In April 2011 I had an incredible two weeks during which I travelled backwards and forwards across the USA meeting some of the big thinkers and change makers in the field of education. One of the most impressive, without a doubt, was Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy;
When I met Sal I came away with a sense that here was a man who had a sense that the work he was doing had the potential to fundamentally change some things in the world, so they would never be the same again. Also, when I asked him whether he had any specific plans towards India, he didn’t have a time frame, but was certain that it was exactly the sort of place where he saw his impact being greatest.
There is a lot about Khan’s work that reminded me of the writings of Dr Clayton Christensen, especially in his book “Disrupting Class” about how technology innovations were going to bring far more than just incremental or evolutionary change in the education field;
So, if I was surprised at all to see news this week of a press conference involving Sal Khan and Ratan Tata, with announcement of an initiative to make vast amounts of free learning content available in Indian vernacular languages, it was more by the fact that it had taken this long! To my mind, there’s no question, this has way more implication than many will realise for some time.
One simple question – when anyone can get free access to knowledge and lesson shaped blocks of learning for free, how do teachers add value and how does school serve the learning experience in ways that justify their fees?