Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Kahn Academy

I just saw this yesterday. This guy ( started making videos to help his younger cousin learn algebra. Apparently he didn't know when/where to stop. Now he has over 1200 videos and receives something like 40,000 views a day. This has become his full time job! The implications of this whole story are pretty cool. They're both practical and mind-blowing.

On the practical side we have this huge library of videos we can use with our students. I haven't looked at all of them, but the ones I have looked at are pretty straight forward presentations that get right to the point of a lesson/standard. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he starts with the standard and then builds a lesson to teach it. Most of the videos are 10-20 minutes in length and offer something a traditional lecture does not. The ability to pause and/or rewind without having to raise your hand and admit that you're "stupid".

On the mind-blowing side we have a couple of things. First is, Sal Kahn's method is totally reproducible. This means you can, if you're interested, create your own videos. Kahn uses a tablet device to write with his computer. You can get one on Amazon starting under $70. I'm not sure what program he uses for writing on the screen, but I've been playing with one called Uniboard, which offers a free version and allows you to record.

Or, if you have a camera that can record video you can also just set it up pointed at your hands and use a pencil and paper to compose your lessons. In any case you too can easily make videos and upload them to YouTube (or some other school friendly site) for your students, and it doesn't really take that much time.

The other mind-blowing aspect is that this guy was able to create these videos and in the process create his own career. Not only will he have donations and ad revenue to support him. I'm sure he'll be doing the lecture/keynote circuit. Yet another example to support Malcom Gladwell's assertions in Outliers (great book by the way). Kahn was in the right place at the right time, has ability (BS in Math from MIT), and was willing to work hard. He leveraged the internet and built a career literally from his own effort and intellect.


Anonymous said...

This is a pretty neat learning and online teaching technique/tool. I teach/facilitate a 2nd yr intro JAVA course (online) and often (deeply) feel the pains my students experience as result of the constant butting of the heads - up against all of the technologies involved. The students want the knowledge quick, easy, and right now...sadly (I've found) that's (often) just not possible with today's and yesterday's exploding tech surge(s). I'm looking for a way to make their burdens lighter...yet maintain integrity for the profession. I'm sure this can be a very useful and practical tool in my quest.

Anonymous said...

Another educational interest of mine is to explore ways to spread and/or improve computer literacy in adult learners, particularly adults in marginalized populations such as certain ethnic groups, older persons, and persons who just do not have access to computers and computer systems. There are many reasons why people are not computer literate. I intend to conduct research using possibly a case study approach to explore and identify adaptable techniques for improving the computer knowledge and literacy of adult learners. My focus would be the delivery of computer literacy training to a select population in one geographical area. Examination of the demographic data of the study’s participants would help determine whether the results are transferable or generalizable to other people in other areas of the United States or other global areas. Future updates to this blog will summarize my weekly progress as I further develop my understanding of the issues and approach to conducting the research.

Anonymous said...

For this blog posting, two research methods were examined for possible use in the planned research study involving improvements in computer literacy and knowledge. These two research methodologies are program evaluation and action research. An existing computer-literacy program can be used or the research setting can be in an existing environment that is in need of enhancement or improvements.

A program evaluation is distinguished from research in that the program evaluation is usually conducted for decision-making purposes, whereas research is used to inform practice or build upon our knowledge and understanding (Spaulding, 2010, p. 5). Spaulding defined a program as a set of specific activities designed for an intended purpose, with quantifiable goals and objectives (p. 5). Another definition was offered by Taylor-Powell, Steele, & Douglah (1996, p. 2): “Program evaluation refers to the thoughtful process of focusing on questions and topics of concern, collecting appropriate information, and then analyzing and interpreting the information for a specific use and purpose”.

Taylor-Powell et al. (p. 7) advised that once you decide upon a particular question that the program evaluation will answer, it may be necessary to break a larger (or broader) question into its component parts. Adapted from examples provided by Taylor-Powell et al., a main question and sub-questions for the delivery of an adaptable computer literacy course for adult learners might be as follows:

Action research, according to Riel (2010), is a process of deep inquiry into one’s problem or practice in service of moving towards an envisioned future and aligned with values. He added that action research is a form of learning from and through one’s practice by working through a series of reflections that yields a form of adaptive expertise. Action research concepts can be applied to the problem of improving computer literacy and knowledge in adult learners. This approach would be especially useful for analyzing and improving a current program with the idea of identifying weaknesses and eliminating barriers to the adults’ learning. In this instance, the goal of this action research effort would be an improvement in the community in which the computer-literacy practices are embedded through participatory research, where action research as a method is scientific in which the effects of an action are observed through a systematic process of examining the evidence (Riel, p. 2). Riel advised that the questions asked by action researchers guide their process and inspires one to look closely and collect evidence that will help find answers. Riel added that good questions arise from visions of improved practice and emerging theories about changes of the current practice to the ideal state of working practices. The research question sets up the inquiry and is the overarching problem selected and cycle questions (since action research takes place in cycles) are sub-questions that help to address the larger issue (Riel, 2010).

