October 14 | The Educated Guess

Sal Khan's tutorials can empower students

By John Fensterwald

Witty, brilliant, self-effacing, a seeming agnostic in the education wars over school choice and performance pay, Salman Khan is an unlikely revolutionary. But Khan, the former hedge-fund manager turned online tutor, first for his East Coast nieces and nephews and now for the world, is flipping education upside-down. Many teachers and their unions have been too slow to recognize that.

Khan's 2,800 YouTube tutorials on everything from elementary addition to algebra to calculus and physics, are enabling millions of students to excel on their own time, at their own pace, moving ahead only when, by completing 10 problems in a row, they have mastered one discrete lesson at a time.

With backing from the Gates Foundation and Silicon Valley benefactors like John and Ann Doerr, his nonprofit Khan Academy has taken the next step. Teachers anywhere can freely use the software he has created in their classrooms and monitor every student's progress in real time: which video she last watched, how much time she spent, which problem she was stuck on.

By using technology to guide students through drills and step-by-step basics - with badges and points to make it fun enough for students to stay plugged in - teachers are liberated to do small group tutorials, help students where they're stuck, teach concepts, and do project-based learning.

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