Knowledge for free

Simran Luthra

‘I teach the way that I wish I was taught.’ – Salman Khan

No, these are not the notorious film actor’s words, but those of his namesake, the very worthy creator of the khanacademy.org. Stemming out of the frustration he experienced dealing with boring textbooks and lectures that perhaps all of us have, Salman Khan (of half Indian and half Bangladeshi roots, born and raised in Louisiana, USA) stumbled upon a unique way to disseminate knowledge – on the Internet, via videos. With over 1600 videos ranging from algebra, arithmetic, finance, cosmology, and astronomy, to calculus, banking, biology, chemistry, and even history, his website also boasts of providing video lessons for students preparing for the SAT, GMAT, and IIT JEE examinations.

Sal, as he calls himself on the website, aims to cover the entire K-12 curriculum through videos, each lasting 10-20 minutes, since he is aware that human beings are limited knowledge processors, and ‘chunking’ information is required for the content to be understood and registered. The videos are viewer-friendly – lucid and simple. Sal uses a comfortable pace of speech and very understandable accent, along with a virtual blackboard as a visual aid.

The best part is that there is no catch! There is absolutely no cost involved in viewing the videos; no limited membership that first gets you hooked and then wants to charge you. As Sal puts it, it’s “a labour of love of one somewhat quirky and determined man who has a passion for learning and teaching. I don’t think any corporate or governmental effort – regardless of how much money is thrown at the problem – can reproduce this.*”

Khanacademy.org seems to be a huge step forward in the true democratization of learning – where knowledge is made available in a thoughtful manner, simply for its own sake – for anyone, anywhere (of course with internet access). The presence of something like this on the Internet is a boon for people of all ages who lack a formal forum for initiation into these topics in a methodical, innovative, and rigorous manner. Sal also promises that the videos are made in such a way that they fit requirements across boards and countries.

The website is also working on translation projects and extends an open invitation to anyone who would like to dub the videos in any other language. A Spanish version is already available. If you are keen on being involved with this innovative and grand gesture towards education available to all – log on to www.khanacademy.org

The author is a student of Education (Elementary) at TISS, Mumbai. She also works as a freelance communication trainer and editor. She can be reached at simranluthra@gmail.com.

Info bit

An interesting link for you to ponder on: http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_ use_video_to_reinvent_education.html

*http://www.khanacademy.org/about#faq