Newsmakers

Sal Khan Learns from Bill Gates

Former hedge fund analyst Sal Khan never intended to befriend Bill Gates nor flip the typical model of education upside down by posting tutoring videos on YouTube back in 2004.

Khan, living in Boston at the time, was remotely tutoring his cousins in New Orleans and began noticing the effectiveness of uploading lessons online.

Soon enough, he developed a following and Khan eventually quit his day-job to start Khan Academy in 2008, a non-profit with a mission to create a "free world-class education for anyone anywhere." The academy's website now has a library of over 3,400 videos covering K-12 math, biology, chemistry, physics in "digestible chunks" about ten minutes long.

In 2010, he received a $2 million grant from Google and a $1.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. When asked what has surprised him the most about working with Bill Gates, Khan said the Microsoft founder "deeply cares" about education and teachers.

"He says, yeah, this technology is nice, we can help, the tools are nice, the data is nice. But at the end of the day, it's all about having a great teacher," Khan said.

How teachers interact with students is where Khan Academy is a game-changer.  In about five to ten years, Khan said lecture-based teaching will be a relic of the past only to be found in history books.

"It's going to become mainstream for people to say, 'Why are we giving lectures in classrooms?' 'Can't we use that time to do something more human, more interactive?'" Khan said.

Some teachers have told him his videos have reversed their classrooms, as they assign the online lectures as homework, and use classroom time for hands-on learning. Khan is no stranger to the classroom. He has three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

A parent of two children in Mountain View, Calif., Khan said parents are making mistakes in two extremes.

"I think at one end of the spectrum, there's the mistake of putting it all on the teachers, putting it all on the school," he said. "I think parents should engage in the content, learn it themselves, engage with the students on it and help the teachers."

On the other end, Khan said parents are doing "too much" and over-scheduling their children."Let the students invent some stuff, create some stuff, because otherwise they're just going to create these students who are really good at performing but not that good at creating," he said.

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