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.