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(music)
Jeff: I want to start by introducing Sal.
He really needs no introduction,
particularly for a group that's this passionate
about education, but as you all know,
In day is about transformation
and we love to be able to welcome folks
who I think are illustrative of true transformation
and Sal is absolutely an example of that
within the realm of education,
which is something all of us here are so passionate about.
So, for those that don't know,
I've been interested in education reform
and I may have to amend that.
I love the title of your TED talk, which is Reinvention,
Reinventing education because I think at this point we need reinvention.
I don't think reform is going to get it done.
I may have borrowed that line from Sal,
but I've been interested in education reform and reinvention
really since back graduating high school and at the time
was thinking about the best way to make a difference
and thought about going into teaching,
thought about administration,
thought about getting involved in public education
in some regard and the other alternative was going into business.
And people oftentimes say,
"Well, how can you go into business
and make a difference in terms of education?"
And the belief, the thesis was, amass enough influence and resource
where I'd ultimately have the chance to do that.
And long story short, being in business
led to meeting and extraordinary guy named Charles Best,
who's the founder and CEO of donorschoose.org,
which is a philanthropic marketplace for teachers
very close to my heart and being in business
brought me to TED this year and I had
the extraordinary privilege to see Sal Khan,
the founder of The Khan Academy, give a TED Talk
that literally brought the house down.
So, for all the talks that I was in attendance for
and there was some wonderful talks,
this talk that Sal gave literally lit the place up.
People were vibrating with energy on what was possible
because I think there was a lot of people
in the audience that day who know how challenging
it's going to be to make a difference
in terms of education.
For those of you in the audience who have
committed some of your time and energy,
you know that's the case and the reason
I wanted Sal to be here today was because,
to a large extent, and this may be a big statement,
I think he may have cracked the code.
I think he may have secretly cracked the code
on how we can improve education.
So, long story short, I think you all know by now,
but Sal was in the hedge fund business
and was asked to help out, it was your cousins?
Sal: Cousins.
Jeff: Your cousins with some math questions
they had, so did a YouTube video
and they raved about it and he'll tell you
a little bit more about the feedback he got
that was the impetus to do more and, of course,
fast forward today, he's got over 2,200 12 minute videos
from everything, algebra to American history
and it's helping people learn in ways
that were really unimaginable before the web came along.
And it's gone way beyond that, so there's a back-end system
that he and his team have put together
that, for lack of a better term, I'd say
has created a true adaptive learning platform
that's going to scale and we're going to talk
a little bit about that and if he doesn't mention it
one of my favorite Q and A parts of the entire TED conference
was an exchange between Bill Gates and Sal.
So, with that, how about a huge round of applause for Sal Khan.
(applause)
Welcoming him to LinkedIn and Sal,
I'm going to ask him a few questions to get started
and he'll talk a little bit, but we'd really love
for this to be a brainstorming session.
I think we've got a lot of incredible talent in the audience
We're going to be recording this so potentially
we can inspire some folks who are going
to see this remotely at some point
and maybe they can get involved too.
So, let's start with the beginning.
I know most people here saw the video,
but just talk a little bit about Khan Academy came to be.
Sal: Yeah, it was literally, as you mentioned
and I'm sure some of you all know,
I was an analyst at a hedge fund in Boston in 2000-
this is 2004, fall 2004 and my cousin and her family,
her two younger brothers, my aunt and uncle came
and visited me in Boston right after our wedding.
Our wedding was in New Jersey and they came up
to just kind of tour the sights and actually,
while we were touring Boston, it was the fourth of July weekend
and I remember while we were waiting for the fireworks
to start over the Charles, I would kind of give them my battery
of brain teasers that I use just as a time killer.
I'm sure you probably all use them as interview questions and what not.
(laughter)
They're very good, interview-
And I remember, Nadia, who was 12 at the time was super engaged.
Most people when you give them brain teasers like this,
my aunt and uncle, everyone else were like,
"What's the answer?"
But Nadia was like, "No, don't tell me the answer!"
And she would like walk out and these were hard,
CSE logic problems, 100 people who can't see -
There's all sorts of crazy things and I was really impressed.
The next day we were touring MIT and in front of the whole family,
I said, "Nadia, you should think about MIT.
"I saw you've got some skills," and she didn't pay -
My aunt, her mother, gave my uncle this weird look when I said that.
I didn't make much of it and then the next morning
(unintelligible) who is Nadia's mom told me,
"That's really nice what you said about Nadia yesterday,
"but she's actually being tracked into a slower,
"not even the regular algebra track."
