Okay, This Is Exactly What I’m Talking About

I don’t remember sending half these tweets at the Sal Khan live show last night but, being fair with myself, there were a lot of people in the crowd passing around a lot of different things. Luckily, somebody … nearby me … bootlegged the show so I could go back this morning and relive it.

A highlight:

We’re hoping Khan Academy turns into a platform for cognitive education research. You have two million kids doing problems every day. If you have a better way for people to conceptualize fractions [using video-based lecture] and you have a good way of measuring it [using machine-readable tasks] — we’re already doing A/B testing — you put five percent of the audience in front of that versus the control. In one day, you have the data for your Ph.D.

Khan didn’t say those bold-formatted words but they were deafening just the same.

The technologies that allow you to conduct A/B tests on mathematics education constrain the mathematics you can A/B test. There are methods for teaching fractions effectively that cannot be effectively A/B tested using the Khan Academy platform or any existing technology, for that matter. Yet the prevailing attitude in Silicon Valley is, “The limits of my sandbox are the limits of the known universe.” (Khan extends that to say, “You could spend a day in my sandbox and get all the data you need for a doctorate.”)

That sandbox might be really, really great. I’m willing to tolerate way less than the best fraction instruction if it’s accessible to everybody in the world with an Internet connection. But confusing the sandbox with the known universe isn’t doing anybody any favors here.

The rest of the set was classic Khan, but he played some new material I hadn’t heard:

  • “We are highly influenced by constructivist thinking.” [link]
  • “A lot of what we’re talking about is maybe the missing link in Montessori.” [link]

Comments closed, obv.

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I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.