Salman Khan on Colbert

I'm a huge fan of both Colbert and Khan and they got together to chat a few days ago. I heard about it in the comments to a post here at AVC. I just watched it and thought I'd share it with everyone. This is worth the seven minutes of your time it will take to watch it.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. Peter Sullivan

    I feel a little embarrassed that I have never heard of Khan Academy. I guess you learn something new everyday.Today I just so happened to have learned something, to help me learn something new everyday. 

    1. fredwilson

      i seem to learn something new every day too Peter

      1. Peter Sullivan

        My father always used to tell me, “the only thing I do know, is that I don’t know shit”. Although he is a smart man I totally agree how much of the world there is to know. Its pretty humbling. 

  2. CliffElam

    I know this guy is white hot and I applaud his goal.  It’s like the $10K BA degree that Perry is trying to gin up in TX.But the few things I’ve tried out on the site are riddled with errors and relatively highly politicized. I should note that I wasn’t doing Algebra I or anything  (I loved Algebra 1, almost took it twice….) but was trying to understand some of the bailout stuff.Which maybe makes it exactly like college.-XC

  3. Douglas Crets

    I talked to the company that Khan is apparently working with to standardize the Khan curriculum against the Common Core. If you don’t mind me flaking the link here:…Mick Hewitt, who works at MasteryConnect, also adds some good comments in the link. 

  4. Douglas Crets

    By the way, Stephen Colbert is right when he says “I do that every night.” That’s really what education is becoming. We all have that ability to teach and learn from each other. I believe the days of standardized education are ending, as we know them, and it will be geared more toward forming solutions to immediate problems. A solutions economy, if you will. 

    1. Guest

      I think there is still a need for a core curriculum around the development of critical thinking skill sets. I agree the approach to developing core critical thinking skills might change and no longer need be standardized but I think humanity is served if core critical thinking skills are developed across the board, among all its citizenry. Immediate solutions to a particular problem can be developed where these core skill sets meet with the passion of the individual to solve them.{Update: totally, totally, totally agree with your statement “We all have that ability to teach and learn from each other.” The rich can learn from the poor, the healthy from the sick as well as the reverse of both.}

      1. Douglas Crets

        Sure, and I want to stress that when I say it is ending as we know it, Idon’t mean that suddenly there will be no standards. But if you listen towhat people like David Brooks are saying about character, subconsciousthinking and the route our revolutions of thinking and commerce have takenus, it cannot be that we simply keep millions of children globally fromrising out of their situations by keeping them locked in a kind of statesupport system that doesn’t work efficiently or serve their greatest needs.Those needs — and I speak as a former teacher — are to be involved in theworld a la John Dewey, and to do so on digital platforms. It cannot beargued substantively that digital platforms are distractions to realteaching, considering the fact that most of a child’s adult working life,social life and learning outside of traditional schooling in its currentembodiment will be on those digital platforms.I agree that a core standardization of what is considered important iscrucial, but how it is taught must change. It sounds harsh, but I would saythat traditional publishers have had more of a say in how our children gettaught than teachers by way of the vendor to district process of allocatingcommercial options to education.I take the position that talking about disruption in education does not meankilling off teachers, killing off standards, and eliminating the system as awhole. It means that education must change the way every single industry inthe world has changed. It just hasn’t yet, you know?

        1. Guest

          Very cool comments. Would rather grab a coffee / beer and discuss. I hate taking up so much real estate on Fred’s blog … but it is writing practice and that is practice I am actively engaging in for many reasons. I am going to just scatter shot some replies.I taught as an adjunct professor at college level. I am trying to better understand the difference between adult ed and traditional ed issues. I think there are some similarities.Great quote “It cannot be argued substantively that digital platforms are distractions to real teaching, considering the fact that most of a child’s adult working life, social life and learning outside of traditional schooling in its current embodiment will be on those digital platforms.”Happen to agree on publisher comment. In fact, I was asked to attend an event back when I was an adjunct faculty member where the publisher came and showed off their new text. It really felt like the locus of control was not where one would expect ( was that politically correct enough?  🙂 )Got a link to that David Brooks information?Thanks, G.

          1. Douglas Crets

            No problem. I am reachable anywhere. All my contact information, phonenumber, email is online. Here is the david brooks video:…<http:“” watch?v=”ODiteM-mrxA&amp;feature=youtube_gdata_player”>andyou all can follow me on Twitter @douglascrets if you want to get together.I write a blog for Fast Company, and this discussion is one of my mainbaileywicks.

          2. Guest

            Thanks. I was just in NYC last week for BookExpo America and to see my brother. In fact, I am in the middle of texts with my brother to see when I might come out next. Hopefully, I can get back there fast … he is dating someone from the larger Carribbean Island community (CARICOM) and I want to get back to some of that food her & her friends cooked up for me & my wife while we were there.  #AWESOMESAUCE LOLMight be able to meet up next time I am there.

