f Sal Khan has his way, we will never have to argue about class sizes again.
I When I went to high school, I was one of those students who "didn't flourish" in the traditional lecture-driven format.
There was one teacher, Bill Day, who had the ability to capture the class, and his lectures actually broke through and made learning a joy.
As I have the attention span of a gnat, it is no wonder the traditional system and I did not get along. The class that Mr. Day taught had 70 kids in it.
I have often wondered why we didn't take the best teachers, the Bill Days of the world, and videotape them.
Over the years, there have been attempts by different groups to reform our education system. Those efforts are usually met with strong resistance from the teachers union and other vested interest groups.
Sal Khan is changing that. In 2004, Sal was trying to help his young cousin with her algebra. He was in Boston and she was in New Orleans, so he video-recorded chalkboard lessons and sent them to her on YouTube.
The most amazing thing happened. Strangers began to discover his instructional tapes and started asking for more.
In 2009, the demand was so high, Sal quit his job, started producing chalkboard videos full-time, and founded the Khan Academy.
Steve Jobs was one of his first admirers, and now Bill Gates has joined his supporters.
Anyone in the world can join the Khan Academy and register for free on the Internet.
There are more than 3,000 courses now available, covering science, math, economics, and a myriad of other subjects, from the Greek Debt to how the stock market works - all presented in 10-minute chalkboard talks, mostly by Khan himself.
His unique style cuts through the fog, using a relaxed voiceover while writing on a screen as if it was a chalkboard. It is remarkably effective. The whole system is designed so that, once you register, you can follow a step-by-step lesson plan that is on demand.
The learning exercises are self-paced. To date, Sal Khan has delivered more than 200 million lessons to the world.
Last year, more than 40 million students joined his online talks, and the number is still growing.
Some teachers have welcomed the Khan Academy and use it as a teaching aid, which helps them overcome the broad range of student abilities in one classroom.
Early on, Khan decided the academy should be a non-profit, and resisted the temptation to go commercial, despite its success.
In seven short years, he has taught more people math than anybody else ever has in the world - ever. And he is just warming up.
Volunteers have been translating his chalk talks into 16 languages already, with plans to expand to 70 in the near future.
The current library of more than 3,000 topics would take eight years to watch and the way it is set up, every one of those lessons is available to anyone in the world who has access to the web.
There are volunteer opportunities - including mentorship roles - all integrated into the same system. So whether you are five or 50, there are courses for you.
The Khan Academy will revolutionize the way we teach.
Teachers in each country will decide how it is going to fit in with their education system, but the fact is, it is free and available to everyone.
In Greece, the teachers haven't been paid for three months and their pension plans have almost disappeared. Hopefully, B.C. teachers will see the future and treat this remarkable academy as a tool to assist in raising the bar of education.
So go to www.khanacademy.org, sign up, take a course, become a tutor, and step into the future.
- Gordy Robson is a former Maple RIdge mayor and a local businessman who was raised in this community. His opinion column appears Tuesdays in the print and/or online versions of The TIMES. Questions and reactions can be emailed to Gordy Robson c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.
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