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The Right Way to Use Technology in the Classroom

Sun, 20 Mar 2011 14:09:00

Originally posted on Shantanu’s Huffington Post blog (3/10/11) 

There have been many attempts to incorporate technology in the classroom. Since the early ’80s, schools have been stocking labs with the latest gadgets. Clearly, the world was changing.  We’ve seen the rise of personal computers, the internet, mobile devices, streaming video, social networking, and tablets. Our educational system must be able to benefit from these advances.

However, most attempts have been fundamentally flawed.  Computers were installed with mildly educational games that were kind of “cute.” Teachers weren’t provided the right tools to properly integrate the technology into their day-to-day instruction. For the most part, we didn’t teach kids with the computer, we taught them how to use the computer. Most kids need no help and could probably teach their parents. In the end, computer labs were a side show, expensive investments largely squandered due to a lack of good content or purpose.

We at the Khan Academy have a few thoughts on the right way to use technology in the classroom.  The Khan Academy is most known for the comprehensive video library that our founder Sal started creating in his spare time during his hedge fund days. However, thanks to recent funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Google, we have been busily building the software and tools we think teachers and students really need.   

Starting in November, we began a pilot in a few classrooms  in Los Altos, California (fifth grade and seventh grade Math classes).  Bill Gates’ team recently sent a film crew down to document the work and has posted some great videos on his blog, The Gates Notes. The district itself has also created a blog where teachers, administrators, and students are posting their thoughts.  

Sal spoke at TED recently and talked about how we got started and where we are headed.

What’s so different about our approach?  For one, we are leveraging the computer for what it does best and leveraging the teachers for what they do best.  We are ensuring students can truly work at their own pace on their own time. We are making sure students actually master concepts before they move on. We are empowering teachers with the real-time data they so badly need.  We are allowing teachers to make much better use of classroom time, with more peer tutoring, project-based learning, and one-on-one coaching.  Most importantly, we are making learning fun.

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