My 9/19/10 Missoulian column
What happens is you get real famous, real fast. That’s what happened to Sal Khan, and he didn’t even know about it until later.
Khan runs the Khan Academy, where he produces educational videos on subjects ranging from algebra to biology to SAT preparation. He works from a walk-in closet at his home in Silicon Valley, and with a few hundred dollars in video gear and a PC, he’s produced more than 1,600 free videos since 2008.
The site had received great reviews but no national attention. However, that changed after Gates’ mention during a talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival. The festival is an annual conference put on by the The Aspen Institute to to discuss and act on critical issues in the world.
Gates was speaking on what he saw as the misallocation of funding away from education, and pointed to the Khan Academy as an example of what people can do on their own. He told the audience that Khan’s videos were “unbelievable” and that “I’ve been using them with my kids.”
Khan got started in 2004 when he was asked to tutor his young cousin in math, which he did via telephone and a “notepad” program using shared computer screens. Then he had the idea to make a few videos, and it took off from there.
A year ago, Khan quit his job as an investment banker and formed a nonprofit. He’s gotten some donations, and now Gates (and the The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) are talking about working with Kahn.
Khan hopes to see the Khan Academy “become the world’s first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything, for free.”
I watched a few of the videos on high-school level algebra, and in four minutes remembered what I had forgotten on solving equations. (And I also remembered what I had forgotten about that cranky old math teacher who no doubt affected my learning.)
If you’re in high school or college and need some extra help with math or on other subjects available at Khan’s Academy, check it out at Khan Academy. And if you’re a teacher: point out the site to your students, too.
This week in Mac Q & A: MobileMe and iWeb’s limits