Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Khan Academy

The learning myth: Why I’ll never tell my son he’s smart

By Sal Khan

My 5-year-­old son has just started reading. Every night, we lie on his bed and he reads a short book to me.

Inevitably, he’ll hit a word that he has trouble with: last night the word was “gratefully.” He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.”

I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell­-tale signs of a “growth­ mindset.”

But this wasn’t by accident. Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult.

I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows.

Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.

What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.
However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth.
Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes.
People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure.
Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning.
People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.
The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they’re malleable.
What’s really fascinating is that Dweck and others have developed techniques that they call “growth mindset interventions,” which have shown that even small changes in communication or seemingly innocuous comments can have fairly long­-lasting implications for a person’s mindset.
For instance, praising someone’s process (“I really like how you struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth ­mindset with someone.
Process­ praise acknowledges the effort; talent­ praise reinforces the notion that one only succeeds (or doesn’t) based on a fixed trait.
And we’ve seen this on Khan Academy as well: students are spending more time learning on Khan Academy after being exposed to messages that praise their tenacity and grit and that underscore that the brain is like a muscle.
The Internet is a dream for someone with a growth mindset. Between Khan Academy, MOOCs, and others, there is unprecedented access to endless content to help you grow your mind.
However, society isn’t going to fully take advantage of this without growth mindsets being more prevalent. So what if we actively tried to change that? What if we began using whatever means are at our disposal to start performing growth mindset interventions on everyone we cared about?
This is much bigger than Khan Academy or algebra – it applies to how you communicate with your children, how you manage your team at work, how you learn a new language or instrument.
If society as a whole begins to embrace the struggle of learning, there is no end to what that could mean for global human potential.
And now here’s a surprise for you. By reading this article itself, you’ve just undergone the first half of a growth­-mindset intervention.
The research shows that just being exposed to the research itself (­­for example, knowing that the brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right­­) can begin to change a person’s mindset.
The second half of the intervention is for you to communicate the research with others. We’ve made a video (above) that celebrates the struggle of learning that will help you do this.
After all, when my son, or for that matter, anyone else asks me about learning, I only want them to know one thing. As long as they embrace struggle and mistakes, they can learn anything

You’re Not Dumb. Anyone Can Learn Anything

(relative to how dumb you feel?)

This may surprise you, but Sal Khan used to skip classes at MIT. (Very normal behaviour if you never joined team sports or served in the military)

They were too long and boring, particularly lectures. “I found it much more valuable to learn the material at my own time and pace,” he says.

“I learned a lot more going into the computer lab or the science lab or the circuits lab, fiddling with things and playing and getting my hands dirty.” (That’s called training your experimental mind in education methods)

Patsy Z shared this link TEDxBarcelona

“Whoever you are, wherever you are. You only have to know one thing: you can learn anything.”

Sal Khan, perhaps the best-known teacher in the world today,
entrepreneur.com|By Kim Lachance Shandrow

That same renegade spirit of independence and innovation, of learning on your own terms on your own time, is still the heart and soul of Khan Academy, the revolutionary, somewhat controversial online learning platform the 38-year-old math whiz engineer singlehandedly founded 10 years ago.

What began as a handful of tutoring videos the former hedge fund analyst uploaded to YouTube to help his cousins with their algebra homework has since mushroomed into a massive digital classroom for the world.

To date, the free, non-profit learning hub has delivered more than 580 million of Khan’s straightforward video lessons on demand, with students completing around four million companion exercises on any given day.

The Academy is in the midst of a growth spurt offline as well, with an excess of 1 million registered teachers around the globe incorporating the supplemental teaching tool into their classrooms.

We recently caught up with Khan, who discussed how his own education shaped his passion project, his belief that anyone can learn anything and what’s next for Khan Academy, online and off.

How did you develop a passion for education? Who inspired you?

Education has helped me a lot. My father’s side of the family was very active in education.

My parents separated when I was two and then my father passed away, so I never really knew that side of the family. But, when I got to know my father’s side branch, they’re intensely academic.

My mother’s side of the family, they’re more the artists. We have a lot of dancers and singers who don’t fit with certain stereotypes that they’re all engineers and they’re all super invested in math.

I went to a fairly normal, middle of the road public school in a suburb of New Orleans, but it gave me huge opportunities. I had a lot of friends there who were just smart as I am.

They seem to learn things just as fast, but they’re hitting walls in algebra class and chemistry class. That’s when I started questioning the notion of mastery-based learning. It wasn’t completely obvious to me then, but I just knew something was off.

You often say that anyone can learn anything. Why do you think that?
If you’re doing well in school you can have one of two things: You can say, “Oh, well, I have the DNA for doing it. Or you can say, “No, my brain was able to tackle it. I had the right mindset.” I saw those ideas in action early in high school.

Also, I tutored others as part of this math honors society I was in. I noticed that if you tutored people the right way, engaged with them the right way, they would improve. I saw C and D students all of the sudden do very, very well and become some of the best math students in the state.

