. Spend a few minutes on Khan Academy’s site, and you realize that an I-Pad, smart phone, or similar device, combined with a network of independent learning centers, could revolutionize education in less than a decade – all for a fraction of the cost.

Read it all here:

You can read the story of Salman Kahn, a son of Indian immigrants, and how his academy came into being just a few short years ago in 2006 and how much he has impressed Bill Gates. This is from David A. Kaplan at

What’s remarkable about Khan Academy, aside from its nonpareil word of mouth and burgeoning growth, is that it’s free and prizes brevity. Remember your mumbling macroeconomics teacher whose 50-minute monologue in a large auditorium could bore the dead? That isn’t Khan. He rarely cracks wise…but in less than 15 minutes Khan gets to the essence of the topics he’s carved out.

Online critics question whether he amounts to a dilettante who’s turning learning into pedagogical McNuggets. But while you obviously don’t learn calculus in one session — the subject is divided into 191 parts, which doesn’t include 32 more in precalc — Khan’s components seem to hit the sweet spot of length and substance. And he covers an astonishing array. There are the core subjects in math — arithmetic, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and statistics — and the de rigueur science offerings, like biology, chemistry, and physics. But Khan also gives lessons in Economics of a Cupcake Factory, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Alien Abduction Brain Teaser.

Like so many entrepreneurial epiphanies, Khan’s came by accident. Born and raised in New Orleans — the son of immigrants from India and what’s now Bangladesh — Khan was long an academic star. With his MBA from Harvard, he has three degrees from MIT: a BS in math and a BS and a master’s in electrical engineering and computer science. He also was the president of his MIT class and did volunteer teaching in nearby Brookline for talented children, as well as developed software to teach children with ADHD. What he doesn’t know he picks up from endless reading and cogitation: His gift, like that of many teachers, is being able to reduce the complex. “Part of the beauty of what he does is his consistency,” says (Bill) Gates. Of Khan’s capacity to teach, Gates, who says he spends considerable time trying to help his three kids learn the basics of math and science, tells Fortune, “I kind of envy him.”

In the summer of 2004, while still living in Boston, Khan learned that his seventh-grader cousin, Nadia, in New Orleans was having trouble in math class converting kilograms. He agreed to remotely tutor her. Using Yahoo Doodle software as a shared notepad, as well as a telephone, Nadia thrived — so much so that Khan started working with her brothers, Ali and Arman. Word spread to other relatives and friends. Khan wrote JavaScript problem generators to keep up a supply of practice exercises. But between their soccer practices, his job, and multiple time zones, scheduling became impossible. “I started to record videos on YouTube for them to watch at their own pace,” Khan recalls. Other users tuned in, and the blueprint for Khan Academy was created.

Read it all here:

Kahn’s story is the story of America. It’s the story of the immigrants who come here legally and bring with them their drive for excellence, their brilliance and their will to succeed. This is the America we want to thrive, not the one that says – “come on in everyone and the rest of the country will support you.” We want contributors to the fabric of America, not those who wish to rip that fabric apart. We need these innovators today now more than ever. They are just as important to our country as a Bill Gates or a Henry Ford. We need them to rebuild America before the left tears it down completely.

As blogger Behrend says, “It is time to question the meaning of the words ‘education reform’ and the investment in reforming the current system. Once the automobile was invented, there was no need for ‘buggy whip reform’ or ‘horse turnaround plans.’ Mr. Khan, and those like him, has exposed the current system for the obsolete monopoly that it is. This article lays waste to the idea of ‘reforming’ the current system. The best thing we can do is rapidly manage the transition to an entirely new education model.”

I took a short primer in biology at the Kahn Academy. His simplicity, brevity, and general likeability made the learning fun and interesting. Since I never believed I got a decent education in math, I plan to take the algebra primer in the coming weeks. It is truly exciting. You can check out the Kahn Academy here:


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  1. Wow! What an amazing story and an amazing and inspirational young man! If they had had this available when our younger son was in school, I do believe we would be in a different place now. He loved (loves) the computer and was bored to death with school and what he called “busy work”. I’m rooting for it to become our grandsons future!

  2. The answer to your question is Yes! It is already changing things at the higher end of the education spectrum. The reason it takes so long at the lower level is that for many people it is more about free babysitting and to the NEA it’s about protecting losers who can’t function in a competitive economy. I realize there are a lot of great teachers but they don’t need the protection of the NEA and where would the Democrat party be without the NEA funding their socialist programs.

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