Although I'd heard of the Khan Academy before, at the time I chocked it up to one super motivated guy making videos. I never thought that perhaps the model Salman Khan was using could revitalize US education.
Here's why it's magical (read the full article on Wired)
Teachers have long known that one-on-one tutoring is effective, but in 1984, the education scholar Benjamin Bloom figured out precisely how effective it is. He conducted a metastudy of research on students who’d been pulled out of class and given individual instruction. What Bloom found is that students given one-on-one attention reliably perform two standard deviations better than their peers who stay in a regular classroom. How much of an improvement is that? Enough that a student in the middle of the pack will vault into the 98th percentile. Bloom’s findings caused a stir in education, but ultimately they didn’t significantly change the basic structure of the classroom. One-on-one instruction, after all, is insanely expensive. What country can afford one teacher per student?
“We’ve always known that one-on-one is the best way to learn, but we’ve never been able to figure out how to do it,” Khan explains
Then, in 2004, Khan’s 13-year-old cousin Nadia, who lived across the country, asked him for help in math. Khan agreed to tutor her on the phone. To illustrate the mathematical concepts he was describing, they’d log into Yahoo Messenger and Khan would use the program’s drawing window to write equations while she watched remotely. When they couldn’t meet, he’d just record a lesson as a video, talking through the material while writing in Microsoft Paint.
One day Nadia told him she didn’t want to talk on the phone anymore; she wanted him to just record videos. Why? Because that way she could review the video as many times as she wanted, scrolling back several times over puzzling parts and fast-forwarding through the boring bits she already knew. “She basically said, ‘I like you better on the video than in person,’” Khan says.
A lightbulb went off: Khan realized that remediation—going over and over something that you really ought to already know—is less embarrassing when you can do it privately, with no one watching. Nadia learned faster when she had control over the pace of the lecture. “The worst time to learn something,” he says, “is when someone is standing over your shoulder going, ‘Do you get it?’”
Thanks to Howard Lindzon for keying me into the Wired coverage, it made my morning.