MCAT Training Camp: Day 1

From Khan Academy’s Rishi Desai, MD:

Today is July 15, 2013.  It’s the first day of the MCAT training camp, and it’s also my 32nd birthday.  What a great way to get things started. 

Our kick-off meeting with all of the video-makers was this morning at 7am.  Folks trickled in over 15 minutes and the group was generally quiet, since they were still strangers to one another.   We began with simple introductions (name, home institution, etc…). 

Pat, medical student, Columbia
Shreena, CAM student, Georgetown
Will, teacher, Teach for America

As we went around the circle, body language started to change and smiles started to emerge.  Everyone relaxed and we took our first step towards getting to know each other.  I went through the project background, our collaboration with the AAMC and RWJF, and our plans going forward.  We discussed goals and expectations for the week, as well as some basics tips/tricks for making compelling videos.  People seemed comfortable with the plan for the day, which was primarily to prepare 1-2 new videos. 

I planned to meet with everyone individually for 30 minutes, so that meant ~7 hours of 1-on-1 meetings.  The first one was with Pat, and it rolled on from there…  Over the course of the day, I had all sorts of interesting conversations.  Topics ranged from outlining goals for the week, to philosophical conversations about the role of Khan Academy in the education space.  However, the most interesting thing was what I noticed happening outside of my 1-on-1’s.  All of a sudden books and reference materials were being shared, dropbox folders being set up, and discussions about video editing were happening organically.  Through encounters in the hallway and on HipChat, these inspired video-makers were rapidly helping each other improve. 

The highlight of the day was lunch.  Each person had a partner with whom they had to give and receive feedback on their most recent videos.  The vibe was amazing!  They were giving one another the most incredible, detailed, and thought-provoking feedback.  Was the pace too slow and going to cause the viewer to “get bored and fade away” or was it too fast and at risk for “creating good entertainment, but not necessarily good education?”  Was the scope going “too shallow and not really addressing the ‘why’ question” or was it too deep and getting “lost in the weeds?”  For two hours there was a healthy exchange.  The ideas ran deep and the video-makers were looking to do something much more profound then simply put together a set of facts – they wanted to create an optimal learning experience.  To have a passionate teacher is terrific, to have over a dozen of them bubbling with enthusiasm and ideas was a phenomenon! 

Having these video-makers come from far and wide to mingle and cross-pollinate ideas was the greatest gift I could have asked for from them on my birthday.

That was Day 1.


Sign up your class!

Teachers, you are now able to create accounts for students of any age!

For students under 13, you will need to get parent permission for them to use the site. You can download our sample permission slip to send home with your students.

To add your students, visit Coach > Manage Students and click the green “Add new students” button.

This opens the form for inviting students by their email addresses:


If your students do not have email addresses (or you don’t have them handy), choose “create Khan Academy accounts for them.”

Next, you’ll create a username and password for your first student and enter their birthdate. If they are under 13, you need to include their parent’s email address:


You’ll receive a confirmation and then you can create your next student’s account.

As soon as you’ve created the account, your student can start using it – so you can create accounts for your whole class one afternoon or evening and have them log in the next day!

Credit goes to team lead Matt Faus, intern Dylan Vassallo, Kitt Hirasaki, Maureen Suhendra, Matt Wahl, Shantanu Sinha, Ben Kamens, and our fantastic legal advisor Aman Shah!


Khan Academy and the Google Art Project

From Khan Academy Co-Deans for Art and History, Beth Harris and Steven Zucker:

You may have been wondering what Smarthistory has been up to since we joined Khan Academy in October. We’ve had to keep this hush-hush…but we can now announce that we have contributed more than 100 videos to the unbelievably great, second iteration of the Google Art Project:

We’ve made 90 Khan Academy videos expressly for version 2, which launched today, April 3rd, at the Musée d’Orsay, the Art Institute of Chicago, and museums in many other countries. We’ve also contributed 26 pre-existing videos to the Art Project. Finally, we worked closely with Sandbox Studios to create an engaging introduction to looking at art:

Our videos can be seen in the education section (the playlist is embedded at the bottom of the first page) and on the specific object “detail” pages.

We jumped at this opportunity because the Art Project has such enormous educational potential. It is critical to gather works of art from different institutions to tell the nuanced stories of art history. The Art Project brings together works of art from 151 museums in 40 countries within a cohesive visual environment. The high resolution images, powerful zoom function, “Museum View” (an interior version of “Street View”) and the ability to collect and annotate images, are all features that are ideal for teaching and learning.

Museums of art safeguard, make accessible, and interpret our shared cultural history even as they help to define the civic aspirations of their communities. Museums have always been defined by place, although traveling exhibitions and, more recently, museum websites have helped to “jail break” the art. André Malraux famously identified this new ability to see across institutional collections in his essay, the “Museum Without Walls.”

For a “Museum Without Walls” is coming into being, and…it will carry infinitely farther that revelation of the world of art…which the “real” museums offer us within their walls.        

                                                      ——André Malraux, The Voices of Silence

As always, all content is free and open. If you’re an art historian, museum educator, or curator, and you’re interested in contributing to the work we’re doing, please contact us.

We especially want to thank Colleen Brogan and Rachel Ropeik for coming through in a pinch and for their uncanny ability to make complex ideas clear.

You can browse our full playlist of videos for the Art Project here: