I’m sure many can relate when I say I’ve had some BAD teachers. There was one history teacher in particular that still makes me get convulsions when I hear the word “cacique”. That’s pretty ironic because I love history. It makes you wonder how different people’s educational experiences would have been if they were taught in a more engaging manner. And more importantly, how different would the lives of people in underdeveloped countries be if they had better access to education.
Well one California-based techie has done a lot more than navel gaze about education. He has created a free web resource for anyone, anywhere that wants to learn subjects like math, science, astronomy and even history. The name of the organisation is Khan Academy.
Khan Academy is very much the brainchild (and brain work) of one man – Salman Khan, a Louisiana-born arch nerd (this is a compliment). Khan – who possesses degrees in mathematics, electrical engineering and computer science, as well as an MBA from Harvard Business School – became an educator by accident. His skill in tutoring his niece led other family and friends to ask him for help. Khan started to make YouTube videos to facilitate and from there Khan Academy was born.
How does it work? You go to the website, click the video you want to see and watch. It’s that simple. You don’t even have to sign up or create some sort of profile. The videos run for approximately ten minutes and most lessons go from the basic to the high school level. There are over 2,000 videos on the site that in total have received over 38 million views (according to the Khan Academy). The site also includes automated exercises and peer-to-peer tutoring.
Who’s it for? Anybody at the educational level that wants to use it. That includes Trini students at both the primary and secondary school level. What’s even more exciting is that the Khan Academy is actively working to make sure people in societies with inadequate educational systems have access to the video – both on and offline. Individuals and organisations are donating money to Khan Academy to ensure the lessons are translated into other languages and distributed internationally, including Google, who has pledged US$2 million.
So maybe next time the dull monotone of one of your teachers has you tuning out the solution might be to tune in to the Khan Academy. It’s worth a try. You don’t want to look back one day and say “hey, I really like calculus!” Nah, that’s not going to happen.