Category Archives: eLearning

Salman Khan – The Khan Academy

The Khan Academy phenomenon lives on, with more than 9,000 videos on more than 65 languages.

This Ted Talk by Salman Khan way back in 2011 has some profound learnings:-

1. He found that kids prefer a video of him teaching them, rather than him teaching them in person, because…

- in video, he can be paused and repeated

- there is less pressure on the kids – there isn’t someone there to ask them “have you understood what i just tried to teach you?”

- they can watch him again at a later date, without the embarrassment of going to him to tell him that they have forgotten what he taught.

2. He talks about the Flip Classroom (which I have described in a recent blog posting).  His comment is that the teachers use technology to “humanize” the classroom. I think this is specifically profound as many people (including educators) say that eLearning is not effective as it lacks the human touch in a classroom. But in reality, a typical classroom is where the teacher gives a one-way delivery of knowledge. The students are mostly not allowed to speak during this, and probably are terrified that they will be picked upon to answer questions.  In a Flip Classroom, the students can interact with each other, as well as with the teacher, whilst doing their homework.

3.  In a traditional classroom, the teacher moves on to another, probably harder topic, irrespective of whether all the students have mastered the current topic. Talk about lining them up for failure! Using technology and the Flip Classroom concept, the students get personalized learning, rather than a “one size fits all”. The slower students can watch the videos over and over again to catch up. And the better students can move on to other topics. In the class, the teacher is helping the students, irrespective of which topic the student is at. The teacher can spend more time in class to help the students who need to catch up.

4. With Khan Academy, the teachers can keep track of which student is up to which video. They can even have questions to test the students before they move to the next video. So at one glance, the teacher can see which of the students are falling behind, and need some extra attention. And for the students who are doing exceptionally well, the teacher can assign them to help those who are falling behind. Now, how cool is that! There is also a lot of other data which the teacher can have access to, as explained by Salman Khan.

5. The teacher can then spend 95% of his/her time interacting with (rather than talking at) the students. Traditionally, the teacher spends only 5% of his/her time in real interaction with the students. This can make the teachers’ job more interesting and satisfying.


The Flip Classroom

A couple of years ago, a seasoned educator friend explained the Flip classroom concept to me.

Traditionally, a teacher would stand in front of a class and deliver a topic or subject to the class. At the end of it, the teacher would give some homework to the students. When the students are home, they will try to do the homework, trying very hard to recall what was taught in class, and to apply it to the homework. What mostly happens is that the student will try to get help from an elder sibling, or parents. And very often this will eventually lead to private tutoring.

In the Flip classroom, when the students are home, they watch videos on the topic or subject which the teacher is supposed to deliver in class. This could be a video done by the teacher, or any relevant video on the topic from anywhere. This can be augmented by other online tools like animation, quizzes, etc.

When the students come to class, they do their homework i.e. try to apply the knowledge. And the teacher there is there to help and guide them.

How cool is that?

Digital Education in South Africa

I would like to salute South Africa for taking bold steps in investing in the future.

Got to this link to download information on:-

  • The shocking number of South African students being failed by their schools
  • Where these students are falling short and how they can improve
  • The part that will be played by computers, eBooks, iPads and apps
  • How technology is going to revolutionise education in South Africa

Levelling the Playing Field in Education – taking it another notch

Some years ago, I was on a plane to Bangkok, with my best friend, who has since passed away. He was in the real property development business. He commented that schools are probably one of the most under-utilized category real estate.

Many rich people desire to build schools, particularly in the rural areas to reach out to the less privileged corners of society. But all too often, after a few years, such schools are dilapidated and abandoned. Maintenance is costly, and will not be sufficiently funded from school fees. On top of that, getting good teachers to the far flung provinces is a challenge.

We then brainstormed about fitting out old shipping containers with PC workstations. Then collaborate with local telcos to provide not only internet connection, but also access to cellular signal. Consider also the possibility of having solar panels on the roof, so that this “container internet center” can operate without being connected to the grid.

Look for a village that is receptive, and plonk this down there. Children from the village and surrounding areas can come to these “container internet centers” and access the internet for world class online education, and have world class educators connecting with them.

When not used for this purpose, this can be used as any internet center for recreation, for communication, or for doing work online. The fees earned from this, and for selling cell phones, load and accessories, will hopefully be able to maintain this facility.

If for any reason, it does not work out, this can be pulled out and plonked down somewhere else. Probably is not as simply as it sounds, but I hope one day to find out.

Levelling the Playing Field in Education

In one of my earlier blogs about the state of funding for universities, and how online education is changing the game, I promised to write more on my excitement with how technology and the internet will trigger the revolution and evolution wherein the best content can be delivered by the best educators to most remote and marginalized communities.

Traditionally, the best schools recruited the best students. The parents of these students probably also studied in these best schools, befriended other privileged kids who supported each other in their privileged careers, and have privileged children who then go to these privileged schools.

These privileged schools would always be in privileged neighborhoods. The best educators would hence be attracted to these privileged schools.

I think that technology and the internet has a real chance to level the playing field, and enable the best education to reach under-privileged communities. There is already much online content available open source, like the Khan Academy, Coursera, MIT etc. I have personally believed for some time that you can probably find on the internet, all knowledge which you need to complete most academic qualifications.

However, a one-way delivery can probably not give a complete education experience. There is a role to play for educators. The Coursera programs, and probably others, do have instructors online interacting with the students and guiding them in an asynchronous manner.

But look at this video about the “Granny Cloud”, showing retired teachers in England teach live online to rural schools in India. I think that a mix of asynchronous instruction and live teaching online, with the best educators in the world can level the playing field for most marginalized communities.

I wish that like the legal profession, the teaching profession will also (if they do not already do so) mandate teachers to spend a minimum number of hours for pro-bono teaching. That way, the privileged teachers in the privileged schools can teach marginalized students without the fear, risk and inconvenience of commuting to the rather challenging neighborhoods to teach in schools with under-privileged children. They can do so online.

In my next article, I will take this discussion another “notch”.