I was like, "That's impossible."
One, I saw what she did two nights ago
and we share a certain amount of DNA. (laughter)
When Nadia woke up, I said,
"Hey, Nadia, I don't believe this placement exam.
"What was the problem?"
She said it was units.
I was like, "Two nights ago you were tackling stuff
"that's a million times harder than units.
"What do you say when you go back to New Orleans
"we get on Yahoo Doodle and speaker phone
"and if you're willing to do a little bit of extra work,
"I'm willing to spend half an hour an evening with you,"
and she was up for it, so that was the genesis.
Jeff: You referred during your TED talk to what made it so effective.
Half-jokingly that they liked you better in video
than they did in real life.
Sal: Non-jokingly, actually.
Jeff: In all seriousness.
Talk a little bit about the magic of what you did
and the efficacy and how you built on it from there.
Sal: It all started where I left off.
I started tutoring Nadia kind of live, but remotely.
Then I started tutoring her brothers and the whole time
I just had a doodle note board and speaker phone.
She only heard me, she didn't see me,
and we just saw the same thing that each of us were writing.
Fast forward about two years, so now we're going
into November of 2006, I was having trouble scaling.
The first time you give a lecture on the greatest common divisor
it's kind of fun, the 20th time it kind of sucks.
How do I do this?
It was actually a buddy that recommended
that I put it up on YouTube, which I was very dismissive of at first.
That's for dogs on skateboards, that's not for serious mathematics.
When I got over the idea that it wasn't my idea,
I decided to give it a shot and it was interesting,
because I was like, "Okay, how do I do this?"
"I don't have a video camera, should I go get one?"
I was like, "No, because that would cost money."
With Nadia, we just had this screen going,
so there must be some type of software that captures a screen.
I didn't even know there were screen capture software existed.
I did a web search, I found some freeware that did it,
and I needed an art program.
I only used Microsoft Paint for the first 500 videos
and just started doing it and when I put those first videos up,
the first collection of videos, 20 or 30 videos,
my cousins literally did tell me that they preferred me
on YouTube than in person.
I think there's a lot of things.
Since then, I've heard a lot of feedback.
One is just the form factor.
This is true of any on-demand video.
You can pause, you can repeat, you can review stuff
that you should've learned last week or last year
or a couple of years ago, you don't have to feel embarrassed.
You can do it when you're ready for it,
you can go ahead, it's not a one-size fits all,
but that's true of all on-demand video.
Khan Academy is not the first on-demand video.
MIT open courseware started doing this in 2001.
I'm sure there's people who did it before that.
I think the feedback I get over and over again from people
is that they appreciate how conversational it is.
To some degree, that wasn't by design.
It was literally like I didn't care, because it was for my cousins.
They're not paying me, so I said,
"Let me just make some videos for them."
There's literally an early video where I answered
a telemarketer call during the video and I don't edit it out.
It's just there, I'm like, "I'm not interested in Dish Network.
"Please stop bothering me," and I (laughter).
(unintelligible) Exactly, how to say no to obnoxious telemarketers.
People enjoy the conversational nature.
Early on, because these are for my cousins,
I didn't have a script, I didn't have a lesson plan even.
Some of those early videos, actually, I kind of cringe at them now,
because I'm like, "Hmm, what should I talk about now?"
and I just do, "Let's talk about this."
People really like the idea that I'm expressing exactly
what's going on in my brain right now.
It's not some thing that's made by some bureaucracy
to meet some state standard and one group of people write a script
with some computer graphics and then another group of people
just read the script while the computer graphics happen.
They like the organic nature.
A lot of people, once again, the form factor
that's kind of our brand now, I did it because I didn't want
to have a video camera, but people say it actually feels intimate,
it actually feels like you and I are sitting next to each other
and looking through the concept together.
This is kind of crazy.
I've gotten letters from people who've said,
"Not only does it feel like I'm next to you,
"it feels like you're in my brain."
When they go normally, on an everyday basis,
when they go and think they think in their own voice,
but as soon as they get to a math test, all of sudden they say,
"Well, let's see what the next -" and they hear me. (laughter)
The other thing is, it had to be limited to ten minutes.
I guess that was another Khan Academy innovation,
but once again, YouTube limited to ten minutes,
so I had to do it and that was really good discipline
and now I've gotten tons of feedback
and I've actually dug up research
that shows people actually can't pay attention
in any reasonable way for more than 10 to 18 minutes.
