Live-Blogged Notes from New York Times Schools for Tomorrow Conference 2013

Panelists speaking at "Schools for Tomorrow" conference.

Panelists speaking at “Schools for Tomorrow” conference.

These are my live-blogging notes from morning sessions — especially Sal Khan’s keynote — at the New York Times Schools Conference on September 17, 2013 at the Times Center.  Here are some high-points from Sal Khan’s keynote, which expand on the basics about reach that you may already know (reaches 200 countries, 8 million registered users, 1.2 billion problems completed):

  • Khan Academy (KA) is implementing game mechanics, badges, leveling-up, lots of experimentation, assessment of big data, testing education theory – including growth mindset theory of Carol Dweck at Stanford, e.g. (early returns suggest that she is right).
  • What KA is super-focused on is common core alignment, deep mathematics, and real mastery.
  • If you or child go to KA today, you will get asked to take an 8-question pretest for math, starting personalization & pathways.
  • “We are a tool, but it’s really about the teacher.”
  • Blended learning: promising results by teacher Peter McIntosh at Oakland Unity in implementing the KA model in a classroom.
  • KA is not about putting kids in front of a computer, but rather to free up time for teachers and learners to do better things with time off the computer.
  • There is a great deal of work underway around the world to take KA into communities, via non-profits and schools.
  • The #1 creator of content in Mongolian is a 17-year-old girl in an orphanage who just started with KA content at 15 when Cisco engineers spent their vacation setting up tech in Mongolian orphanages.
  • Last week: launch of the full Spanish language KA.  Brazilian Portugese is next, and on from there.
  • “We are at a special moment in history” for education, Khan claims.  It’s not a cheap approximation of a good education that we want to provide for kids who are not otherwise able to afford it; we ought to provide a world-class education for anyone.  Education is not scarce and only for the few.
  • The advanced placement tests will be going up on the site, with Phillips Academy faculty (yay!) working with Khan Academy team members on advanced mathematics, e.g.

Good questions for Sal Khan from the audience:

  • Tension between two statements: 1) teachers matter and 2) any child can get a world-class education for free.  How can those both be true?
  • Worries about data privacy (as a non-profit, we are careful about that, says Khan).
  • Is it ever going to be possible to get a high-school degree just on KA, without ever going to a school?  Maybe, says Khan.  We should have a mastery-based model rather than a time-based model.  Perhaps community colleges will be involved; maybe employers; but in any event, it will be a competency-based model.
  • Two questions address the role of community college.  Sal likes the combination of a competency-based online assessment with an in-person component, perhaps at community colleges.

From the “debate” on “whether the university has had its day” (which no one on the panel seems to think has had its day):

  • Residential education can be improved.  Online education is causing hard questions to be asked about both online and in-person teaching, which are only to the good.
  • There’s no “one” single higher-ed experience, as teachers or learners.
  • President Martin of Amherst stresses things that can only happen in person, on college campuses: certain important intergenerational relationships, life in the most socio-economically diverse communities that exist anywhere, and the value of the company of attentive others, which should not be foregone, for instance.
  • There’s already a disruptive set of innovations underway at the hands of institutions on their own.
  • There’s a changing high school demographic that will cause enrollment to flatten in higher ed, says Chancellor Zimpher of the State University of New York.
  • We’re not good enough at measuring success in higher ed (possibilities thrown out by panelists and Tweeters: completion; mastery; education-for-education’s sake; learning things like ethics and morality?).

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