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Saturday, July 02, 2016

From YouTube Pioneer Sal Khan, A School With Real Classrooms | NPR Ed

Photo: Eric Westervelt
Eric Westervelt, Education Correspondent notes, "After some 10,000 online tutorials in 10 years, Sal Khan still starts most days at his office desk in Silicon Valley, recording himself solving math problems for his Khan Academy YouTube channel."

"OK, let F of X equal A times X to the N plus," he says cheerfully as he begins his latest.

Sal Khan works at his office in Mountain View, Calif. He still starts the day making video tutorials, which he's done for a decade, for his online academy.
Photo: Eric Westervelt/NPR

Khan Academy has helped millions of people around the world — perhaps hundreds of millions — learn math, science and other subjects for free.

But these days, just one flight of stairs down from his office, there is a real school that couldn't be more different in form and structure from those online lectures.

Most Fridays, the lunch option includes a Socratic dialogue with Khan himself on a wide range of issues, ideas and trends.
"So the last couple of seminars we've been talking about technologies that will potentially change the world," the 39-year-old Louisiana native tells the students. "We did self-driving cars, virtual reality; we talked about life extension, and robots."

Students high-five and share a laugh.
Courtesy of Khan Lab School
He's sitting on a picnic table with a small group of seventh- and eighth-graders, who are nibbling on their lunches. The seminar topic when I visited? The prospects and perils of artificial intelligence.
"What is artificial intelligence?" he asks. "How would you know something can think the same as a human being?" Khan asks.

They debate the ethics and delve deep into the anxieties of artificial intelligence.

"How do you know that it will listen to you?" a female student asks. "If it's a human brain, sometimes 

I don't listen when people tell me to do things and sometimes I make bad decisions. And this could make 10 times worse decisions!"

The discussion is quintessential Silicon Valley: self-referential veering toward self-important. 

Yet it's compelling, engaging — and genuinely different.

"Why can't you have an AI that is, like, completely peaceful and has no ego?" Khan asks the group, adding, "Do you think intelligence and ego is correlated?"

"If we eliminate all our bias and ego, I mean, I have some ego!" another female student replies, chuckling.

Just another lunch chat at the Khan lab school.

Inside, there's a big, open classroom. The school's ethos of playful, student-driven inquiry gives it a Montessori-meets-Willy Wonka feel.

The kindergarten through eighth-grade school currently serves some 65 students. There are no grades or grade levels; there's no traditional homework. Students are organized by independence level, with all ages mixed together much of the day.

The students shape their own schedules, craft attainable daily and term goals, and help direct how the place is run.

In one area, students talk politics while drawing flags and maps on poster board. Elsewhere, students are rehearsing a play version of Shrek.

I wander into an adjacent room and find 8-year-old Ben writing quietly in his journal, sitting comfortably in a beanbag chair.

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Source: NPR Ed

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