Last week’s post by Ray Maguire (on using computer game development to rekindle a sense of purpose among schoolchildren) led to a number of offline and email conversations around the topic of education.
One of the first was from Jim Farver, a man with 30 years of industrial training experience, who introduced us to the Khan Academy which is a fantastic and growing free resource of short (and that’s important) videos on masses of subjects. I learnt about gravity and diabetes but I could just as easily have worked through a sequence of videos on calculus or chemistry.
What makes these videos special is the fact that anyone can watch the videos at any time. Been off sick and missed a bit of trigonometry? The normal approach is to get an already hard-pressed teacher to coach you or to pick up what you can from fellow pupils, who might have better things to do. And, how embarrassing is it if you still don’t ‘get’ it? You can watch the Khan videos until you really understand.
In the classroom, how about letting the kids pace themselves and step in when needed? Back end metrics can show who’s doing what and who’s stuck. Everyone in the class moves through the curriculum at the pace that suits them rather than having the teacher delivering the same material to all, boring those who are fast and leaving behind those who are slow.
It transforms the lives of teachers and pupils alike. And, if you’re at all curious about subjects like gravity or diabetes, the answers are right there, delivered by a friendly human in less time than it takes to read a Wikipedia page, for example.
Here’s Salman Khan explaining his approach at TED: