The Khan Academy Goes to Camp, and Itís All Offline
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
July 26, 2012
Salman Khan wants children to get their hands dirty at summer camp: the Khan Academy summer camp.
At first blush, it seems an unlikely direction for Mr. Khan, who is best known for his popular online lectures that span topics from geometry to Byzantine art. But it is intended to test the possibilities of both online and offline education. Most of the students in the camp, which is held in Palo Alto, Calif., are seasoned users of his online offerings, he said. At the two-week-long camp, for six hours each day, they dive into projects with their hands, with each other, face to face.
They take apart household electronics, build robots and learn about probability by making bets in a make-believe casino (after getting lectured, Mr. Khan pointed out, about the perils of gambling). Conversation is an important part of the camp, which, as Mr. Khan acknowledged, they can never get from the Khan Academyís online lectures and lessons.
ďIt helps us learn what education can be and where our virtual stuff fits,Ē Mr. Khan said of the camp. ďIt gets us closer to how to run our own school.Ē
The Khan Academyís online lectures are sometimes criticized for duplicating old-fashioned rote learning on a computer screen, and some critics question the way he teaches certain concepts. Mr. Khan says that view misunderstands what he is trying to do. He wants students to absorb basic skills online and be able to put them to use offline. And yes, he wants to build a school. It has been a glint in his eye for years. The summer camp, which he calls Discovery Lab, is an incubator of sorts. There is little to no time spent in front of the screen.