Upon hearing the name Sal Khan, you may recognise this name. It belongs to the founder of one of the world’s top educational websites, Khan Academy.
On technology in education, people often talk about Khan Academy. Maybe you may have even used it for your own studies. It is an American non-profit educational organisation founded by Sal Khan. Khan Academy has produced over 6,500 video lessons teaching different subjects. Many schools worldwide use it, with around 6 million regular users a month. It has also been a very important tool especially during Covid, for students to continue their education during school closures. However, few do not know of its humble origins, which started as tutoring videos for his relatives.
Who is Sal Khan?
Salman Khan was born in a Bengali Muslim family to Dr Fakhrul Amin Khan and Masuda Khan. He grew up in Metairie, Louisiana. He later graduated with several degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard Business School. Before starting Khan Academy, he worked as a hedge fund analyst at Connective Capital Management.
How did Khan Academy begin?
It began in 2004 when Sal started teaching his cousin, Nadia, mathematics through the phone and Yahoo doodle. After Nadia improved through his teaching, many relatives tried to get Sal for tutoring. Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough time and uploaded videos on YouTube instead.
During that period, people saw YouTube only as an entertainment platform, with videos ranging from cat videos to skits. It was rare to find educational videos such as Sal’s. It is unlike the many free educational channels we see today. Other students who found them useful viewed and shared his videos, which unexpectedly helped many students.
Sal’s videos gained a huge following. In late 2009, he quit his job as a financial analyst to focus on developing his YouTube Channel, Khan Academy.
The impact of Khan Academy
Khan Academy’s mission statement is to provide free, world‑class education for anyone, anywhere. This is key to helping to bridge the educational inequality gap that is common in less developed countries. Less developed countries rarely have as many resources to provide quality education. Khan Academy aims to rid such barriers; all students need is a device that can connect to the Internet.
Today, Covid-19 has caused the shutdown of schools and disrupted over 800 million learners worldwide. With such circumstances, Khan Academy’s access to free educational resources for remote learning has proved even more significant.
You may wonder: how is it possible to accomplish this in a rural community? Most communities have less than desirable school infrastructure and almost non-existent internet access. Will this solution even be sustainable?
What is the solution to this?
This is where The Patatas come in. We work closely with our partners for worthy social causes and aid them in their creation of technology-based solutions. With a firm belief in collaboration, we take time to understand our partners’ needs before developing solutions for our partners’ operations.
Some of our previous projects include Digi-Eskwela, where we brought e-learning to remote villages in the Philippines. We did it through the use of applications and tablets. We are proud of that project as it has resulted in an impressive 30% improvement in class literacy abilities.
CaseStudy: What is it and how Khan Academy plays a part
Here at the Patatas, we have a similar mission to Khan Academy, which is to create learning bridges in underrepresented Southeast Asia communities through partnership and innovation. One of our ongoing projects is CaseStudy. Through a detailed survey, designers here at The Patatas had observed that a key challenge was the logistical complexity of bringing education into developing areas where there is an acute lack of infrastructure. Any existing facilities are also extremely vulnerable to natural elements, such as volcanic eruptions, floods, and typhoons. We were inspired and motivated to ensure the provision of quality education in these regions. Hence, we created CaseStudy, a highly affordable digital classroom that is built to withstand inhospitable conditions.
How does it work?
As its name suggests, CaseStudy is essentially a classroom in a case. It increases student engagement in challenging conditions while keeping costs and logistics required as low as possible. The ‘case’ itself is a single waterproof and shockproof briefcase that is easy for users to carry around. As previously mentioned, it is sturdy enough to withstand harsh situations such as inaccessible power supply, connectivity, and natural disasters.
Beyond the physical resilience of the product, the briefcase contains top-quality software to cater to every teaching and learning need. CaseStudy houses the Raspberry Pi, a device with functions similar to that of a computer’s CPU. CaseStudy’s software is fully customisable, storing information required for lessons, such as videos like the ones produced by Khan Academy. It can even connect to a projector and speakers (also components in CaseStudy). Thus, allowing the teachers to set up a fully equipped classroom anytime, anywhere. Using CaseStudy to broadcast audio and visual materials can supplement and liven up their lessons. The portable projector and speakers have their own built-in batteries, which are rechargeable by a portable power bank. There is even a mini version of CaseStudy available.
What makes it suitable for rural education?
With its unique portability and customisability, CaseStudy serves the needs of each individual user. It brings to less developed communities the opportunities for quality education. Using The Patatas’s CaseStudy, teachers can incorporate Khan Academy’s educational videos into their lessons. They can broadcast these videos to a group of students. This makes it possible to bring top-quality lessons to all.
With its unique resilience and adaptability, CaseStudy is a sustainable solution in bringing education to less developed communities. It brings them the opportunities to learn Maths, Sciences and even Arts and Humanities. These include the development of important problem-solving and analytical skills.
Thus, this will not only help the children become more employable but also aid them in their personal endeavours. This provides them with the opportunities to realise their full potential, work better jobs. It will help them carve out for themselves a happy life that every person deserves.
As the world continues to advance, education will continue to play an important role in preparing many for its changes. The way to prepare children and youths for life is to first tackle the problem of inaccessible education.
The collaboration between the impressive content of Khan Academy and the well-tested hardware solution of CaseStudy can help secure the education of children all over the world. Hence, it will contribute towards giving them a brighter future, maybe even sparking more leaders to change the world, such as Sal Khan.