        2. Dave Pinsen

          David Brooks puts too much hope in the potential of education, as I noted in a recent article, “What David Brooks doesn’t get…”.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Everyone isn’t a self-motivated, creative genius. Half of us are below average in intelligence, and aren’t motivated to learn academic subjects for learning’s sake. The most effective way to teach the broadest swath of students is arguably Direct Instruction (which is somewhat similar to how the military has been training recruits for decades).

      1. Charlie Crystle


      2. Douglas Crets

        But the military is changing that. Look at Lockheed

        1. Muammar Gaddafi

          Screw Lockheed. Look at Libya.

      3. Douglas Crets

        Also everuone is a creative genius. The philosophy you espouse is THE reason school sucks.

        1. Mark Rothko

          Well, in that case, I have some paintings I’d like to sell you.

          1. Douglas Crets

            I love Rothko. I have been to Daugauvpils, Latvia!

      4. Guest

        @daveinhackensack:disqus there is a lot of truth in your reply. I myself have difficulty in learning some types subject matter in a self-directed manner. I do not pretend to think Khan Academy is a cure … it is a research step/procedure, in my opinion. I do think that folks who do not do well in self directed learning can still partake in the Khan experiments because directed learning can still occur in the classroom portion. Even better, what if children who are solid at self directed learning are asked to help instruct in the classroom settings? That adds an additional educational element: coaching, leading & teaching.   

        1. Dave Pinsen

          “Even better, what if children who are solid at self directed learning are asked to help instruct in the classroom settings?”They already are, in some cases, but is that fair to them, or their parents? Time spent teaching slower kids remedial subjects is time not spent on their own education. With tracking, kids who are solid at self directed learning wouldn’t even be in the same classroom with the slower kids, but political correctness (and a disasterous “Yale or jail” mentality among elites) has led many school districts to eschew tracking.

          1. Guest

            Tracking can cause issues.Yes, they are in some cases. I am suggesting it as an option because people learn when they teach. My suggestion is not forcing children to teach other children. It can be  one exercise, of many. 

      5. Adrian Sanders

        No one is a “genius” – becoming self-motivated, being able to pursue curious concepts and ideas that interest you, these are things that are learned and when encouraged lead to “genius.”It’s not enough to be taught “what” – more importantly it is to teach people the right type of “why” question to ask. it isn’t hard to teach “swaths of students” this either.Feynman was on to something. Dunno why we never picked up the slack. 

  5. reece

    is the start of 😉

  6. Conrad Ross Schulman

    Perhaps KhanAcademy can integrate with edmodo? Some api work? Students will be able to learn and communicate properly, all on the web. 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      that would be great!

  7. Tom Labus

    What I especially like about the Khan Academy is that kids who were once written off as “slow” or “deficient” once they find their pace are getting in the game and then excelling. 

    1. fredwilson

      i also like that it is available globally to anyone looking to learn.language presents some issues of course

    2. gregshel

      A lot of “slow” or “deficient” children have a condition called   Math Anxiety. Khan Academy helps those children to overcome it  and that is a great achievement. Anxieties specific for Education, such as Foreign Language Anxiety, Test Anxiety, Math Anxiety and so on, are the main pain that prevent students from learning

      1. Terry

        Hmmm, when I was growing up Math Anxiety was called Being Shitty at Math.  But I guess in our New (age) Economy nobody is bad at anything; we’re just anxious.Jesus.

      2. ShanaC

        You know, I developed math anxiety late in life, and have had foreign language anxiety since I was very young (and I will change both, and am changing both).  I occasionally play with Khan Academy, it helps you realize you are not that bad.  That being said, the fact that I even need this stuff right now in life kind of shows how weak we are at actual teaching of this stuff….

  8. Jan Schultink

    The jokes makes it harder to get the full power of his story across.This TED talk is better:…Point 1:Let the kids educate themselves at home,Le the teacher help them with homework at schoolPoint 2:Point-in-time assessments of children make the wrong call. A child can just be a few days before her “inflection point” and take off, but she will be sent to the wrong school because of poor test results. His system can capture that.Point 3:He is in the process of building a full education platform on top of his videos.

    1. Charlie Crystle

      I’m interested to see if Point 1 holds up in high-poverty urban districts like ours. And willing to try. 

      1. Jan Schultink

        You mean the availability of a platform to watch (computer + broadband), or the right environment to watch?

        1. Charlie Crystle

          The home environments aren’t very supportive of education, and not all of our families have computers. So we keep some of the schools open into the evening. Families can buy off-lease computers for $60–works pretty well. I tried to get free wifi throughout the city but it’s been slow going–typical slow nonprofit-govt approach. 

          1. Guest

            @charliecrystle:disqus you are correct about the lack of computers/technology in many homes. In fact, when my wife & I were in the planning stages of forming our children’s literacy outreach I pushed REALLY hard to try & get us to focus on new tech (Kindle’s, etc.) My wife (correctly) pushed back equally as hard reminding me that the population we would be serving likely does not have all the tech infrastructure in their homes and we should focus on basic tools (e.g. books) to encourage literacy initially.    

