Khan Academy and beyond
Microsoft CEO Summit Innovation in Education Sal on panel at Summit
Microsoft CEO Summit Innovation in Education
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- Next, I've got Walter Isaacs, that's gonna moderate a really great session on innovation and education, and
- certainly Walter doesn't need much introduction either, he's the chairman and president-CEO of the Aspen Institute, he's
- been the CEO of CNN and the editor of Time Magazine, he's also a best-selling biographer, so please help me welcome
- Walter. Thank you, thank you, Kevin! Our session right now is on something that keeps coming up in our conversation, which is
- education and how innovation and technology can transform it. I think it's a useful topic. If Ben Franklin came back today
- and walked into a classroom, he would say "Oh yeah! That's exactly how we did it. That's exactly what we made.
- The teacher stands there and gives a little lecture, and 24 kids are sitting around.
- It's the one major sector of our lives that HAS not been totally transformed by the digital revolution, and I think we're at
- an inflection point that's about to happen, whether it's MIT and Harvard joining up for EdX, the way Stanford has
- already been doing, for higher education, or what's happening in the K through 12 classroom. Starting with you, Bill, you've
- written about four or five things that are gonna be transformed. Let me start with the first one we're gonna talk
- about, which is reimagining textbooks. How do you think that's going to change our personal lives in education?
- Well, if you get pervasive digital devices, very few tablets, and pervasive Internet connection, then one can imagine
- eliminating the paper-based textbook, and an interactive textbook is a very different thing. In fact, the boundary
- between quiz, lecture, textbook is basically eviscerated - you can track the student, bring in a video,
- ask them a few questions to keep them engaged. And the invention of that multimedia educational thing, called the future
- textbook, but it's really all those things brought togethe. We're in the process of figuring out what that is right now, and
- there's a lot of innovators for profit and non-profit who are participating in that.
- How is that Sci and math academy in our home town of New Orleans where Sal and I come from, run by some Teach for America core
- members? And there are no textbooks, they just have curriculum and the teachers up there on the dashboard
- just saying that "These two students over here don't understand that X and Y are different, and these two..."
- How do you-- Do you think there will be a totally disruptive transformation of how we do curriculum,
- or do you think that textbooks will just be put in digital form? Well we want to be a little concerned about this,
- because in a sense the---every time something new comes along, they say education will change - textbooks came along, everybody
- can read them, we got TV sets, video tapes, computer aided instruction, and so far technology, at least in the
- classroom, has had absolutely no effect.
- So the issues of motivation, why should I learn тhis, am I the person who's good at this - there's so much complex human
- motivation in the learning process, that to say that just to
- mechanize the pieces - just click on the lecture, we don't need the lecture - the actual usage of things like MIT
- Courseware is mindblowing for one reason - basically nobody uses it.
- I mean, in a -- take the very best Walter Louis physics course, which is the 3rd one up there, about 3,000 people
- have gone throug the thing, and it's free, it's fantastic, I love the guy, but there's no market for people at home at
- night saying, "how do those wave equations work" - without it, a job, a degree, so far this whole "Hey it's online, therefore
- it'll be utterly different" - there's been as many failures as successes.
- I think some of the stuff that Sal and Bor are involved in are going to be amazingly successful - so I do think this time is
- different. Everybody talks about flipping the classroom, and you are the ones who have been successful at that so far.
- Explain how you think that's going to work.
- Yeah, When you go to this reality, and it's been happening already, I mean, for us it's been kind of an inadvertent
- adventure, but you have this reality where students are going to a place and they're learning from videos and exercises
- and getting feedback, you start to realize, "Well okay, they all can realize at their own pace now". As soon as you make that
- one assumption that every student can learn at their own pace,
- master concepts and move on and kind of build a scaffold, it actually allows you to rethink every aspect of the education
- system - you no longer have to group students by age-based cohorts, you no longer have to have a teacher at the front of
- the room giving a lecture, you no longer have to have all the desks pointed in the same direction, you no longer have to
- have teachers separate from each other.
- You know, I have 20 students, you have 20 students, and we have no peer interaction. And so what we're seeing is -- we
- started off as kind of a virtual thing for anybody out there to learn -- Actually, will you explain the story of how you
- started? Oh yeah, I mean, New Orleans connection - You know, right after I got married, family from New Orleans was
- visiting me in Boston - they now live in Northern California - and 12-year-old cousin, Nadya, having trouble with math,and I
- offered to tutor her, and a little--two years into it, word got around in the family and I was tutoring about fifteen
- cousins, and then famously a friend said -- well, you know, I was having trouble scaling myself - I had a day job
- - and he said, "Why don't you stick some lessons on YouTube?", I said no, that's for cats playing piano, not real math, but I gave it a shot and,
- you know, famously my cousins told me they like me better on YouTube than in person.
