Could A Parkesburg Point Idea Improve Learning And Lower Costs At Octorara?

When Dwayne Walton, The Points Executive Director, mentioned how The Point was leveraging Khan Academy to supplement kids’ classroom learning during his presentation to the school board Monday night, it was remarkable was how few people in the room had heard of Khan Academy or were aware of the potential impact Khan Academy could have on both the cost and quality of education at public school districts like Octorara.

Khan Academy offers a glimpse into the future of learning and education, a future that promises higher quality instruction tailored to each students learning style at a fraction of the cost of delivering traditional classroom learning.

The Khan Academy based in California’s  Silicon Valley stated mission is to “offer free world class education to anyone, anywhere.”  According to an article on CBS’ web site, Khan Academy offers 2,200 free 10 minute videos “on such topics as basic math, geometry, calculus, chemistry, economics, biology, physics and even the French Revolution.”  There’s also free SAT prep tutorials available.

The company estimates that 1 billion students around the world avail themselves of one of Khan’s video’s every month.

All this is having a never before seen impact on education across the country and around the word.  Classrooms are being flipped.  Lectures once delivered by teachers standing in front of 25 students in a classroom are now taught via the internet in 10 minute snippets in the intimacy of each student’s kitchen table or bedroom.  Students watch (and rewatch) the video until she fully understands and comprehends the concept being taught.  Then, the next day in class, teachers spend classroom time working through problems with students, work that students used to do in study halls or after school at home.

District’s using Khan’s approach notice there’s less lecturing going on and more interaction.  Students learn at their own pace and each student creates a learning model that fits his or her own personality, schedule and learning style.  Students aren’t forced to keep pace with 20 other kids or to move on to the next topic because that’s what the teacher’s lesson plan calls for.

The impact of Kahn’s approach is significant.  Students learn more and come away from any subject with a deeper understanding of the material covered thereby improving the overall quality of education.

And because each student is working at his or her own pace and only getting one-on-one assistance from teachers as they hit a road block, fewer teachers are needed.  And since teacher’s salaries and benefits make up over 50 percent of Octorara’s annual budget, over time the Khan Academy could significantly reduce the cost of educating Octorara’s 2,700 students.

Here are a couple of videos about the work of Kahn Academy.  The first a CBS 60 Minutes segment from earlier this year describe the origins of Kahn Academy and the impact the organization is having on the Los Altos, California school district.

The second video is of Sal Khan, Khan Academy’s founder, speaking at a 2011 TED Conference.  You’ll have to wade through a discussion of “polynomial approximation functions,” whatever they are, early in the presentation, to get to the meat of Khan’s overview of his company’s focus but your patience will be rewarded.  Computer pioneer and Microsoft founder Bill Gates joins Khan on stage at the 16:45 mark of the video and engages Kahn in a three minute question and answer session about how the company started and whether Khan’s concept is ready for prime time.


Salman Khan talk at TED 2011 (from ted.com): Salman Khan talk at TED 2011 (from ted.com)

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