Then I go to college at MIT and I saw a lot of people struggle there, too, mainly because they aren’t adequately prepared. It was the same thing. It was clear to me that it wasn’t intelligence at play, it was much more preparation. The people who did well were the people who saw the material for the third time, had a lot of rigor and didn’t have any gaps in their knowledge. The people who really struggled were the folks who weren’t familiar with the material and didn’t have a super solid grasp. It has nothing to do with some type of innate intelligence.

How are you taking Khan Academy out from behind the Internet and into the real world?
We piloted a program called LearnStorm in the Bay Area [of California] last year and we’re expanding it to three to five other areas this Spring. We hope it will function nationwide by 2017. It goes beyond the core skill work we do on Khan Academy, tying it into monthly challenges that are intended to be done in a physical environment, in your math class with your teacher.

LearnStorm came from the idea of we can create these great experiences online that are aligned with standards that are really good for students and they correlate with success metrics, but you need the the students to engage with them. We on our own can create a lot of neat game mechanics and all sorts of things on the site, but nothing beats having physical people who are part of your life, especially your teachers, your school and your peers, involved in your learning.

More recently, we worked with Disney Pixar to bridge the disconnect between what students learn about math and science at school and tackling creative challenges in the real world with an initiative called Pixar in a Box. Our relationship with Pixar makes it very clear that math, science, creativity and storytelling aren’t separate things. They can all happen together.

Why the recent pivot to a growing list of local, offline projects when you originally set out to be a digital classroom for the world?
This isn’t the first time we’ve branched out offline. From day one, I immediately reached out to teachers to see if they’d want to use Khan Academy and to get their feedback on our features. In 2010, we started with the Los Altos school district here in Northern California. Plus, there’s a whole teacher resources section on Khan Academy, so we’ve always had this dimension.

What’s different now isn’t us working with a handful of classrooms in a very high-touch way. It’s us being able to work with many more teachers and, frankly, they’re able to do a lot of the heavy lifting around mindset, meta cognition, getting students into it, and we provide the tools.

When we say that our vision statement is a free, world-class education for anyone anywhere, it doesn’t mean that it’s just going to all happen through our software, through our content. As an organization, we view it as part of our mission to up how we interface with all of the other incredible stakeholders in this ecosystem, especially teachers and schools, to figure out how we educate students together, not just all from one site.

What will the classroom of the future look like and how will Khan Academy play a role?
You won’t need lectures in class any more. Those can happen on students’ own time. Using exercises, students can progress at their own pace, like how the Khan academy software works. Instead, in-class time can be spent having peer-to-peer socratic dialogues, case-based discussions, programming and project based learning.

Why can’t teachers co-teach and mentor each other? Why separate students by perceived ability or age? Can’t you benefit from older students mentoring younger students? When classrooms are not one pace, when it’s all not lectured-based, it opens up all sorts of possibilities.

What’s the next big tech innovation in education, even bigger than the Internet?
Virtual reality, though my gut says it’s going to be about 10 years before we see major potential here. It’s very early right now. I can imagine that in about a decade, when you come to Khan Academy, you’ll literally feel like you’re in a virtual place of learning and in a community. You’ll see people walking around in a virtual world. Who knows? I don’t know if that’s in 10 or 20 years, but I think that’s going to happen.

Aside from virtual reality integration, what else is on the horizon for Khan Academy?
We’re going to be available in all of the world’s major languages on all of the major platforms, whether it’s a cheap smartphone or an Oculus Rift. The more the better. We’re working on translating all of our resources into more than 36 languages, with thousands of volunteers helping us subtitle videos.

Are any new subjects in the works? Topics outside of the traditional academic realm, like, say, yoga and meditation perhaps?
No, nothing like that at the moment, although I do love yoga. We already have a lot of material in physics and chemistry and biology, but we want to really nail those core academic subjects. Expect to see a lot from us in history and civics over the next year, along with interesting things around grammar, writing and programming.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who hope to be as astronomically successful as you
(Laughs) Well, I cringe at the term “astronomically successful,” because it sure doesn’t feel like I am. As for advice, though, I think every entrepreneur should know what they’re getting into, that there are moments of extreme stress and pain that aren’t so obvious sometimes when you read about startups in the press. Still, all entrepreneurs go through it. You need to be prepared for it and know that it’s normal when you’re in the midst of it.

The transcript that follows has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Era of Abundant Information and Fleeting Expertise

And how could we deeply learn anything of value?

How to learn is changing, and it’s changing fast.

In the past, we used to learn by doing — we called them apprenticeships.

Then the model shifted, and we learned by going to school.

Now, it’s going back to the apprenticeship again, but this time, you are both the apprentice and the master.

This post is about how to learn during exponential times, when information is abundant and expertise is fleeting.

Passion, Utility, Research and Focus

First, choosing what you want to learn and becoming great at it is tough.