- -- That's right -- And so I kept going. And so the YouTube videos - there's a ton of them now, there's 6 million
- kids using it every month now, we're a team of 30 people now. But yeah, and when we
- launched kind of in a big way, when we started building our organization, we assumed this is just a supplemental
- thing for kids out there to learn, or adult learners too, but then some school districts said no, this was interesting to
- us!, this is kind of true differentiated instruction, this could be a game changer!, "And tell us what school districts
- have adopted it, and give me an example of how that worked?", Yeah, so the most famously Los Altos and
- Silicon Valley, they are not district-wide, but it's been Kip Prep, Summit Prep, a couple of other charter schools in
- Oakland. I think the one that has actually pushed the envelope the most is the Marlboro school in Los Angeles,
- which is an elite girls' school - and what they did is, they said "Yeah, we don't have to use this Prussian model where all
- students have to learn at the same pace. We're going to have seven to twelfth grade girls all in the same
- classroom, all learning at their own pace, and if you visit one of these classrooms, there's a ton of peer-to-peer
- interaction, and what the teachers are doing - they are no longer the lecturer - they are doing one-on-one interactions -
- it's made the classroom more of an interactive or human experience. "Bor, what have you learned about how
- people learn, and how does that get applied, and maybe even do it if you would in an international context -
- what have you learned from around the world about how different people learn things, especially in your higher
- education and career training things at Kaplan - tell us how that works."
- "What's great about working now at this intersection between education and technology and actually learning
- science is that all of those things are now ready to go, ready to get something really done. And on the learning
- science side of things, a lot of the things Sal is describing actually back up exactly what's being found when you look
- experimentally at how people actually learn - there's been a lot of that work over the last 20-30 years - things like
- giving people control over their pace, and that turns out
- to help old learners, novices, and expert learners - things about using media together with a voiceover, and that's
- exactly how Sal Khan's videos work - he doesn't show his face; he's actually showing a key write-up as he's doing it, so
- your eye is tracking what he is actually talking about. That turns out to line up with a bunch of the research about how
- you should use media, things about using simple, informal language, and things about technology, then, allow you to
- take a really good learning solution - because the best tutors do these kinds of things too - what technology lets
- you do is take a good solution, or actually a bad solution, and make it affordable, reliable, available and data-rich,
- so all of these things now become possible for us to do, and it's possible for us to do around the globe.
- The materials that you create that are introductory materials and demonstration materials can suddenly become available to
- everyone around the globe, and then you have local folks who get together and provide that next stage of feedback
- and counseling and answering questions that the online materials don't actually describe. And that local work can
- also then become culturally more connected to where you are, and give examples from where that is happening as
- well. It gives a terrific opportunity to make the whole process much more efficient around time and effort, and
- what it actually does is (it's a little bit odd, but) it begins to drag education into the modern economy, where, to do all
- this, you actually have to spend a lot more effort up front - this is not typically somebody sitting down the night before
- and doing a whole course, it becomes - let's look at the learning sciences, think about our objectives, let's structure
- this thing, let's figure out where the interactives go, when do we need a person to engage, when can we use the automated
- systems. That can be a lot to build all that. But now your variable costs come down potentially, because you're
- using teachers - well-trained human beings in a system for what they are really good at, and allow the machines
- and tools and the media to be designed to do the rest of the work. So at Kaplan, you know, as a business doing
- this kind of work, we're trying very hard now to use large-scale, you know, we have more than a million learners, to
- begin to generate data, to do experiments along these lines, just as Sal is doing, to see, if we apply this learning
- science on a scale, as a learning-engineering exercise, can we get those benefits, and then can we keep going in
- scale and transform how we do our education? It's a very exciting concept.