After they do, they zone our for five minutes.
After zoning out for five minutes, they realize they were zoning out.
They say, "Oh my God, let me pay attention,"
and then they can only zone in for nine minutes
and then they zone out for nine minutes.
The zoning out gets worse and the zoning in gets worse
as you go through a lecture.
The only reason why we have 60 minute lectures
is because of logistics.
All of these things have been an organic process
and I think our trick is to not lose any
of that very grounded approach that we started off with.
Jeff: One of the most revelatory things you mentioned in the TED talk,
I think, is directly akin to this notion of interactivity,
but you put some real data behind it, some anecdotes behind it.
That is kids who would otherwise be left behind in school
because they're not keeping pace with the class,
in terms of the fundamental building blocks.
When allowed to learn on their own through your tools,
once they got through that fundamental building block,
they then got ahead in the next block.
Sal: Yeah.
Jeff: So could you talk a little bit about that,
because that's a big deal.
Sal: There's a couple of trains of thought there.
We first saw it in a summer camp that we tried out
the primitive version of Khan Academy with
and literally, six weeks into the camp,
I was just curious, I literally just did a database query,
like who was more than one standard deviation behind
four days into the camp, and now is more
than one standard deviation above the class average
at the end of the camp and there was this one girl.
I won't mention the name for privacy,
but I talked to her later and literally, she just had to get
positive and negative numbers, adding and subtracting them
out of the way and after she did that, she just raced ahead
and we started looking for it more and more.
There's other things we found.
Not only that, which is a big deal, the kid that otherwise,
would have been tracked as a slow students is now showing
that if they just had the chance to really digest
the information properly, if you think about it,
that's actually a property of someone who is probably innately gifted,
is someone who really wants to digest something properly,
not just understand the mechanics and probably
some of those people are being left behind right now.
It allows them to race ahead, but the other interesting thing,
we've seen this in Los Altos, is there are some classically rock star students,
the ones that are always straight A, they're really competitive,
when you force them to start at the beginning,
from the most basic concepts, even some of them
start to stumble at things that they really should have learned
in third or fourth grade and what they've probably done since then
is just they've been very good at pretending around their deficiencies
or getting around them and so almost everyone has these gaps.
That same summer program where that first student was at,
one thing we saw over and over again,
there was actually two groups.
This was seventh graders.
In one group, the teacher said, "Oh no, this would be silly
"to make my seventh graders start at 1+1=2,"
so we started all of them at sixth grade math.
The other group, we're like, "Yeah, let's just start them off
"at 1+1=2," and we saw the group that didn't have the chance
to remediate, they just hit a wall at some point.
They just couldn't progress, or some subset of them
couldn't progress at some point, while the group that started
at 1+1=2, one, it was surprising how many really basic weaknesses
some of these seventh graders had.
Literally, adding two-digit numbers, knowing how to regroup
or carry or things like this, but once they got through that,
just as a group, they way outperformed the other group.
Even their worst performers were better
than the best performers in the other group,
which is a narrative that I think we've been observing.
No matter what you do, you get the best algebra teacher in the room,
you have an innately gifted kid, no matter how hard the kid works,
if that kid has trouble with third grade math,
there's really no way that you can do it in a standard education model.
Jeff: Speaking of standard education models,
talk a little bit about the software platform
you guys have been developing, the success you've had,
in terms of working with Los Altos as a school district,
and the impact that the videos plus the software
in the classroom is having on classroom dynamics.
Sal: Yeah, the software, I've hinted at it.
If you saw the TED talk you kind of know what it is,
but it's actually stuff that I started working on before the first video.
A few months into working with Nadia and her brothers,
I would point them to random websites.
I was like, "Hey, there's a site that has a couple of cool problems.
"Why don't you work on those," or, "Here's another site,"
and the next morning I'd have no information
of what they did, I didn't believe them that they said
they did the problem or how many they got right or wrong.
I started writing this little javascript problem generator
and I was really just trying to make sure that they had
the core skill down, that they really just understood the core skill
and I put a little database behind it so I could see
when did they do the problem, did they use the hints,
and whatever else.
Then over time I had a bunch of these modules
and I got tired of assigning, "Oh now you're ready for this module,"
So I said, "Hey, if you get ten in a row on this module
"it'll automatically assign you to the next,"
and that's where the whole knowledge tree,
if you saw the TED talk, came about.
It was originally something for me.
It was a tool for myself to understand all the modules I'd built
and the dependencies and then I said,
"Well, it'd be cool for a student to see it,"
and once I did my cousins loved that.
