LinkedIn dedicates one Friday every month to an “InDay” where employees are allowed to spend time on something they are passionate about that is outside their normal day-to-day tasks. You can use the day to learn a new skill, participate in Hackday, or spend your time volunteering and helping out the community. In addition to this, guest speakers are invited as part of the LinkedIn speakers series, giving employees a chance to interact with some incredible people.
One of my favorites was an interview with Salman Khan of the Khan Academy. If you don’t know who he is or what the Khan Academy is all about, you need to take the time to watch the following TED talk:
The idea is beautiful: invert the classroom and let students watch lectures at home—at their own pace—and reserve class time for purely teacher-student and student-student interaction. The funny thing is that this is something I’ve unwittingly done many times before: for example, in college, I would frequently skip (or sleep through) lectures and instead learn everything I needed on my own time (and pace) from the book/homework/projects; I would fill in any gaps in my knowledge by getting together with other students or one-on-one time with a professor or TA during office hours. I’m not sure who decided that one guy rambling for hours in front of 30+ students was the best way to teach people, but I think the Khan Academy is going to prove them wrong.
However, there seems to be one big opportunity that the Khan Academy has missed.
The Great Library
As far as I can tell, all the Khan Academy videos thus far are recorded by Sal Khan himself. With all due respect to Sal Khan and his superb work, what if we allowed other teachers to create videos for the various educational units? Imagine if teachers all over the world started submitting their own versions of Quadratic Inequalities, Scientific Notation 1, and The Chain Rule. If one video didn’t make a topic “click”, a student could try another one to get a different perspective on the subject. Moreover, if we let students rate these videos, the best ones would filter to the top, similar to reddit. As a secondary rating, we could even factor in the average score on the test modules after a student watches a given video to see how effective the video really was. Given enough time and enough teachers willing to record their lectures, the Khan Academy could gradually turn into a modern day equivalent of the Library of Alexandria.
The Khan Academy could become the source for the best possible instruction in the entire world on any given subject.
The Great Masters
Think about it: chances are that the absolute best person to teach any given topic X is (a) not Sal Khan and (b) does not work in your child’s school district. However, if that teacher recorded his lectures and made them available at the Khan Academy, your child would be able to learn from him, as would your grandchildren, great grand children and all future generations. If this technology was around a few hundred years ago, your child today might have been able to learn calculus from Isaac Newton or physics from Richard Feynman.
The Internet is all about instant access to unparalleled amounts of information. The Khan Academy has made education more accessible than ever. If they allow teachers everywhere to contribute, it may become the greatest source of learning in human history.