How Khan Academy Can Help OLPC


The following article is a shortened version of a post that can be found here.

Before the eduJAM! conference I went on a few tours of schools in Uruguay that are using the XOs in the classroom. After those tours, I came to the conclusion that there are 4 core challenges that OLPC is currently facing.

A. The kids aren't receiving the educational basics.

B. There is insufficient motivation into exploratory learning.

C. A blind eye is turned toward impending evaluation and testing.

D. Teachers and developers have big problems communicating.

These are serious problems, and if they don't get solved then OLPC and the XO are going to flop and they're going to flop hard.

A Match Made in Heaven

Fortunately, there is hope. And that hope is called The Khan Academy. The site hosts over 2,000 educational videos, from basic math, to organic chemistry, to economics and the French Revolution. There are even videos on subjects such as entrepreneurship. In addition, it has really good exercises and a reward system for math problems.

So how does Khan Academy help overcome the challenges currently facing OLPC?

A. In terms of The Basics

Khan Academy covers almost every basic academic subject in its videos. In addition, it has one hundred sets of math exercises. OLPC could either use the exercises from the website or rewrite the programs to make them work offline in Sugar. Problem Solved.

B. In terms of Motivation into Exploratory Learning

In an ideal world, kids would pick up the laptops and go to town on all the amazing programs available on the XO. But that just isn't how it works, because there is more immediate gratification to be found in simple games and Facebook. You and I know that exploring the world of science, art, math, and literature is much more satisfying than whatever instant satisfaction Facebook or (non-educational) online games can provide. But kids don't yet, so we need to get our hooks in first. Khan Academy does this through a system based on gaming, with badges and rewards, just like Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. Problem Solved.

C. In terms of the Impending Evaluation and Testing

Testing is already built into the Khan System, so teachers and students can track their own progress. The system is measured whenever it is employed in a new school, and the statistics show that it WORKS. Problem Solved.

D. In terms of the Teacher/Developer Communication Dilemma

I was talking to Bert Freudenberg the other day about developing video tutorials for eToys, and he said there would need to be about 100 to give a complete tutorial of the program. Imagine if Khan Academy could help us pull those videos together. With video tutorials, developers and teachers wouldn't have to communicate at all! I'm sure this a big relief for both parties. Problem Solved.

So my basic point is this: All of these problems I've heard about have been solved, and solved well. OLPC + Khan Academy is the best solution we have in terms of executing a grand-scale education revolution. Connectivity, hard disk space, and translations are certainly challenges, but they are without a doubt challenges that can be overcome with time and effort.

Sam Seidenberg graduated from James Madison University with a degree in Intelligence Analysis. After doing some research he decided that rather than work for a government intelligence organization he would apply the skills gained in his education to more beneficial projects such as OLPC.

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Resumen en español al final del artículo

Over the weekend we had some brief, but interesting discussions about the use of Khan Academy content in OLPC projects around the world. This is a topic which we briefly covered in two [more]


What about native language? An local knowledge? It is true the teacher/developer dilemma but educational issues, need time. Khan Academy is not THE solution. Sugar development team must continue to open interchange spaces with teachers, and explore a more deep idea of participation. (As a Temuu Leinonen once said in this blog).

This is a good project in the making because we need to make the changes in our old way of doing things to improve the reading and writing skills of our young people. The Tablet will be the way to go,

Like myself as a Poet/Recording Artist my content will be loaded on the Tablet for whom ever choose to use and where ever without teachers or some one telling them what or who may listen to that content.

I ran some KhanAcademy offline servers in orphanages in asia and the kids loved it . Im trying to get OLPC in Mongolia to try it out but the entire community seems to be dead here.

We are trying to get these un-used XO to create education hotspots which dont need to be connected to the internet, they are running locally in one central server.

If you are active and know people form the OLPC community who would be active enough to adopt it , we can set them up with this content.

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