It was like Legend of Zelda all of a sudden.
They could see, "Hey, I could get over there," and all the rest.
Fast forward, the summer camp started using it.
Even there, we said, "Hey, every kid can now work at their own pace.
"The tools, the videos are there and now the teacher can just intervene
"when someone's stuck," and then you fast forward
to November of 2010, Los Altos school board literally just met
with myself and Shantanu, who's our president,
and said, "We've heard great things about what you're doing.
"We want to learn more about it and what would you do
"if you had just whatever you wanted to do with the math classroom?"
and we said we'd have every student work at their own pace,
the role of the teacher, they won't have to lecture,
they won't have to grade papers.
I don't want to say just, but they will walk into a room
and they'll get a dashboard and the dashboard will tell them
where every student is working, who's stuck on what.
If they want to dive deeper they can press a couple of clicks
and they can see exactly what a student's been working on
and really diagnose what's probably wrong with the student
and then use that information to either do
a very focused intervention themselves
or get some of the student's peers to do an intervention.
What it does is it does a couple things.
One, now everyone can work at their own pace,
the teacher's time is fully leveraged and it's focused,
and really just narrowing in on exactly what the weak points
for the students are, and the third thing is probably not obvious
from the TED talk and if we've had critics that's in this third area,
it's that, "Okay, yeah Khan Academy, the videos,
"that's probably really good for basic skills,
"and even the videos it's good for conceptual development,
"but what about project-based learning?"
There's this whole school of thought of constructivist learning
and it's always these math wars.
There's always been this argument
between the tiger mom school of learning
and the constructivist Seymour Papert play with Legos enough
and eventually you'll know calculus. (laughter)
It's been like a war, right?
People, the first time they see Khan Academy,
they think we are the tiger mom version,
because it's like core skills, it's lecture.
The other thing I think really differentiates our lectures over others
and this was actually a surprise for me,
is I made my lectures geared towards someone like myself
when I was 12 years old or 13.
I wanted the rationale, I wanted the conceptual development.
I wanted my cousins to have that.
I wanted them to really innately understand math.
I didn't think early on that that would be popular.
I thought that most students would want the formulas.
Most students wouldn't want to think about the intuition.
The surprising thing is over and over again we get feedback
from the students you wouldn't normally associate
with students liking math saying,
"I'm angry that my teacher did not introduce the intuition.
"Now it's easy."
Over and over again we get that, but what we're in this debate
between what's derisively called the drill and kill
and the constructivists, what we're saying is,
"No, it's not an either or proposition now."
What's happening in those Los Altos classrooms
are so much of the blocking and tackling is being taken off,
one, from the class time and from the teacher's shoulders,
that the teacher not only can dive in and do very focused
and meaningful interventions, but all of this class time
is freed up to do these investigations, to do these projects.
I'll challenge any classroom out there
to see if they can do more project-based learning and investigations
than these Los Altos classes are doing
and I would challenge any classroom out there
to see if they can do more core skills development
than these Los Altos classes are doing.
It's kind of the best of both worlds.
Jeff: One of my favorite parts of your talk that I alluded to earlier
was during Q and A with Bill Gates.
At one point, everything that Sal talks about sounds so extraordinary.
It sounds like vision.
How could it possibly be real, how could we get so much good
from one guy, a small team, a non-profit?
At one point, Bill said, "So, what would it take
"to scale this to every classroom in the country?
"How long would that take?"
Your response was -
Sal: Yeah, technically, I'm giving little asterisks now, by the way. (laughter)
It can be adopted tomorrow or now by every classroom.
It's self-service, the dashboard's everything, if a teacher goes.
The realistic answer is there has to be some type of deployment,
but there's no reason why it doesn't,
there's no fundamental barrier for it being used tomorrow
by every classroom in the world.
Jeff: I think that's a great jumping off point
to open it up to the group here.
We just want to do a little brainstorming today.
Sal's very interested in your thoughts and I'd love to know
how this group of people, how LinkedIn,
how some of the folks who, ultimately, may be viewing this
can get involved, what help do you need?
How can we start to dramatically increase the footprint?
Any questions or comments?
Yeah, please.
Audience Member: I didn't grow up here
and I just saw your TED talk a few days ago
and after that I also saw the TED talk that Ken Robinson gave
about schools killing creativity.
What are you thoughts about that
and how has it influenced what Khan Academy's doing
and what it's planning to do?
