education | September 08, 2013

A New Learning Model: Why Salman Khan Is "A True Education Pioneer"

Is it possible to totally rethink our current education model? “My argument is yes,” education speaker Salman Khan says in an interview. “And not only can we, and is it kind of a good idea, it's actually happening.” From its humble beginnings as a means to tutor his family members, to the now thousands of students benefiting from the program online, The Khan Academy is "flipping the classroom." Its unique teaching strategy is changing the way we think about education. Instead of focusing on test results and barreling through content to get to the next lesson, The Khan Academy focuses on comprehension—no matter how long, or how many replays of each video, it takes. "Slow and steady makes this fun," Khan says of his early days building The Academy. That statement is also very telling of his view on education. In this Flipboard interview, it's apparent that Khan doesn't view learning as a race to the finish line—it's a process that can be fun and worthwhile if it isn't rushed.

The education model we have in place today was developed with the onset of mass public education many years ago. Khan notes that the grouping together of students by age and testing their comprehension through exams was the most cost-effective means of educating students at that time. In the next five years, however, Khan says we're poised to see a complete re-imagining of that model. "Instead of holding fixed how long you have to learn something and the variable is how well you learn it, let's do it the other way around," he says. "What's fixed is that you get to that standard [of 95-100 percent comprehension], what's variable is how long you spend on it."

The software developed through The Academy makes this possible. Instead of being taught a lesson, taking a test on it, and then moving on, you can learn the material at your own pace. Teachers are able to see which students are understanding the material and where the students who are struggling have gone off course. This allows each student to work through the material at their own speed while being assured that their teacher will help fill in gaps in their learning. The key takeaway behind what Khan is doing is that he wants students to be able to view failure as an indicator that they have more to learn. Not, as it is often portrayed in school, as an indicator that you are a failure.

"Sal Khan is a true education pioneer," Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, told TIME magazine. "He started by posting a math lesson, but his impact on education might truly be incalculable." In his book and his highly requested keynote speeches, Khan shares his vision on the future of education. He encourages teachers and policy makers alike to "flip the classroom." If you are interested in how he is revolutionizing the learning process, book Salman Khan as a speaker by contacting The Lavin Agency.

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