Khan Academy…

Posted on October 22, 2020


“Phil on Ed Tech” interviewed Sal Khan at CanvasCon. I registered for it but couldn’t get into anything interesting so I inferred it was Big Corporate Entities talking at Big Institutions and bugged out. Wish I could remember the really cool online conference that had lounges and chat rooms and everything…

Did Sal Khan think it would get this big? He acknowledged that he does dream delusionally big and he countered that with “but it’s worth doing evein if it’s just helping the person in front of you.” That was a refreshing surprise πŸ˜‰

Why does he think it was so successful? He thinks it’s partly the “family” aspect, that you can hear his passion and that he’s trying to help. He says he was the student who wanted to ponder how things work and wanted more than just “here’s how to do it.”

This is in extreme contrast to his procedural explanations with the occasional lip service to understanding (without exploring that understanding) and his statement that the way you get to understanding is to do lots of problems. Perhaps he assumes that everybody is drawn to that ” pondering” and … I’m not sure what his “ponderings” connect to.

Phil goes on to ask him about the tendency to go to magic algorithms — oops, no, he’s not talking about the instruction of math 😦 but about people selling tech. They talk about the non-tech aspects — “you can learn without shame” because you can rewind. (An extremely overrated quality in my opinion.) Phil “gets” the tone he’s mentioning (Sal Khan noted that a reason for popularity was you could hear his passion for the topics in his tone) and that the “human element” gets overlooked in platforms such as these. (He doesn’t address that even with such a warm family tone, it’s still old school procedural chalk and talk.)

Ah, now, what were the biggest mistakes, things he would do over?

He’s taken a personality test and he’s a “likes to get things done” person (the “production before perfection”) and he’s a “big dreamer.” (Yellow is process oriented, Green is “bring along other people for the ride.” I am grateful I have not had to endure this test, but yea, including other people who might know a thing or two might have been good.)

“me not communicating as well as possible, or me not driving process as well as possible.”

Where does he begin for pedagogy, fit in with other systems?

“we are a strategic supplement.”

Welp, that’s I think a bit of a change of perspective…

He talks about the benefits of personalized practice with lots of feedback and a dashboard, and his partnerships with SAT and LMS and assessments, and how that’s the central way that teachers communicate. He dreams of more coherent integration with systems because Ed Tech is so fragmented. So the practice would fit better I guess πŸ™‚ … but also, so they’d do better on the SAT because that’s what’s important in life?

Then a shift to “okay, what did 2020 do?” and basically, it exploded the use, starting in Asia… and they realized they’d need more servers, etc πŸ˜‰ and look for ways to keep people learning during the summer (“always a problem slash opportunity”) also design stuff like “Getting Ready for Grade Level Courses” to evaluate how ready a student is for grade level work by assessing them on the prerequisites. If you’re not ready, they have the practice to get you that strong foundation.

Yes, still, *practice* is what will get you that foundation. Missing the foundation concepts? Shhh…. we can’t talk about that. Don’t you know you figure out the concepts from doing the problems? Hidden message: Unless you don’t, but those are the folks that Probably Wouldn’t Get It Anyway.

I wonder, has Sal Khan talked about UDL? Does he think “universal design” means “they can rewind as often as they like” and “this is just a supplement” (as in “oh, it’s a black box I don’t need to peek into)?

Next topic: Financial sustainability? What about that with things like servers getting more expensive? Sal Khan says yea, it is, but basically it’s a “very powerful social return on investment” from the philanthropic community. SAT and LSAT …

Underserved populations?

well, his goal is “world-class education to everybody” — that yea, it’s free but you need baseline stuff like internet access and they try to have stuff for phones but it’s less optmal, but “they’re better than nothing for a lot of kids.”

He says that for the middle and upper, they alread have stuff so they want to give them something *better,* but the lower income kids, the kids,” under-resourced, underserved, their status qho is here (gestures lower) so if we can provide them this, it’s a massive improvement.”

Okay, here’s a pleasant surprise!! He addresses that yea, some ‘underrepresneted” find them anyway but those are the already motivated ones. They have been reaching out to districts to try to get the ones “most vulnerable, most on the fence” they have to go to the schools. I appreciate that he’s not lauding some amazing success in some place where a few folks rose to the top, but is trying to reach out.

So what’s the role of tech in the future?

He talks about the potential for people to be able to learn on their on terms; that if you know something you know it, and it is less important howlong it took you to get there so it opens up things. He also gets back several times to figuring out what the people need not “here’s a cool tool, how can we use it?”

And now is working again, so let me play wiht that — and my 11:00 moved appt to 2:00 so I might get that quiz done.

Posted in: math education