Sal: I think the Ken Robinson talk's awesome
and some people view our talks as very aligned
and some people have viewed it that somehow they're not aligned.
My point is going back to what's going on in Los Altos classrooms
is that right now, so much time is focused
on the mandated curriculum from the state
and so much time is focused on making sure
that the worst don't do bad.
There's no time for real creative work.
I'd say even 95% of people in classes right now
that claim to do project-based learning
or claim to do creative things in the classroom,
it's not creative, it's cookbook.
It looks good, "Oh, we're studying how we can send
"a satellite to the moon," or something, but they're not,
it's some type of cookbook thing with words in the right way.
What we think and what I hope Khan Academy enables
and we'd like to pilot this in more and more schools
and it can enable a whole set of really fundamentally creative things
and some of that will probably be on our platform.
Actually, Jonathan, who used to actually be a LinkedIn employee,
for two summers we did a summer camp.
We do this as R and D for what is the future of real learning.
You have this Khan Academy, the videos, you can get a lot there,
but if you really want people to learn stuff and we did stuff with kids
and this is stuff we might even internalize into the software.
It was pretty fun.
It was all the games I wanted to play with my friends
at my birthday party, but no one else wanted to.
We literally would have six kids playing Risk
and we would have the other 24 kids,
they would each get a colored piece of cardboard
that says, if you're holding red at three o'clock,
which is three hours from when we started,
that colored piece of cardboard would be worth
the number of armies that red army has at three o'clock
and the same thing for yellow and green and so on.
We gave them $500 in Monopoly money each.
They all started with one of these and then we started the Risk
and then we told the rest of the 24, "Trade the actual things."
It was fascinating.
We saw fifth graders start making models.
There was one fifth grader who started doing naked shorting
without knowing what naked short -
He would literally sell something to someone,
but say, "Wait, I'll give you the actual security later." (laughter)
Jeff: For those that don't know, the financial derivative world,
that had nothing to do with the clothing (crosstalk).
Sal: There was a little bit of that, too.
No, no. (laughter)
The summer camp would be shut down if that was happening.
It was fascinating.
One kid came up to me and he said how he figured out
that right after someone's turn in Risk,
their security went up, because we've all played Risk,
it looks like that person's about to take over the world,
but Risk has these huge swings, so he didn't even look at the board.
He just shorted whoever's turn it was
and he ended up winning the whole game, because he just -
Then we played another time where it was more of a determined,
where we played a variation called Paranoia Risk,
where there's only one winner.
Everyone's trying to eliminate one person from the board.
As soon as one person is eliminated from the board,
the person who was trying to eliminate them, wins.
Now, we said, "If you're holding the color of the winner,
"that's worth 100 and everyone else is worth 0."
Now it's pure probability.
That security should trade, if it's trading at $65,
you're saying there's a 65% chance -
I didn't tell them this ahead of time.
It was amazing how many times
the security started selling for like $150 or $200.
There was serious bubble mentality going on.
Anyway, I'm going on.
I could talk for hours about this, and we played Settlers of Catan,
one time with separate board games.
Then the second time around we let them trade across countries
and say, "Hey, how come we -
We actually had a pariah state that couldn't trade
and we compared the development to the ones that trade.
Anyway, you get the general idea.
There's a lot of stuff that can be done, if class time is freed up,
that's really deep, that gives people understanding.
In one round of the Risk, I was the market maker
and these students try to find out (unintelligible)
what a market maker is, what is a secondary market versus a primary.
All of this stuff.
It might be relevant to you guys very soon, I don't know. (laughter)
My vision, to answer your question, my vision is more of that
without giving up the stuff that kids need
to really prove to the world on the SATs, the AP tests
that they know those core skills, as well.
Jeff: Sometimes people ask the question,
What happens if some of our best and brightest,
rather than go into the financial world and hedge fund trading,
they were to go into areas like education?
That's part of what happens.
You get this brilliance supplied in the right ways.
Sal: There could be a good sequel to that,
where there's a guy who's -
I won't name any names, but he's a quant
at a very prominent hedge fund and he went -
Pretty much, he left that fund and I think he's being paid
not to work in the industry now, because he knows too much,
so he might be your analytics guy if things work out. (laughing)
Christina: One of my all time favorite books
is Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age
and in it he's got the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer
and this rich guy builds this book so his granddaughter
can have this tremendous education and one of the aspects of it
is that all the content and the learning materials are in there,
but there are these ractors who are people who are tracking
and watching as they move through the book,
they actually have a dashboard with metrics in the book.