- Sal, what Bor just described is really helpful for profit model can work well, because you do the upfront cost, do
- it to scale. Yours is a non-profit model, then we have the models of the Harvard MIT doing EdX, and Stanford
- doing two different things, whatever it may be. How do you see the mix of profits and non-profits and what's the
- advantage of each? Yeah I think it's all great, I think we really are in kind of a renaissance, I mean every week
- we're hearing of a new - I mean - Harvard and MIT - these are not small institutions. I think this was the biggest
- announcement - "You have four degrees from amongst them, right?" "Yeah, so I'm making sure that--" "And Bill
- never got one, as far as I can remember!" "--He's getting a higher return on his." "Um, the, uh, you know, I think it's all
- great, it's all innovation, I think everyone's seeing what works in certain contexts and saying, 'We should do that
- too, we should do that'. Our thought, or my thought process - it was really kind of delusional when I - I was
- literally operating out of a closet for several years - it was - we are kind of at this inflection point in history, we've been
- talking about it this whole session, and I felt that any inflection point in history needs new institutions, and, uh, it
- wasn't obvious that new institutions at this point had actually percolated up! New companies had them,
- , not new institutions, and so in my delusional - I read a lot of science fiction books
- I was like, maybe I could be like Harry Seldon in the foundation, this could- this could-
- -we read the same books, obviously - but the - people who read the foundation -
- - but there is - it was crazy and kind of, uh, idealistic on one aspect,
- but on another aspect it was completely practical.
- Maybe we could do civilization-scale education, we could make it free,
- , we could make an institution, I mean, this content - if Newton had made videos on calculus,
- I wouldn't have to! This stuff is evergreen - it's not changing.
- Now his notation was a little - yeah, he was a little eccentric -
- But this stuff is evergreen! This stuff is gonna - these videos could be teaching -
- not just videos - interactions, questions, simulations,
- they could teach kids 500 years from now, and so it just seems like too crazy of an opportunity
- to try to - there's nothing wrong with it as a business, but maybe it could be an institution,
- and that was the thing for us. "Bill, how does that change the role of the teachers and help you
- scale good teachers?" "What we'd really like to know is, why is it so hard
- to get kids motivated around these things? I mean after all, it's really in the
- kids' interest to get a high school degree and get a college degree. It's not just that you make more money,
- you meet more interesting people. Everything is better about that path in life, and so our failure to convince them
- to help themselves in that way - it's very disappointing, and the US statistics are horrific
- We doubled what we put into education over the last 20 years, and our output did not improve at all,
- and other countries on the other hand have done very very well.
- So for younger students there's going to be a structured environment where teachers supervise them quite a bit
- . One of the most interesting things at a conference Sal and I went to was a thing called the Lion School, which is a charter
- school in California, which in the US is where most of the good experimentation takes place - they have a class of 48
- , but when they ask the kids what they liked about the class, they said "Oh, it's so small an personal!"
- It's because they have 16 with the teacher, 16 doing peer education, and peer education - where
- you have kids help other kids - that is a coming thing in figuring out how to technologically
- help those kids group together, make that work, that is super powerful, and it's also very cheap!
- And then they have a final group of 16 where they are just looking at Khan Academy-type content, playing some of the
- math game things, and so you do math by rotating through the three different experiences,
- and their results are way better than a class of 25 done the normal way.
- You just said that most of the experimentation and innovation being done by some of the innovative
- charter schools in the country - in New Orleans, now, almost every kid goes to a charter school,
- and the parents have choice - it's almost a voucher system where the money follows the student,
- so you have competition where a cap and a yass and whatever do it - why should that be the model as it is with higher
- education, where there's competition people have choice, why shouldn't that be the model to drive innovation
- in K through 12? Well it's not like higher education is fantastic - the drop-out rates in US universities
- are higher than any other country - their costs have also gone up, actually more than a factor of 2 in the last 20 years,
- and the output has not improved all that much. So there's pathologies there as well.
- The uniform approach, sort of monolithic state-by-state approach that we have, yes,
- that probably holds things back, but politically, to get that to change is very hard. I mean, charter schools,
- California shorts their charter schools in a way that most of them are financially unstable right now, and
- you know, the union often argues for the status quo, whether it's against charters or against personnel systems,
- so it's very very tough because everybody wants a minimum standard, and using a market-based approach
- you won't hit that minimum, so you get this kind of rigid approach as the acceptable approach.
- So it that good or bad? Well, I don't know how - it's very hard to change. There are countries
- that do this better than we do, and we hope that we could learn from them. Can we learn how to do
- personnel systems and then bring technology in? Those are the two things that should make you
- optimistic about education that people like Kaplan are on a for-profit basis, and things like
- Khan Academy really are going to catch on, but the institutions will be slow to recognize these things,
- thank goodness for charters and some young teachers who are willing to essentially break the rules.
- Bor, why do you think the profit model will succeed in a world where so many people are now doing this for free?
