Last week I posted about the extremely useful resource of video lessons called Khan Academy (see it here), and after such positive feedback from the network, I’d like to delve deeper into the TED talk that the creator gave called “Let’s use video to reinvent education.” The talk ends with an interview by Bill Gates who calls Khan’s innovation “a glimpse into the future of education.”

What started as a way for Salman Khan to tutor his cousins remotely from a different part of the country, has grown into what is now Khan Academy. At the time, Salman Khan was an analyst for a hedge fund, and he jokes that “it was very strange for [him] to do something of social value.” And we’re so glad he did!

What he first thought would only perhaps be a supplement to learning has now emerged as an entirely new way to structure a classroom. A teacher reached out to Khan and shared that she had found a fantastic way to use his instructive videos – to assign the videos as homework then use the classroom time to do what would usually be homework – simulations, games, mechanics, and failing to solve problems. See another post on the importance of failure here.

This way of teaching has even been piloted with a few classrooms in Los Altos of 5th and 7th graders to fantastic results. Read more about the pilot here.

What does this reversal of the standard class lecture and homework problems provide? Khan says:

“By removing the one size fits all lecture from the classroom and letting students have a self paced lecture at home.. in the classroom they can do work and let the teachers and peers interact with each other… humanizing the classroom. Now they are actually interacting with each other. The traditional model penalizes you for experimentation and failure but it does not expect mastery. We encourage you to experiment and fail, but we expect mastery.”

Teachers can monitor the mastery of their students with the online tools that Khan Academy provides for FREE – complete with diagrams and color codes to make it very clear what the teacher should customize with each individual student. Khan also thinks it’s important that the teacher can see what the student is having problems with without the embarrassing questions. “The very first time you get your brain around a concept, the last thing you need is another human being saying, ‘Do you understand this?'”

This method is also a solution to a current headlining problem of student to teacher ratio. From Khan:

“A lot of effort of humanizing the classroom is student to teacher ratio. In our mind, the relative metric is student to valuable human time with the teacher ratio. Under the traditional model of education, most of of the teachers’ time is spent doing lectures, maybe 5% of time is spent sitting with students and working with them. Now 100% of their time is… Our goal is to humanize what’s happening in education.”

You don’t have to be a registered teacher or student to log in, start learning, and track your progress. Anyone can join for free. Khan is fixated on the notion of a “global one world classroom.” From the adult learning who is embarrassed over what he or she missed in school or didn’t get a chance to learn to a child without access to school, anyone can find value in this site.