I'm thinking about our social network and your materials,
whether it's e-books or videos,
and wondering if we could create Khan ractors,
who would be indexed, either the videos or materials,
and they would be people who were certified and volunteered
so that the kid at any point where they're stumbling
could maybe hit a button, get an IM, start to engage
with that community to get that kind of personalized stuff worldwide.
Sal: Yeah, that's exactly -
We have to figure out the details of how we implement that,
but that's our next level, because the first level is videos,
the second level are these exercises and dashboard,
the next level's the community.
We're pushing two million unique users a month
and that's enough, that's critical mass, that's growing.
There's a couple things.
One is just the model of volunteerism, peer-to-peer,
"Hey, I'm at my desk, I have an hour free, I would like to tutor someone."
We could facilitate that and you'll have the same data as a teacher
and we could pair up people appropriately,
based on what they know and what they don't know.
And get the kids tutoring.
It's either that model or we're thinking of having
some kind of a perpetual office hours.
Volunteers could say, "Hey, I'll be free at this time.
"I'm in Malaysia and I'll be free from 2:00 to 3:00 PM
"and I know these set of topics."
If we get a critical mass, and you actually don't need
that many people, but if you get enough people,
you could have exactly what you said as soon as you're stuck.
It's not even something that has to be scheduled.
As soon as you're stuck, you say, "I need help,"
and it immediately points you.
I'm actually on page 85 of Diamond Age right now,
so I haven't gotten to the ractor part.
(unintelligible) Oh, is it?
Yeah, but we're clearly reading the same books,
but yes, that's where -
It's funny, each layer, we actually think that's going to be the big play,
not what we've already done.
Jeff: Would love to throw it out there as a Hackday challenge
for those of you in the room or watching.
It'd be pretty cool to do something very similar
and I had a similar idea based on originally hearing you speak.
With 100 million members, professionals
with the right kind of skills and backgrounds,
one of the things that was most exciting to me
was that anyone can come online to lend a hand
and help mentor and answer questions.
I think it would be a very cool hack to figure out a way
to do exactly what Christina was just suggesting.
Click a button and we could pair up the right kids
with the right mentors from among our professional membership.
The other idea that's probably a little more in depth
than a hack is to start to leverage everything you've done
for the kids for vocational training
because one of the things we all hear increasingly
is that it's not that there's not jobs available at times
or in certain geographies.
There are jobs available, it's just that people don't have
the skills to take advantage of them.
If we could somehow re-skin some of the backend
and add vocational training modules
and then again, partner up the people that need to learn
with the professional membership, we could really do some good.
Sal: Yeah, absolutely.
Especially with the ...
Yeah, that's a way to donate your time.
There could even be some badging that transcends
what you all are doing and what we're doing.
It becomes part of, "Hey, I'm a proud volunteer,"
or even your badges -
It's funny, because we thought about doing Facebook integration.
It's on our pipeline and before we've done it,
we have students who are copying and pasting
their badges they get on Khan Academy
and bootstrapping the iteration forth, they're so proud of it.
Something like that and the volunteer badge
could be a pretty powerful mark of whatever.
Jeff: Yeah, so call to action, for anyone interested
in the next -
Sal: And also developing modules.
Developing modules is actually a very easy thing to contribute,
if anyone's interested, like, "Hey, I have an expertise in probability
"and it doesn't look like there's a module
"that teaches and quizzes that aspect."
We actually do that as part of our interview process for our developers.
If it takes them more than a day, we're like, "Well, we're not hiring." (laughs)
Jeff: What's the best way for folks watching
who would like to contribute a module?
What's the best way for them to do that?
Sal: Right now, you can actually go, on our page is says "contribute".
There's a way you can go to our software wiki
and how do you check out the code, how do you see where all the ...
There's even specs out there for unbuilt modules
if you don't have an idea of what to build.
They're all in javascript.
They're pretty straightforward.
Thinking about the learning is probably harder than the programming.
Jeff: Okay, Nick.
Nick: Thanks for being here, first of all.
My question is I've got two kids and what I've learned
in my experience with them is they have
completely different ways of learning.
Specifically, my son has dyslexia, so for him,
he's had to put a lot of energy into doing well in school and so on.
I wonder how the program accommodates kids
who have learning challenges, disabilities, and so on.
Sal: This is, again, another surprising thing that wasn't by design.
When I started, I viewed it as for my cousins,
maybe catered to someone like myself,
or probably a lot of you all, when you all were 12 or 13 years old.
