THE REVOLUTIONARY Khan Academy is a brainchild of Bangladeshi-American Salman Khan. It is growing in popularity among Pakistanis wishing to take advantage of “Free World Class Education” offered online via short 10-15 minute videos. The subjects range from math, physics, chemistry and biology to astronomy, history, economics, finance, engineering and medicine. Khan counts Microsoft founder Bill Gates among his fans and students. Gates has described Sal Khan as his favorite teacher, and Gates Foundation has provided funding to enable the Khan Academy to grow.
Former hedge fund analyst known as Sal Khan in Silicon Valley, the Academy founder has an MBA from Harvard Business School and three Bachelor degrees in Math, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Science from MIT. Here’s how Khan explains on his website; why he decided to become a teacher to the world: “A lot of my own educational experience was spent frustrated with how information was conveyed in textbooks and lectures. I felt like fascinating and intuitive concepts were almost intentionally being butchered into pages and pages of sleep-inducing text and monotonic, scripted lectures.”
The number of unique visitors to Khan Academy has grown fourfold from about a million a month in 2010 to 4 million in December, 2011. Bulk of the hits to the educational website still come from the United States, but the latest Alexa traffic data shows that Pakistan is among a handful of countries which are bringing a growing number of learners to it.
Khan’s ties to Pakistan go beyond Pakistani visitors to his online academy; his wife is from Karachi, and the man in charge of translating Khan’s videos to Urdu and other foreign languages is former Pakistani president’s son Bilal Musharraf who lives in Silicon Valley.
Pakistan is ranked fourth in the world for expansion in broadband Internet access which is fueling growth in traffic to video sites like Khan Academy. Planned Urdu translations of video tutorials will only add to the already increasing traffic.
Bilal Musharraf told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper that the goal is to have 1000 videos ready in 10 different languages in a year or two. And the project is mostly volunteer-driven. The Khan Academy offers best practices of “how-to-dub or re-do Sals existing videos, and volunteers take it from there. At present, someone in Japan is working on an Indonesian playlist and engineering students in Saudi Arabia are working on an Arabic playlist. In a matter of months, hundreds of videos have already been translated. You can now learn the Khan way in Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Polish Sinhalese, Tamil, Thai and Urdu.
Sal Khan’s efforts are reinventing education and making quality teaching accessible to global population of students everywhere, including developing nations like Pakistan. One example of innovation inspired by Khan can be seen at Los Altos schools in Silicon Valley, CA, as shown by a recent CBS 60-minute segment.
“There are no textbooks and no teacher lecturing at the blackboard. Instead, students watch Khan videos at home the night before to learn a concept, then they come to class the next day and do problem sets called “modules” to make sure that they understand. If they get stuck they can get one-on-one help from the teacher. Less lecturing, more interaction. What you think of as homework you do at school, and school work you do at home. It’s called “flipping the classroom…”
While anyone can benefit by watching Khan Academy video tutorials online anytime and anywhere, it’s also important to integrate Khan’s video lessons as part of the classrooms learning in a way that is currently being piloted by Los Altos schools.
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