Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Finding the Best Way to Learn and Taming Government Schools


Salman Khan studied math, engineering, computer science, and finance at MIT and Harvard. He began creating video tutorials on the topics that he was most familiar with, and has gone on from there. The Khan Academy is rapidly becoming legendary in the field of online education.
The most popular educator on YouTube does not have a Ph.D. He has never taught at a college or university. And he delivers all of his lectures from a bedroom closet.

This upstart is Salman Khan, a 33-year-old who quit his job as a financial analyst to spend more time making homemade lecture videos in his home studio. His unusual teaching materials started as a way to tutor his faraway cousins, but his lectures have grown into an online phenomenon—and a kind of protest against what he sees as a flawed educational system.

"My single biggest goal is to try to deliver things the way I wish they were delivered to me," he told me recently.

The resulting videos don't look or feel like typical college lectures or any of the lecture videos that traditional colleges put on their Web sites or YouTube channels. For one thing, these lectures are short—about 10 minutes each. And they're low-tech: Viewers see only the scrawls of equations or bad drawings that Mr. Khan writes on his digital sketchpad software as he narrates.

...Mr. Khan calls his collection of videos "Khan Academy," and he lists himself as founder and faculty. That means he teaches every subject, and he has produced 1,400 lectures since he started in 2006. Now he records one to five lectures per day.

He started with subject matter he knows best—math and engineering, which he studied as an undergraduate at MIT. But lately he has added history lectures about the French Revolution and biology lectures on "Embryonic Stem Cells" and "Introduction to Cellular Respiration."

If Mr. Khan is unfamiliar with a subject he wants to teach, he gives himself a crash course first. In a recent talk he explained how he prepared for his lecture on entropy: "I took two weeks off and I just pondered it, and I called every professor and everyone I could talk to and I said, Let's go have a glass of wine about entropy. After about two weeks it clicked in my brain, and I said, now I'm willing to make a video about entropy." _Chronicle

Thousands of students tune in to Khan Academy's YouTube channel every day, and many of them have left testimonials at the website. For the most part, Khan Academy is used by students enrolled in ordinary schools -- to help them get past the "sticking points" in conceptualisation that most technical topics can contain. But anyone can watch the videos -- and get a very broad education at the same time, for free.

The second topic of this post -- taming government schools -- deals with the increasingly critical way in which teachers' unions are being seen by parents, taxpayers, and some politicians.
What's missing every time this debate comes up is any actual defense of the basic and 100 percent undeniable trend line–we are paying much, much more money to deliver government services that (with few exceptions) are not performing any better, and the single biggest line item in that cost increase is employee compensation. The burden of proof is on the people pocketing our taxpayer dollars, and yet they continue to dissemble, whine, and change the subject (and sometimes even shrug), rather than robustly defending the public policy mess they have been instrumental in creating. As long as We Are Out of Money, they (and their apologists) will rightly be on the defensive._Reason

Public sector unions have gone way too far in stuffing their pockets with tax-supported benefits, future obligations to taxpayers, and mainly Democratic Party politicians who back up the public sector unions in their raping of the taxpayers.

Perhaps a bit of light thrown on the topic in the upcoming state and national elections will help to tame the savage public sector union predators on the public purse.

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