Digital Education – Storytelling and the Internet

Continuing on from the last post regarding RSAnimate, I just wanted to throw another pioneer of online education and communication.

Salman Khan started tutoring his niece on Maths (sorry to the Americans out there but I still include the “s”), by doing little digital lecture workshops and tracking her progress. It helped that he has a capacity with software programming and a range of different skills that made him particularly adept at weaving together the digital content.

What I appreciate is the simplicity of the format. A single voice, drawing simple diagrams to support the discussion, in short bursts of very specific information. Below is an example; he walks through a VERY brief introduction to evolution, but my personal favourites are his explanations of financial processes.

For more, here is a link to the Khan Academy website.

What is the impact of a compelling story?

Now… I’m not sure what the impact on education these sorts of resources will have. I’m actually very curious to hear my parents’ views, who are both educators. Especially in light of a very positive article in Business Week about this mode of education as the future of learning. Here is a little quote from the article that highlights the enormous impact that Khan is having;

Less than five years later, Khan’s sideline has turned into more than just his profession. He’s now a quasi-religious figure in a country desperate for a math Moses. His free website, dubbed the Khan Academy, may well be the most popular educational site in the world. Last month about 2 million students visited. MIT’s OpenCourseWare site, by comparison, has been around since 2001 and averages 1 million visits each month.

I’m very curious to know if this is fostering a disconnection between educator and student, or if as outlined in the quote below, it is actually fostering further connections.

Used in the classroom, the Khan Academy flips the traditional curriculum; students listen to the lectures at home, on their own time, and do the homework in class, which allows the teacher time to address student issues individually… And he isn’t doing as much individual teaching as one might expect. Often, the lagging students are tutored by the students who are ahead. “The kids know whom to call on,” says Julian. “It happened on its own. They just began to get out of their seats and work with each other. They’ve identified their trustworthy peer tutors. They know they can call on Sriram and Akhil and Albert, and that they know what they’re talking about. Mainly, I’ve had to spend time teaching them how to teach.”

Sounds pretty good, but the purpose of this little post is more the question; should more of us be learning to package information as snippets of information in this format? It couldn’t be further removed from our current lecture models that go for hours… not that I would ever talk that long.

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