Lodico, M., Spaulding, D. T., & Voegtle, K. H. (2006). Methods in educational research. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Riel, M. (2010). Understanding action research. Center For Collaborative Action Research, Pepperdine University. Retrieved June 28, 2010, from

Spaulding, D. T. (2008). Program evaluation in practice: Core concepts and examples for discussion and analysis. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publications.

Taylor-Powell, E., Steele, S., & Douglah, M. (1996). Planning a program evaluation. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Extension, Cooperative Extension. Retrieved June 28, 2010, from

Anonymous said...

For this week’s blog, I will add to my discussion of computer literacy. Computer literacy for older citizens is becoming a bigger concern as technology is emerging as a means for using the Internet to obtain health-related information to improve health literacy and health numeracy (Jensen et al., 2010). Jensen et al. related how older persons with low health literacy skills were less likely to use Internet technology such as email, search engines, and online health websites. Their research showed consistency with past research in that older participants and those with less education were less likely to search online for health information. One method for enabling these older persons to use and gain access to technology could be sparked by creating user-friendly technology interfaces, such as pictorial touch screens, and computer systems that are accessible to persons with limited literacy skills.

Bean (2004) offered that computer literacy is the base component of eLiteracy, or being able to use technology tools to communicate and/or access health or other information. According to the Pew Report on Internet Use (February 2004), “58% of people aged 50-64 are accessing the Internet, while 75% of 30-49 year-olds are accessing the Internet and 77% of 18-29 year-olds are accessing the Internet’ (p. 110).

Special programs should target older participants, especially those ranging in age from middle age to elderly (80+ years). Bean explained that the attentional and cognitive processes required in attaining computer knowledge and skills are also the most affected by the aging process. In addition, physical factors such as arthritis, tremors cataracts, and debilitating disorders can adversely impact an older person’s ability to use ordinary computer systems (Bean, p. 110). To remedy some of the cognitive, attentive, and physical hardships of the aging person, Bean recommended the presentation of computer literacy courses that focused on teaching computer skills and techniques in a series of short classes with minimal handouts but using simple exercises. The educator or course facilitator should choose an existing course or should tailor the contents and proceedings of the planned computer-literacy training to match the knowledge and skill level of the program’s participants.


Bean, C. (2004). Techniques for enabling the older population in technology. Journal of eLiteracy, 1, 109-121.

Jensen, J. D., King, A. J., Davis, L. A., & Guntzviller, L. M. (2010). Utilization of Internet technology by low-income adults: The role of health literacy, health numeracy, and computer assistance. Journal of Aging and Health, 1-23.

Anonymous said...

For this week’s blog, I will again add to my discussion of computer literacy. Another aspect worth examining is the impact of literacy issues on older persons’ computer literacy. Saunders (2004) stated that two trends are looming prominent in our society – our populations are aging and society is relying more and more on technology. He added that today’s global population is witnessing advances in computerized technology and are becoming dependent on computerized resources to enhance our lives, health, and communications (p. 573). There is a wealth of information that offer perspectives on literacy and computer literacy in older persons in society (Lalor, Doyle, McKenna, & Fitzsimons, 2009; Larkin-Lieffers, 2000; Saunders, 2004).

Lalor et al. indicated that older persons have different attitudes toward literacy than younger generations and may not recognize that they have any difficulties with literacy. Cross (1981), WRC (2003), and Bailey & Coleman (1998) (as cited in Lalor et al.) offered several barriers to older persons’ participation in adult education, which could mean barriers to improving literacy and computer literacy; these included:

(1) Contextual barriers such as prevailing trends and policy issues (e.g., social exclusion, equality, and educational disadvantage).
(2) Institutional barriers such as ethos, practices, and procedures that serve to exclude or discourage adults from participating in adult learning activities.
(3) Informational barriers such as lack of or non-access to opportunities for education (e.g., informational materials and also outreach measures for target groups).
(4) Situational barriers such as one’s situation or environment at particular times (e.g., lack of time, famility commitments, etc.).
(5) Dispositional barriers such as attitudes and self-perceptions about oneself as a learner (e.g., issues with age, gender, educational levels, and motivational factors).

The results of Larkin-Lieffers’ study, which involved older persons use of public library technology, showed an overall low use of the library’s computer technology and reluctance to access the online catalogs despite having positive attitudes toward computers.

When designing literacy and computer literacy programs, formative adjustments to the planned program may be needed as the training is taking place so that persons are encouraged to experiment with and use computers and the library’s computerized technology (Larkin-Lieffers, p. 232).


Lalor, T., Doyle, G., McKenna, A., & Fitzsimons, A. (2009). Learning through life: A study of older people with literacy difficulties in Ireland. National Adult Literacy Agency. Retrieved July 12, 2010, from

Larkin-Lieffers, P. A. (2000). The older adult and public library computer technology: A pilot study in a Canadian setting. Libri, 50, 225-234.

Saunders, E. J. (2004). Maximizing computer use among the elderly in rural senior cienters. Educational Gerontology, 30, 573-585. Retrieved July 12, 2010, from

Anonymous said...

