Salman Khan was a hedge-fund manager but there’s not a teacher on the planet who wouldn’t benefit from his views on learning. Khan has recorded 2200 educational videos and over million are viewed a month. How did he get started? By tutoring his cousins in maths. Eventually, they told hm that they preferred his YouTube lectures to him in person. From their point of view it makes sense – they can stop and review things when they want, do things at their own pace, do it when it's convenient. More importantly, the very first time you try to understand something, the last thing you need is a hovering human presence or teacher. You need time to reflect, ponder, get to grips with the ideas. I have had exactly the same experience in tutoring in maths. I started in person, migrated to Skype and now favour this more distanced approach, where the actual tutoring is the application, not exposition of the knowledge.
Flip the classroom
Khan’s trick, is something I’ve believed in for years. Don’t use technology in the classroom, use it before and after, outside of the classtoom. Classrooms were never designed for technology, apart, perhaps, for Whiteboards. But the danger with whiteboards is that they reinforce talking at students and ‘lecturing’. Flip the classroom. Assign the short talks for homework, THEN use the classroom for the application of the concepts. The net result is that you humanise the classroom. It becomes a place primarily for learning, not teaching. Simple, but like most great ideas - brilliant.
He uses another flip technique I’ve always recommended. He takes some of the magic dust from games and apply it to learning. You do short ‘ten in a row’ automated assessments. Get ten in a row right; move on. This simple game pedagogy, along with badges for progress, within a structured knowledge map, allows the students to understand where they are in the learning journey. It also has motivational punch.
For Khan, overall summative assessment is all wrong. It’s too little too late. Individual formative assessment is the true driver in education. Traditional assessment penalises failure and doesn’t expect complete mastery. It fails both failing and successful students.
To this end his whole system relies on detailed formative data for teachers, data that is both detailed and personal. It’s not classroom guesses or waiting until a final test is completed to see how your students are doing. Every student is tracked and the teacher intervenes appropriately. Note that you can only track every student if the system gathers the data online. So learning and assessment have to be done online. Technology is brilliant at tracking progress as teachers are too busy. Free up their time so that the teacher can teach and assign the strong kids to tutor kids who are struggling. Arms teachers with data and they can focus on the progress of all.
The flip has one other major advantage. Flip homework, so that it is done in the classroom and you free teachers from the dreaded marking. They can then focus on the targeted application of knowledge. Traditional classroom teaching becomes homework and homework, classroom activity.
Khan gets it. He understands the difference between learning and teaching, between classrooms and self-paced environments between formative and summative assessment, between scalable and non-scalable components in education,. Most of all he is not encumbered with traditional methods and thoughts about whet education needs to be.
He also sees the global implications of this scalable solution. The flip creates a global classroom and gives access to education for the poor. Watch this and if you're not convinced tell me why.