Some of the biggest feedback we get are from parents
and students with learning disabilities.
Dyslexia, ADHD, actually some parents
of autistic students have loved it and what it is,
dyslexia, probably the main -
One is the videos are very, it's not just -
I've been told this by dyslexics, that just the fact
that I'm writing it out, it's not just printed text that just pops up,
is a big deal, the fact that I'm talking while I'm doing it,
it helps integrate everything and that's the same thing
for people with ADHD.
The fact that I'm using these different colors
for the different concepts.
I think the biggest thing, and once again,
this goes to the form factor, is that it's self-paced.
I think a lot of a dyslexic student, they're stressed,
and as soon as you're stressed, you can't learn.
That's the thing that most -
There's stress if it's taking you half a second longer
to process something, but you have this assembly line,
move along at the same pace, that's going to leave
your son behind and now there's none of that stress.
He can take as much time as he needs to digest the concept.
Yeah, it's weird.
I don't want it to seem like this is a cure all for everyone,
but we didn't design it, but the gifted students love it,
the students who are falling behind love it,
the adult learners, so it is one of those things.
If you just give people a chance to learn,
you don't talk down to them, you respect their intelligence,
you don't just teach them formulas,
and you give them instant feedback, it's amazing,
it kind of works for everybody.
Nick: Thank you.
Jeff: Sal, at root in all of this, is a product that has proven
to be incredibly effective and you mentioned earlier,
YouTube originally had limitations on the duration of the video
and that certainly contributed to the form factor,
but I'm assuming over time there's been a lot of iteration.
From a product development perspective,
could you shed a little light on the approach that you've taken,
because you're doing something very right, obviously and -
Sal: Yeah, I've learned now that there are words
to describe our process, lean and agile and all of this kind of stuff.
It is literally just put stuff out there and see what happens.
There's that, that's kind of the process, and I think,
in terms of the actual thing that goes out there,
it's amazing how much money and resources have been wasted
on trying to make educational materials that look polished,
that look like this, and as soon as you watch them you're disengaged.
I think it's this focus on the end user and nothing else
and not trying to pretend when I started and now as an organization,
we never want to fake that we're good quality.
A lot of these attempts to really polish up things
are to fake that it's good quality,
because to maybe the buyer who's not the user,
the buyer might superficially look at something and say,
"Oh, there's computer graphics, that must be good quality,"
but I think the big takeaway from the Khan Academy
if something is really going to take on, it just has
to purely cater to the user.
Even if it is scrappy and not the most professional thing, it'll still resonate.
In terms of the process, I'm now getting approached
by a lot of - I want other people other than myself to teach
and I've been approached by some medical schools
and others, "We want to do something like this in our program."
I've sat through some of those meetings and they go on.
We have to talk to this department.
So now my policy is when anyone wants to say,
"We think we have some people who might be able
"to make videos and we want to use them,"
I say, "No preliminary meetings, just come to my office,
"I'll go take a walk, and make the videos.
"I'll show you how to do it," and I just want them to start making videos.
They're like, "Wait, we haven't planned."
I was like, "No, they teach these classes.
"Just tell them to come make a 10 minute video
"and then we'll talk about how we can improve them."
It kind of scares these people,
the fact that they might actually produce something. (laughter)
I think that's the take.
Even in our organization, since we're such a small organization,
we're like six people, going on eight or seven people now.
We're very bandwidth constrained, so we're starting to -
I tell Shantanu, who's our president, if me and him
are in the same meeting at the same time,
there's something wrong with our process.
We force people to go on walks for meetings, so it's a fixed -
I don't want to -
Jeff: By all means (crosstalk)
Sal: Okay, yeah, we do that.
A lot of the (crosstalk)
It's funny, if it's an important meeting,
I say I'm going to go to El Camino and back.
If it's a shady meeting I'm going to the train stop and back.
(crosstalk) (laughter)
You kind of know where you fit in the hierarchy
(laughter) how long of a walk.
The other thing is we actually want to eat our own dog food,
which is the reason why we're able to scale,
why such a small organization is able to, on some level,
educate two million kids and maybe 200 million kids eventually,
or whatever, is that we're using these technologies.
Even our board meetings, right now our board meetings,
we spend three hours just giving an update.
I'm like, "This is silly, I'm just going to make YouTube videos,
"explaining what we've been up to the last week."
I have the screen - Huh?
(unintelligible) It's a roadshow and our board can pause
and repeat it and now (laughter) we're thinking
of making this a practice across the organization,
where we're going to get everyone Camtasia,
and everyone at the end of the week,
instead of writing me an email, like,
"Hey, this is what I've been up to."
