Khan: Use video to ‘flip’ education

Salman Khan, creator of Khan Academy teaching videos, calls for “flipping” education:  Let students watch video lectures at home and do “homework” in class with help from the teacher.

Once a hedge-fund analyst, Khan started making YouTube videos five years ago to supplement his math tutoring sessions with his cousins. They preferred the videos, Khan says. The first time you’re trying to learn something, the last thing you need is another human being standing over you saying, “Do you understand it?”

All fifth through twelfth graders in Little Falls, Minnesota will get iPads next year, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. This year, fifth graders were given iPads. Some teachers are flipping instruction:

The iPads have allowed teachers to pre-record some lessons that their classes watch as homework, leaving more time at school for them to work with students one-on-one, (Superintendent Curt) Tryggestad said.

The school board used funds set aside for textbooks to pay for the $499 computers.

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  1. I think the potential is tremendous, but the implementation has to be done carefully. A local school here gave all the freshmen iPods with the idea that they would use them to look things up and listen to books and lectures. Instead, they’ve been listening to music, losing them, and using them during class to drown out teachers. The end-of-the-day returning of confiscated iPods has become a daily frustration for teachers.

    Personally, I think that not training the students in the technology’s intended usage was the mistake, not the technology itself. The kids thought they were getting a new toy and have treated their iPods as such. I hope the folks in Minnesota put a little more instruction into the use of these tools. Another local school I’ve been working with this spring has iPods and iPads in every classroom. The children (these are elementary kids) are taught how to use them as learning tools, and so far not a single kid has bothered to download a game even though they have free access to the devices. The kids’ creativity in applying technology to their own learning has been a delight to watch.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is, it’s all in how you present it to the students. Just like everything else in teaching.

  2. tim-10-ber says:

    Could it be that schools are using and trying to teach modern tech skills that 1) they don’t use themselves; 2) don’t understand and 3) teachers are ill-equipped to use?

    I bet money the kids are light years ahead of the teachers and schools on these devices…

    In my district this is definitely the case…even the grading system is 19th century….geez

  3. This is called “inverted instruction.” It obviously makes sense. It takes two broad forms in a K12 environment: 1) students who WILL study at home or 2) those who WON’T or CAN’T who will be in a “Rocketship Academy” mode.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    The idea makes sense, but I suspect that the vast majority of students will not watch the video lectures at home (or will “watch” them, but also be watching American Idol while texting their friends). Even at college, very few students would read the “required” reading ahead of time. I’d expect that this group would be more motivated than the average K-12 student.

    The idea is a very good one, but I don’t see how to get the average student to actually *DO* it 🙁

  5. Roger Sweeny says:

    Salman Khan, creator of Khan Academy teaching videos, calls for “flipping” education: Let students watch video lectures at home and do “homework” in class with help from the teacher.

    There is a tremendous, gigantic, humongous assumption here: that the kids will watch the videos beforehand. Many won’t. In some schools, and in some classes, I feel sure the proportion would be less than half.

    One reason so much is done in class is that it’s a captive audience.

    (Perhaps this could work in elementary school. Students are perhaps more “trainable” there. But I’ll bet lots of students will leave their schoolwork at the schoolhouse door and wind up getting left behind.)

  6. Rob Crawford says:

    In college some of our professors would actually come to the study room where we had gathered en masse to do homework, and would help out. Seems like the same idea, but without the videos.

  7. Angel Eyes says:

    Roger has it right: it takes a captive audience to initiate learning for most kids. The same is true at the college level. You can tell them do do things before class until you’re blue in the face, but most will show up unprepared. That’s why the online learning model will only work for a small portion of learners.

  8. Hmmm… buy all the students Ipads at $500 a pop, or portable DVD players for $60 each. The ipads will offer myriad distractions, making it less likely the students will watch or pay attention to the lectures. The DVD players ensure no distractions. Decision process: “Well if I’m not paying for it, get the Ipad, Ipads are cool!! And modern!!”

  9. Khan thinks a third grader has the attention span to watch something at home? Really?

  10. BigFinger says:

    “The first time you’re trying to learn something, the last thing you need is another human being standing over you saying, “Do you understand it?” What a great line. I’ve watched a couple of the videos and think all teachers who really want to teach should review his/your stuff if just to see one of however many ways there are to teach a concept or convey an idea.

  11. teapartydoc says:

    The Khan Academy videos are probably used mostly by homeschoolers. They are the ones who are at the leading edge of education these days. The public schools are stuck in the nineteenth century, thanks to public sector unions.

