Sal Khan Gives Us Topics To Stimulate Classroom Discussion

I heard another interview with Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, recently on CNN Profiles. There are a lot of interviews online (printed, audio, video) with Khan because he’s got such an amazing story, and he’s changing the way we view education delivery. I’ve even written previously about Sal Khan after I saw him speak at the University Of Denver.

I recommend you listen to this 18-minute CNN Profiles interview. If you don’t know his unique, inspiring story, you’ll hear it. If you’ve read about him or heard Khan before, like I have, you’ll still get some insight and thought provoking ideas from listening.

Here’s some of what crossed my mind as I was listening to this particular interview with Sal Khan:

  • Sometimes, success takes a while, and success comes out of serendipitous circumstances. That’s his story.
  • Are live lectures the best form of information delivery? This frequently creates an environment where students are passive, lost and/or bored.  Learning no longer has to happen in a brick and mortar school building. Now that students can access their own information on the internet, and in on-line classes, are live lectures the best use of class time? Should they, instead, have the opportunity to interact during class time, not merely listening passively to lecture? Shouldn’t students get together, ask questions of the teacher and each other, and work on projects during class? When people are together, they should be encouraged to interact and process information with each other, not be held captive in a lecture setting.
  • Ask students “What do you like to do?” “What are you good at?” “What interests you?” Let’s start there. This is how teachers can inspire students.
  • Our factory model of education has everyone moving together in age-based cohorts. That’s outdated! We need more self-paced, mastery based instruction. When teachers take on the full responsibility of this, of differentiating for all students in their classroom, the teachers have to plan differently and work much harder. By using technology, teachers are more free to guide students at their own individual pace of learning, and at whatever level the student’s entry point is.
  • Everybody struggles at something. The word “slow” is not the same as “dumb” but has become to mean that. Use the struggles to improve on your weaknesses. If you can build a strong foundation, you can surge ahead. Hard work = Success.

I’m going to play this interview for my high school students. Afterward, I’m going to ask them these questions to facilitate thinking and discussion. You might want to answer your students these question, too, after you listen to the interview.

Questions for students

1. What do you think of Khan’s ideas for revamping the education system? Why would they, or would they not, work?

2. What do you think about self-directed learning in classrooms, using the vast array of technology as the teacher, and classroom instructors as the guides and encouragers? Could it work at our high school? Why or why not?

3. Sal asks “Are live lectures the best form of information delivery?” What do you think?

4. How does it make you feel that you might end up in a career as a result of being derailed by new information you gather along the way, and/or serendipitous circumstances that change your focus?  Is that a scary thought?  Or intriguing?

5. If you have already figured out what you want to study in college, did you arrive at that decision because it is something that you love to do, or something that you think will bring you career success? Something you’ve been told you should do?  How important is it to love what you do? Discuss.

BONUS: Sal Khan talks about how his gifted classroom experience affected his thinking and learning. Listen to the 90-second clip here.


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