They'll have their computer right there,
"This is what I'm working on," and just archive it.
That way when we go into meetings, we're all on the same page,
we know what everyone's been up to.
If someone says something that's unfamiliar,
I don't have to pause the meeting, I can go back
and see what they're up to and actually get a much better -
Actually, I've told a bunch of people this.
I have a buddy who's working at another startup
and I told him this idea and he bought into it
and he told their CEO, because she wanted him to write a white paper
about what he's up to and he's like,
"Well how about I do a screencast,
"because now you can pause, repeat.
"It'll be me explaining it as a human being and I can show -"
It was funny, they had a lot of,
"No, that's silly, it needs to be a white paper,"
but no it doesn't, it should really just be -
It takes 10 minutes to make a 10 minute video,
especially if it's just for internal consumption,
as opposed to a day to write a white paper that no one's going to read.
Yeah, that's what we're up to.
Jeff: I was just reminded of effectiveness of the RSA animations,
which is very similar, in terms of mapping out and (crosstalk)
You hear folks, a lot of people in the audience today, I'm sure,
they'll rave about them.
They'll say, "Have you seen this on motivation?" (unintelligible)
Audience Member: Hey Sal, thanks for being here.
A few weeks ago, we watched Waiting for Superman
here at LinkedIn and it was incredibly moving.
Sal: Depressing. (laughs)
Audience Member: Yeah, very depressing.
I learned about the Khan Academy
after watching that movie here at LinkedIn.
After spending time on your site, it was pretty obvious to me
that what you have developed can be the super hero solution
for schools that don't have resources,
for kids that don't have resources, to help them learn.
I'm just wondering if part of the Khan Academy's charter
is to get those kinds of resources into the hands of kids
where they don't have computers at home
or the school systems don't have computers.
Is that part of the conversation?
Sal: Yeah, absolutely.
There's a couple of things here.
One of the things, this is something
that we're very protective of as an organization,
is the reason why I think we're resonating
where a lot of other attempts, governmental attempts,
NGO attempts, for profit attempts have all failed,
is that everyone else is trying to reform the beast.
They're trying to go in there and chisel at it
and lobby this or that and all the rest.
The reason why I think we've worked is we've ignored the beast.
We've just done our own thing and go straight to the student.
At the same time, this Los Altos thing,
which kind of fell in our lap, proves that no,
this can help the beast.
I shouldn't call it the beast anymore. (laughter)
What we're doing is, and this wasn't our plan even a month ago,
but especially the TED talk took this to the next level,
we are building a rollout SWAT team,
and what we're going to do over the next six months -
The other thing we want to be careful of
is not rolling out too fast and ruining.
We're the Trader Joe's model.
We want a community to really want us and we're like,
"Okay, you've got to give us the right space,"
We want the SWAT team over the next 6 to 18 months,
we're reached out now by about 10 school districts a day
who want to do this and so we want to pick
the 10 or 15 that are the most likely to be a success.
Hopefully they won't mainly be affluent school districts like Los Altos.
We're looking for underserved communities,
some charter schools, some independent schools,
some regular middle class private schools, all of the above.
Some fancy private schools, and we're actually going district wide
in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade in Los Altos, as well.
So if you have a fourth or fifth or sixth grader in Los Altos,
you'll start hearing me in your house whether you like it or not.
We want to do that and once we have that
and we learn more, we can productize it.
Then, we're going to explore how it can become a more massive role.
The narrative throughout this is we're also going
to make it more and more self-service.
Like the first question you had asked,
it can be used in any school district tomorrow.
To some degree, that's another volunteer opportunity.
If your school district isn't doing it and you think they should,
you guys can become the ambassadors for it.
You guys all have the same -
If you guys go to our website, it'll be pretty obvious
how you could implement this in a classroom.
You could be that person that goes to the school district
and say, "Look, we can do this."
The Los Altos people are awesome about other people coming in
and observing the classrooms.
If it's local, you say, "Hey, why don't we go meet
"with those Los Altos people, observe their classroom,
"and then we'll implement it here,"
and you guys can shepherd it,
make sure their firewall is set up, whatever, so it happens.
I think that, by itself, could be a pretty, actually,
that might be the most powerful way to volunteer.
Jeff: Sal, how do teachers respond to it?
Do they feel like it's an incredible tool
that helps take their classrooms to the next level?
At times, do they feel threatened by it?