  12. Khan’s “inversion” idea sounded great to me at first. My own kids are good students, though, and would actually watch the videos. I have a feeling that commenters Sweeny and Roulo have it right: most kids would either not watch the vids, or would “watch” them while watching TV or playing video games. The teacher would then end up explaining the exact same things to one student after another during the “homework” period. Pretty soon the teacher would realize it would be easier to explain things to the whole class at once, and we’re back where we started…

  13. The teachers should be able to track which students watched the video’s at home, and which didn’t. Kids who don’t watch them at home should watch them during recess, PE/Music/Art or after school. I think most kids would start watching them at home.

  14. dustydog says:

    5th grade and up, if they don’t do the homework, give them an early degree for what they did complete and cut their state-funded education off. They can learn on the job for unskilled manual labor jobs.

    If the bottom 5% of the class were no longer eligible for state-funded education each year, society would save money, the kids wouldn’t be worse off, and the rest of the kids and their parents would be highly motivated to learn (with or without a teacher’s help).

  15. I see an intensive 15 – 18 month program, teaching the essentials of a law school curriculum. Class would be a 1 or 2 day per week supplement to video or audio lectures, and would consist of Q & A plus final exams. It would help to break the law industry cartel, and the entire course would be 15K or less. And it would include state-specific bar exam lectures, so students won’t have to expend a few extra grand, plus 6 more weeks, on BarBri lectures.

    (And if the state bar associations try to bar admission of graduates of such a program, an antitrust action might be in order.)

  16. The point of the recorded lessons is to be able to watch them anytime one want do it. Do they don’t wantch them at home? They will watch them at school (no teacher time wasted with them in this). As the teacher help the children doing the exercises, the other will watch the lessons. Then, after watching hte lessons, it is exercises time for them.
    It is probable the home watchers will end their exercises before of the chool watchers. Then the home watchers will be able to go out to play and the school watcher will stay in the classroom to complete their exercises.
    Some children have disruptive homes so they have difficult to watch the lessons there. Others will prefer to watch the lesson of the next day at school. The point is to adapt the system to the need of the children.

    It is important to rememeber that early success breed more success and self-paced, asyncronous learning help to MASTER the topics faster. The point is not to rush more stuff in the same time, it is to give the children the time (the time they need) to master any single topic presented and then move up.

    Children are curious and if learning is successful and rewarding they will like to do more of it in the shorter time possible.

  17. More generally, I think there are serious problems with the idea that teaching in K-12 can successfully be broken down into just 2 stages: 1) a lecture stage with no feedback, and 2) a problem-doing stage.

    For k-8, this model just doesn’t work at all. Children need to learn all sorts of things about how to behave that comes from peer reinforcement. A good teacher knows how to model appropriate classroom behaviors and how to use peer reinforcement to get students to do it themselves. A good teacher in these grades isn’t lecturing for even 5 straight minutes. They are doing call-n-response, interactive feedback, question and answer, or otherwise adapting a “lecture” to an environment where students can respond and get IMMEDIATE feedback if their ideas are right or wrong. A watch-a-lecture model doesn’t allow that to happen.

    While a lecture-ish model may work better for grades 9-12, another underlying assumption here is that all “lectures” are equally good, or that there’s a “right” way to stand at the board and present the material, and that it’s really not a big deal to create such a good lecture. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult to present material well, to constantly self-assess how good one is, how well students understand, etc. and if one is on target. The ability to see that one’s presentation is going off the rails AND STOP AND GO A DIFFERENT WAY is underrated, but good teachers can do that–they can see that they were wrong in their assumptions of what students were prepared for, or see where their ideas are confusing or misleading and pivot fast enough to throw the whole thing away and start again if necessary.

    I’ve watched some of Khan’s lectures, but not enough to say whether his content overall is very good or good or terrible. But what I have seen is just incredibly “typical”, and I find that a typical presentation to a college student which may yield okay results is far from what a classroom of k-12 children in order to get good result.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Last summer, I was tutoring a small group of students weekly who had not done well on a final exam the prior school year. On many days, my only assignment for them was that they watch a video from on the topic that we were covering. They all had computers and internet connections. They had a week to complete the assignment, which was to watch one video. That was it.

    Not one of them watched the video. Ever.

    I grant that some students would benefit greatly from the ‘flip.’ I think that Salman Khan is doing great work and I promote his site when the opportunity arises. But for many students, perhaps most, the flip will be more effective if students get lower grades for not doing their ‘homework’ (watching videos); perhaps the teacher can start off class with a pop quiz.

  19. Rob Crawford: I call this “taking office hours out of the office” and it gets great results.

    Allison: khan knows kids have short attention spans. That’s why his videos are only about 10 minutes long.

    J: shame on the teacher. She has to hold the line and use the quiet power of embarrassment to squeeze kids into doing their video “readings.”

    I love it! I’m inverting my class this summer. Wish me luck.

