Khan Academy

Education as entertainment? I think so – I think this might be the next Wikipedia. Each segment is explained much in the manner you’d explain it yourself to, say, your own kids or younger relatives. I hope you’ll check out and bookmark Khan Academy.
Alex Forbes

Sal Khan of Khan Academy was a guest on the Charlie Rose Show today. I found Sal to be an articulate and captivating speaker with a contagious enthusiasm for whatever he’s talking about. Listening to Sal talk about what turns him on is like stepping out of a dodge-em car and into a Tesla. What does Sal like to talk about? Everything.

Khan quit his day job as manager of a hedge fund to create free online course content for students, teachers, professionals and those of us just interested or curious about a topic. He offers over 2100 short bite-sized videos on topics as diverse as finance, astrophysics, math and biology.

If you sign up and log in, you can actually take the coursework and save your work. Courses are staged in linear progression so, in Algebra for example, you “get” graphing of lines first, before learning the dependent concept of the slope of a line.

Each segment is a video “chalkboard” of about 10 minutes duration. There are about 45 segments to Cosmology and Astronomy, or about 150 segments and examples for Calculus. It’s an actual “course” for those who step through the entire progression of segments.

With no particular itinerary in mind, I thought I already knew Arithmetic, so I watched the videos for Lattice Multiplication and Least Common Multiple, learning something in both cases.

Since I majored in business and finance back in the previous century, I then monitored Banking 17: the gold standard – “what happened to the gold?” I learned that even when we were on the gold standard, we were on a fractional reserve system: only a fraction of US bank notes were ever actually backed by hard gold.

Being an astronomy buff, I monitored Radius of Observable Universe, Supermassive Black Holes and How we know about the Earth’s core. I understood that run-of-the-mill, garden-variety black holes result from core collapse of stars in the 30-solar-mass range, but I didn’t realize “supermassive” black holes, such as the one lurking right in the heart of our own Milky Way, may have been “primordial” – formed by an entirely different process shortly after the Big Bang.

Course content is staged logically and progressively so that you “get” each concept before moving on to the more advanced concepts that depend on them. This works for me, since I seem to be fundamentally incapable of learning a topic until I grasp its constituent and underlying concepts. Khan never talks down to his audience and never assumes “you should know this.”

Education as entertainment? I think so – I think this might be the next Wikipedia. Each segment is explained much in the manner you’d explain it yourself to, say, your own kids or younger relatives. I hope you’ll check out and bookmark Khan Academy.

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