As I wrote in my last post, doing anything hard and doing it well takes grit. (It takes 10,000 hours of doing to become talented in anything you like)

Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years to help choose what you want to learn:

  1. Start with your passions: Focus on something you love, or learn a new skill in service of your passion. If you want to learn how to code because it will land you a high-paying job, you’re not going to have the drive to spend countless, frustrating hours debugging your code. If you want to become a doctor because your parents want you to, you’re not going to make it through med school. Focus on the things YOU love and do it because it’s YOUR choice. (Money is second in rank. The first is the passion that no money can buy. Adonis49 quote)
  2. Make it useful: Time is the scarcest resource. While you can spend the time learning for the sake of learning, I think learning should be a means to an end. Without a target, you’ll miss every time. Figure out what you want to do, and then identify the skills you need to acquire to accomplish that goal. (And the end of learning?)
  3. Read, watch and analyze: Read everything. Read all the time . (The writing of just the experts in the field?) Start with the experts. Read the material they write or blog. Watch their videos, their interviews. Do you agree with them? Why?
  4. Talk to people: Once you’re done reading, actually talk to real human beings that are doing what you want to do. Do whatever you can to reach them. Ask for their advice. You’ll be shocked by what you can learn this way. (Connectivity part of the learning process?)
  5. Focus on your strengths: Again, time is precious. You can’t be a doctor, lawyer, coder, writer, rocket scientist, and rock star all at the same time… at least not right now. Focus on what you are good at and enjoy most and try to build on top of those skills. Many people, especially competitive people, tend to feel like they need to focus on improving the things they are worst at doing. This is a waste of time. Instead, focus on improving the things you are best at doing — you’ll find this to be a much more rewarding and lucrative path. (When it becomes an automatic reaction, there is no need to focus much?)

Learn by Doing

There is no better way to learn than by doing. (After you learned the basics?)

I’m a fan of the “apprentice” model. Study the people who have done it well and then go work for them.

If they can’t (or won’t) pay you, work for free until you are good enough that they’ll need to hire you. (For how long? Slaves get paid somehow)

Join a startup doing what you love — it’s much cheaper than paying an expensive tuition, and a hell of a lot more useful.

I don’t think school (or grad school) is necessarily the right answer anymore.

Here’s one reason why:

This week I visited the Hyperloop Technologies headquarters in Los Angeles (full disclosure: I am on the board of the company).

The interim CEO and CTO Brogan Bambrogan showed me around the office, and we stopped at one particularly impressive-looking, massive machine (details confidential).

As it turns out, the team of Hyperloop engineers who had designed, manufactured, tested, redesigned, remanufactured, and operated this piece of equipment did so in 11 weeks, for pennies on the dollar.

At MIT, Stanford or CalTech, building this machine would have been someone’s PhD thesis…

Except that the PhD candidate would have spent three years doing the same amount of work, and written a paper about it, rather than help to redesign the future of transportation.

Meanwhile, the Hyperloop engineers created this tech (and probably a half-dozen other devices) in a fraction of the time while creating value for a company that will one day be worth billions.

Full Immersion and First Principles

You have to be fully immersed if you want to really learn.

Connect the topic with everything you care about — teach your friends about it, only read things that are related to the topic, surround yourself with it.

Make learning the most important thing you can possibly do and connect to it in a visceral fashion.

As part of your full immersion, dive into the very basic underlying principles governing the skill you want to acquire.

This is an idea Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla, SpaceX) constantly refers to: “The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. We are doing this because it’s like what other people are doing. [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths … and then reason up from there.”

You can’t skip the fundamentals — invest the time to learn the basics before you get to the advanced stuff.

Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

Experiment, fail, experiment, fail, and experiment. (The problem is that few disciplines teach you Experimental Designing Mind and fundamentals)

One of Google’s innovation principles and mantras is: “Never fail to fail.”

Don’t be afraid if you are really bad at the beginning: you learn most from your mistakes.

When Elon hires people, he asks them to describe a time they struggled with a hard problem. “When you struggle with a problem, that’s when you understand it,” he says, “Anyone who’s struggled hard with a problem never forgets it.”

(You struggle because you fail to listen to the new perspectives of other people to tackle the problem)

Digital Tools

We used to have to go to school to read textbooks and gain access to expert teachers and professors.

Nowadays, literally all of these resources are available online for free.

There are hundreds of free education sites like Khan Academy, Udemy, or Udacity.

There are thousands of MOOCs (massive online open courses) from the brightest experts from top universities on almost every topic imaginable.

Want to learn a language? Download an app like Duolingo (or even better, pack up your things and move to that country).

Want to learn how to code? Sign up for a course on CodeAcademy or MIT Open Courseware.

The resources are there and available — you just have to have the focus and drive to find them and use them.

Finally…The Next Big Shift in Learning

In the future, the next big shift in learning will happen as we adopt virtual worlds and augmented reality.

It will be the next best thing to “doing” — we’ll be able to simulate reality and experiment (perhaps beyond what we can experiment with now) in virtual and augmented environments.

Add that to the fact that we’ll have an artificial intelligence tutor by our side, showing us the ropes and automatically customizing our learning experience.

Patsy Z shared this link via Singularity Hub

As usual, the best advise on “Learning” from the man himself Peter H. Diamandis.

Learning in an Era of Abundant Information and Fleeting Expertise?
How to learn is changing, and it’s changing fast. In the past, we used to learn by doing — we called them apprenticeships.
Then the model shifted, and we…
singularityhub.com

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