  20. J R Walker says:

    Interesting concept but I doubt that it will ever get off the ground in any big way. Educators don’t realize that in 20 years there will be a lot FEWER schools because they are funded only when people pay taxes.
    Since more and more people are declining work since they make so much on welfare, where are the taxes coming from that fund the schools?
    States can mandate taxes but that will cause a lot of people to refuse to pay them. Heck, they’re letting hardened criminals out of jail since they don’t have space so they’re sure not going to replace them with people that don’t pay their taxes.So, eventually, that too will fail.
    If you could fast forward 20 years I think you will find that distance learning, either over the internet or some other method will be the preferred and possibly the ONLY method for those areas that can’t/won’t fund schools any more.
    The schools of today are what worked up until the early 20th century but this will not work in the future. Shoot it’s not even working now. Funding and test scores just to name two are failing. Test scores alone for students are atrocious in many areas and as far as funding goes, some districts are closing entirely.
    Unfortunately, those that rally for schools in state capitals are only seeing the beginning of the end for themselves. It’s an unsustainable model that already is crumbling because of lack of funding and other problems and folks, it will only get worse.
    This is Creative Destruction in it’s truest form and it will continue. And yes, jobs and retirements will get trashed. But, didn’t we have the same thing with a lot of other folks when their 401K’s got stripped? Ain’t no one safe no matter how hard or loud you scream and I take no pleasure in saying that because we’re all in the same boat. Just because the hole is in their end doesn’t make me immune to the same results in some way or form.
    But for idea of education, all is NOT lost. For a modest fee of about $17K you can go to college over the internet and get a degree that is as good as something from your local college/university. No traveling, no parking problems and being able to complete your course any time has distinct advantages for anyone going to school.
    No institution, grade school through college is going to be able to compete for what is coming at you over the net. Not cost wise OR quality wise.
    I have high hopes for education because the future of this country depends on those coming up. But my hopes are NOT based on what kids are getting from public education today no matter if it’s grade school or college.
    Change is uncomfortable for everyone but being uncomfortable with it isn’t going to stop it coming down the road at us.
    Carpe Diem indeed.

  21. Sean Mays says:

    IF you could get the kids to buy in and actually do it, it’d be great. Then we get “greatest hits” for the thing we need to get across – like a Great Courses curriculum and assemble it. Ideally the teacher evolves into a guide on the side as students become self-actuated. It’s nice to imagine, but I fear we’ll have warp drive first.

  22. –Allison: khan knows kids have short attention spans. That’s why his videos are only about 10 minutes long.

    10 straight minutes is an eternity to a college student who is supposed to have done the reading. To a 5th grader, it’ impossible to concentrate that long.

    10 minutes may sound short. but 10 minutes is 8 too long.

  23. The teachers should be able to track which students watched the video’s at home, and which didn’t.

    And then watch paranoid fools complain about Big Brother.

  24. There should be a national testing combine that verifies learning. Run, perhaps, by accounting firms that would be totally objective.

    Smart lecturers, at any level, could charge say, $1 per student. If the teacher is great perhaps 10,000 students would watch each lecture. That teacher would be recompensed properly. Each student would only pay a little bit.

    The “national testing facility” ACT/SAT/whatever would guarantee non corrupt results. All would gain. Society. Parents. Students. Gifted Teachers.

    Only some administrators and bad teachers would suffer. They could go into retail sales where the malarky they spout might actually do some good.

  25. Video learning has been around a very, very long time. Has it revolutionized anything yet? The Children’sTelevision Network has about all the research and data on early years video learning you could ask for.

  26. Allison, sorry but I reject you premise. If your assumptions are correct then how does anyone learn anything. In class instruction does not prevent drifting or daydreaming. If you introduce the social component to learning and allow the in class teachers to use it as leverage then more kids than not will want to keep up.

  27. Roger Sweeny says:

    1. Yes, you would need some way of assuring the students watch and pay attention to the videos at home. I’m not sure that’s possible. You can check to see whether the video has been played but that doesn’t tell you if the student is even in the same room. Maybe some sort of sensor technology could ensure that the student is in front of the video screen but could it also tell if she was texting or reading the latest teen magazine at the same time?

    2.Mirco Romanato is absolutely right that children are curious–but they are often curious about things we don’t want to teach them in school. Their curiosity for the things we want to teach them is often much lower, even nonexistent, especially after puberty.

  28. Carolynn says:

    If you don’t understand a point at the beginning of the lecture the rest will be gibberish. Not sure how successful flipping will be.

    At the good schools in Chicago the kids are doing an hour a night of homework in kindergarten. If their parents are hovering over them they can watch something at home!

  29. Donald Mitchell says:

    I may be a dinosaur, but I do not trust computers. I use programs to design things. I use programs to validate designs. There are also thousands of dollars worth of programs that I have discarded because I did not have confidence in their results. I would not hire any individual who needed a computer or even a pocket calculator to evaluate a problem that is simple enough for paper and pencil solutions. Until an individual is competent in the basic principles, electronic aids are the worst thing that you provide.

