Sal Khan (at GEL 2010 Conference) on Why Khan Academy works.

After two weeks of listening to students at my school talk about what they liked about Khan Academy versus the old system we were using, I found this video where Mr. Khan himself reflects on what is going on.  Most everyone gets #0 below, but these other ideas capture some of the magic formula:

0.  You can pause, stop, rewind, speed up (with a plugin), replay it until you get it.

1.  black background is key

2.  conversational tone and style

3.  he doesn’t prep for a video, he is seeing the problem for the first time when he hits record (95% of the time)

4.  when he does want to lecture, he studies the topic, e.g. he took two weeks to think about entropy before he did that recording

5.  he didn’t record his face because he didn’t have a webcam when he started, face is distracting

6.  you can hear him clearly, no other distractions…


It is a little long, but worth the listen, especially near the end where he reads some letters he has gotten.  They are inspiring.


Here’s some more information on GEL (Good Experience Live) Conferences.  The 2010 conference

Gel 2010: Thursday-Friday, April 29-30, 2010 (New York City) – watch videos

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  • halgera  On December 2, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Thanks for linking this video here. It was good to learn more about Khan and his thoughts on why the Khan Academy works. To what extent have you been directing students to this resource?

    • John Weisenfeld  On December 12, 2011 at 4:08 am

      Our school was paying $27 or so per student account at last year. This year we wanted to try Khan Academy, for two reasons. First, Khan Academy is free, a good starting point for a school on a tight budget. Second, we thought that students might enjoy Khan Academy more and thus be more inclined to use it. We have indeed found that students like the review questions, and the ability to earn badges and points at Khan Academy. So, our school has moved wholesale now to Khan. The troubling thing is, not a lot of students have watched videos when they were stuck. So it is unclear if the main feature of Khan Academy is being used by our students. I have my own reservations about the ability to track students effectively using the Coach feature Khan Academy, but we can always go back to Aleks, I suppose, if Khan doesn’t hold the attention of our students.

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