- It's a great question. Part of it is because, as we just talked about, technology is not the only answer -
- it doesn't actually solve all of the human training needs. The human mind is built to take a lot of
- feedback, a lot of customized feedback, and to use that very well. There are some things that
- you can automate, and over time there will be more and more things, but at the end of the day,
- if you're trying to write a persuasive essay, you need somebody to give you feedback
- on why it's not persuasive, and how to do it again, and then to look and see, did you get it right
- this time or not? Another aspect of this, why I think there is real value that people will pay for is
- connecting the outcomes of education itself to the outcomes that are needed, let's say, in the workplace.
- So a lot of our work is in the higher education space, the folks go from us to the workplace, to, many of you
- are in businesses perhaps. And one of the missing things in higher education is a very
- clear link between how are people doing in their first 6 months of work, and how should - shouldn't that be a feedback loop
- that comes back to the training environments or the learning environments to modify those?
- And from Dr. Cunningham's discussion last night, one of the fundamental barriers is the System 1/System 2 problem,
- which is that experts - more than half of what is human expertise in an expert's mind is subconscious. That is, when
- they teach a novice, as you do, you stick an expert up in front and have them teach, they
- will tell a novice less than 30% of what the novice needs to know to execute. That's why your first
- year at any job is in agony, it's because all the experts before you ended up not telling you more than 30% of what you needed
- to know the first day at your job. There are techniques, and we're experimenting with those at Kaplan, they come out of
- cognitive science, and I've talked with some about those things, where - called cognitive task analysis, where you identify
- with objective measures out of a thousand people in your workforce, who are the three that you want to clone?
- Who are the three that are making decisions that are amazing for your business in their role
- and then you can do an interview process to get more like 70% of that, and then create training materials and methods
- and practice that targets those skills, put those in place and begin the feedback loop.
- With an objective reason you can make it clear, transparent, what you're trying to do and why, and that allows you to change
- it over time too. As the job role changes, you keep interviewing new experts and you make adjustments. Now that takes
- real work, and repeated work, it's also enormously valuable for both you as employers, and for the employees to now
- sign on and know that the training track is leading to high-quality expertise that's
- been validated in the workplace. So to me what's happening now, and it's terrific, is the free solutions
- are providing an increasing baseline of learning materials. You know, you can't get away with
- poorly-designed lectures and ignore the students. No! That's not going to work anymore,
- there's all these great free materials to provide a base line, and then above that, that's where it gets exciting -
- what comes after that? What feedback do you do, how do you design outcomes to improve on what's
- available that's free, and I think it'll be like always in technology - an ever-increasing, in a sense, race, that way.
- And so, I think that's part of what's exciting about it. Sal, you can remember your days at MIT and at Harvard.
- Khan Academy has no such campuses, Kaplan has places where people go, but they aren't quite campuses like that.
- What is the role, if any, that actual physical campuses with human interaction should and will play?
- I think it's a huge role, and I think the important part is what you just said - the human interaction.
- The problem is if you go to most campuses right now, yeah, we're all in the same room, but there's actually very little
- human interaction. I mean, I used to sit in 300-person lecture halls the whole semester - I didn't know the professor,
- I might have known two people in the classroom. By the way, every professor who taught you
- claimed that they saw potential. I don't know.
- But, so, what I said, what I imagine school for my own children, I imagine
- a highly interactive environment, and so what we think is that education is a spectrum. At this end is your
- multiplication facts and your vocabulary, and then out here is building a robot, starting a business,
- painting a picture, I mean, really open-ended, creative things.
- And what we see the role of technology is - okay, we're already doing this part, and we're gonna keep pushing the envelope -
- we'll use Dan, we'll make it better and better, we'll iterate on it and we'll connect it to real economic valuable things
- and then as we do this, there's kind of some fear that I- oh, this is where school is focused.
- Is this gonna replace the teachers there? It's going to turn them into monitors of some kind! No, this is an
- opportunity to move the humans over here, where the humans are good. Bill, what do you think the role of things like social
- networks and gaming are in transforming education? Well it's fascinating that one of the educational startups
- this one Grockett has the ability to do SAT testing, all these things, and you can just
- do the quizzes on your own, or you could do them with a group of people, and overwhelmingly, over 90% people choose
- to do it almost as a contest, where if somebody is slow, you can say, "Ah you know"
- "On a social network, you mean"
- Well it's online, multiple people interacting - the word social network - "But it's not play space" - It's online.
- It's a 10 dollars a month thing where you sign up and you have access, you can do solo
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