  30. –Allison…. If your assumptions are correct then how does anyone learn anything. In class instruction does not prevent drifting or daydreaming.

    No, but peer reinforcement does help that, as does a teacher calling on a student, as does call and response, as does being asked to come to the board, or a pop quiz, or the several dozen other things that teachers actually DO in the classroom that aren’t straight lecturing.

    Few people learn by simply watching someone lecture. If you really don’t think watching a video of a teacher is different than sitting in a classroom where you can actually raise your hand and ask a question, then I don’t think you’ve actually ever just sat and watched someone lecture on a screen. Screens aren’t human interactions.

    How does anyone learn anything? By interacting with it. Learning isn’t passive. That’s why note taking matters, summarizing matters, quizzes matter, in addition to the in-class experience. We are nowhere near figuring out how to make telepresence work. We’ve had the equivalents of correspondence courses in video for decades now with no research showing it works overall. Sure, for some highly motivated adults, it can work. But for children?

  31. –At the good schools in Chicago the kids are doing an hour a night of homework in kindergarten. If their parents are hovering over them they can watch something at home!

    Huh? They aren’t doing an hour of uninterrupted paying attention to some random person on the glowing box and LEARNING from that. Hovering parents won’t change that. POSSIBLY stopping the video every 45 seconds to talk with the children about what the teacher is saying would work at engaging the child, but it’s certainly not going to lead to mastery.

    Repetition of lectures where someone doesn’t understand don’t help someone understand. They need someone to help them find out where they don’t know what they don’t know. Watching someone talk won’t fix that.

    Again, to back up: do people here really think that what’s wrong in ed today is that too many teachers in K-12 spend their time solely lecturing at the board without the teacher interacting?

    I think the point of the argument of “flipping” was students need time to work problems and get feedback. But in a functioning classroom where a teacher interacts with students, that’s what the teacher is doing–doing examples on the board, having students participate, then leading the students to do more examples on their own, scaffolding them and then slowly removing the scaffolds. The video part is not the relevant part in the first place. Slowly building up the concepts by doing problems is.

  32. It’s funny how most people took far more words to say what Dennis elegantly said first in just a couple sentences. (And most people seemed incapable of realizing that they were just repeating one or the other of Dennis’s points).

    Allison is also correct, I think. The assumption is that the videos are outstanding, when in fact the videos are just pretty typical–a good explanation that works for smart kids who could probably figure it out from a book anyway.

    Teaching stuff to the kids in the middle–the motivated, mid-IQ kids–is an area where we really need to focus. Unfortunately, we’re too busy focused on the kids with limited cognitive abilities to care much about the kids in the middle, who we give As to if they do homework–whether they understand it or not.

  33. Cal is on spot: the middle and high IQs students are able to concentrate on topics.
    A teacher that need to stop avery five minutes to keep the attention raised have a problem. He is the problem or the children are problematic.
    I’m from Italy, I went to school in Italy with Italians children, I don’t remember any of this PC silliness in my old teacher (she started teaching after WW2). For sure she was able to enforce discipline on the pupils and the parents of the pupils would not complain. Well, the children would not complain for sure with the parents or the parents would punish them much much more.
    At the end the learning and doing was rewarding for all and we enjoined it. Punishment was vary rare and children behave well.

  34. Great idea, one exception.

    Why the **** are they using iPads????

    The notebook on which I am writing this cost me £199, about US$318. Generally tech is cheaper in the US, iPads are from £399 here. So my notbook is literally half the price.

    OK iPads are great for olds and arts graduates, who in the first might not be au fait with computers so need the simple interface, the second really neeeeeeed something cool, but we are talking about kids here. They know how to use computers.

    Oh, and of course some teaching material ripped off the net might be in flash format!

  35. Dead Dog Bounce says:

    You guys are missing the big picture here.

    You add quizzes to the videos. Kids will spend weeks trying to solve a computer game. Make learning interactive, give them instant grades, and they’ll treat it like a game. Add a class “hall of fame” and you’ll get more A students than you can shake a stick at, and the teacher can troubleshoot where there are problems.

  36. Dead Dog Bounce says:

    One other thing, the more video-game like things get, the more kids will tutor each other round the tough bits.

  37. I am a high school Mathematics teacher and we spend most of our 90 minute period working problems and correcting mistakes. We work as many problems as we can that involve the student setting up as much of the problem as they can on their own (the dreaded “word problems,” lol!)

    If I have to spend more than 10-15 minutes outlining the lesson then something is wrong. Kids learn by doing, not by listening.

  38. I love Khans videos, and even use them in my class, but in this case he’s wrong. I left a school district about a decade ago because the I CAN Learn program for teaching Algebra 1 (on dvd’s) was imposed on us against the department heads of every one of our schools. I blogged about it at