In this week's blog, I will continue dialoguing about designing and implementing computer knowledge and literacy programs for marginalized persons in the United States, in particular, older persons and persons nearing retirement ages. The stakeholders involved in implementing the needed computer educational training include the participants, community center leaders, training facilitators, instructors, teachers, and local, corporate, and government sponsors. When designing and implementing strategies to enhance the computer literacy and knowledge, several factors must be taken into account that also include addressing barriers that affect older persons’ cognitive and physical concerns. Larkin-Lieffers (2000) explained that, for older adults, the dynamics of computer familiarity, anxiety and willingness to become computer literate are complex, with specific barriers that must be overcome. These barriers may include decline in cognitive and physical skills needed to gain competence in using computers and technology (Larkins-Lieffers, p. 227). In her study on older person’s use of computer technology in library settings, Larkin-Lieffers’ review of the literature revealed that older persons may have more difficulty learning to use computers than younger adults for a variety of reasons, namely, older persons take longer to learn to use the technology, tend to make more errors, take longer to complete tasks, and require more assistance to master the needed skills (p. 226). In addition, physical constraints, such as changes in vision and dexterity with age, could complicate an older person’s ability to type, quickly identify icons, and coordinate the clicking and dragging of the mouse to perform certain computer operations.

Previous research seem to indicate that older persons are more likely to be involved in using technology if they are made aware of the benefits and understanding that technology can be both personally relevant and useful (Broady et al., pp. 478-479). To design and implement effective computer and technology education for older learners, Broady et al. suggested (a) providing clear explanations of the personal benefits of technology and computer literacy, (b) allowing ample time for older persons to master new skills, (c) treating learners in positive manners to make them feel valued and that program success is the expected outcome, and (d) using role models for encouraging similar behavior among women and older persons, particularly using women teachers and older teachers acting as role models for students with similar demographic characteristics (p. 481).

Researchers have emphasized that the success of any new educational program will depend strongly upon the support and attitudes of the instructors.


Broady, T., Chan, A., & Caputi, P. (2010). Comparison of older and younger adults’ attitudes towards and abilities with computers: Implications for training and learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(3), 473–485.

Larkin-Liefer, P. A. (2000). The older adult and public library computer technology: A pilot study in a Canadian setting. Libri, 50, 225-234.

Anonymous said...

During this week's blog post, I recently had the unique experience of examining three websites of international organizations that are making positive impacts on adult and higher education around the world.

One of those organizations is the International Accreditation Organization (IAO). IAO’s website indicated that although traditional education institutions have resisted the hard task of imposing a single international standard of what schools should teach by creating standards and assessing that performance against those standards, they understand the imporatnace aof and inevitability of international institutions making comparisons of educational programs. These educational programs at accrediting organizations must meet certain criteria for attaining key competencies. The dilemma, according to IAO, is that without established accrediting criteria, institutions may find it very difficult to verify the quality of the provided education. The challenge of IAO’s initiative for assessing the academic performance of curricula at international educational institutions is gaining international acceptance, where such acceptance by an international accreditation agency such as IAO could “be a plus point in the quest for worldwide program coverage and independent verification of your educational process” ( ).

Encouragingly, IAO’s accreditation standards are based on bench-marked process for providing and delivering solid online educational programs.

Anonymous said...

This final blog after eight consecutive weeks of posting blogs summarizes the results of a three-part course project that involved accessing and participating in domestic and international educational blogging websites. In this blogging experience, I explored a topic that is strongly related to my Scholarly Position Paper, which addresses an issue affecting adult education. In my blog posts, I attempted to extend my knowledge on the subject of improving adult computer knowledge and literacy, particularly focusing on older persons. Each post incorporated a different aspect of adult computer literacy, with these perspectives being influenced by the doctoral course’s (EDUC 8105: Adult Learning: Trends, Issues, Global Perspective) reading assignments, discussions, and review of the literature on the topics of literacy, computer literacy, and adult education. While my blogging experience in this project did not yield the desired level of collaboration to extend my knowledge on my chosen topic, I continue to believe that using blogs in an educational setting can prove to be a valuable exercise and can enable persons to effectively expand the knowledge and educational practices of educators, colleagues, students, and other participants. Several authors have indicated the importance of integrating technology (for example blogs and discussion forums) into our teaching approaches, whether we are teaching in classroom or online educational settings (Crie, 2006; Galbraith, 2004, pp. 273-287;
Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005, pp. 236-238; Wetzel, 2009).


Crie, M. (2006). Using blogs to integrate technology in the classroom. Teaching Today. Retrieved July 12, 2010, from

Galbraith, M. (Ed.). (2004). Adult learning methods: A guide for effective instruction (3rd, ed.). Malabar, FL: Kreiger.

Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F., III, & Swanson, R. A. (2005). The adult learner (6th, ed.). New York, NY: Elsevier Publishing.

Wetzel, D. R. (2009). 7 technology tips for the classroom: Strategies and techniques for integrating Web 2.0 tools. Retrieved July 12, 2010, from