          2. Charlie Crystle

            we might go to the kindle or something similar instead of textbooks.The textbook industry needs to be disrupted–it’s criminal. 

          3. Guest

            @charliecrystle:disqus Two things:1) I just checked out your blog2) While traveling last week I placed severe restrictions my usage of technology (very limited twitter, no email, etc.). but I made a real quick post related to the same subject matter as post on your blog. Yours is MUCH better.  Here is my ultra short post

          4. Douglas Crets

            A lot of kids in urban schools have smartphones.

          5. Guest

            I could see that being the case @douglascrets:disqus but there are number of schools with issues that are in poorer areas that are not urban … extremely rural. I am not sure if that holds true in those geographical areas.

          6. Charlie Crystle

            @douglascrets:disqus  well, yes, but not all. most have regular cell phones. A number of districts are testing using sms in the classroom, along with things like Google Moderator. The tools are great, but figuring out how to leverage them in a way that 1)gets kids engaged and 2)teaches them something. Overall we want mastery, not adequacy, and for that to happen we need to instill the desire for lifelong learning. Not an easy job but it’s possible. 

          7. LE

            “The home environments aren’t very supportive of education” – I agree with this.The distraction factor as well as the lack of support from family and peers can make this a non starter.Things can be subtle. When I was studying all I had to say was “the TV is to loud” and my parents turned OFF the TV downstairs.

          8. Guest

            There are still many families that do support education, [added: even if they do not have the tech infrastructure in their homes.] In fact, I can give you a real world example from Thursday night of last week. My wife & I were doing a book distribution at a food pantry type of event held by another organization. A young Hispanic mother came up to our table and asked if she could have some of our books. It was clear English was a second language for her. Obviously, we said yes she could have some books but we wanted to make sure she understood they were children’s books. Her reply was basically the following: that is OK I am trying to learn and the words are easier for me to understand. I am tearing up again now as I think about it, which is surprising because I have heard similar statements enough times now one would think I would be numb to these types of comments. I do not know if she lives and creates a supportive environment for sure but I sure bet education and learning is placed in very high regard in her household.

          9. ShanaC

            @geoffrey  Do you think over time access to technology  (aka kindles) will erode some of this, because of access.  (One of the funny things about the kindle is that you sort have to read first to use it, so how are you supposed to use it if you ESL)

      2. PA

        Why limit the concern to high-poverty urban districts? Seems to me that most kids do not like homework regardless of socioeconomic background.

        1. Charlie Crystle

          I’m on the school board in my district–urban poor (74%). So I limit my comments to what I know. Liking homework isn’t the issue; having supportive parents and a decent learning environment is. 

          1. PA

            Having supportive parents and a decent learning environment is one of several issues.What is our ultimate goal? Education as pure intellect or education as a means to become part of the mainstream economy?If the former, I’d imagine parents with genes for intelligence trump parents who are supportive and a decent learning environment.  If the latter, I’d say the whole exercise is pointless. The gilded class will always win and you can join them as easily with fraud and hucksterism as with education.

    2. Mark Essel

      Thanks for the link to the TED talk Jan. That clears up some open questions I had about the structure and design.

  9. andrerib

    This Academy is changing a lot more than just education. It’s changing how these kids will work and interact with other people in the future.Standard education is normally about listening during a class and working on a subject at home. With the Khan Academy kids are spending their day at school actually talking with other kids and working together to solve what used to be their homework.It’s a pretty good life-changing idea!  

  10. Charlie Crystle

    I loved this when I saw it and shared it with my school board. Really hoping we start to adopt this approach…looking forward to visiting the Kahn pilot math classes in Los Altos

  11. Nik

    This is great! My family/friends are involved in rural education in India (2000 students across 6 schools) and they have started working on using Khan Academy in some of their coursework. Its fantastic.On a completely unrelated note, I have been reading the blog every day since 2005 & some comments were mentioned in your main blog posts (e.g. – & ). And I was discussing with a friend about you and mentioned that you may have missed blogging maybe only 5-6 days for the past 5-6 years.  He was curious from a purely logistical perspective- have you not fallen sick for the past 5-6 years and if yes- how do you manage to blog despite that?

    1. fredwilson

      i blog when i am sickor maybe i blog because i am sick 😉

      1. Robert Thuston

        For me, it would be the once a month hangover that would stifle my writing something intelligent everyday *Idontblogcurrently* Your consistency is appreciated. I also know of examples where leaders that offer consistent value to a group take sabbaticals after extended periods. 

  12. Jarod Lam

    Wow, just finished watching the video. What a great new way to rethink how education works. I love the idea of learning at home and doing homework at school where the teachers can help and guide students when they have problems.  This is also great for parents because it alleviates them from the homework helping part of parenting.  When I have kids one day I don’t need to worry about (re)learning my child’s curriculum every year and being an expert on it. I can focus on other aspects of parenting. 

  13. Ankit Ranka

    We at EdLab, Teachers College are fan of Khan Academy. We have built a tool ( to help discuss videos within a class and plan to integrate as many khan academy videos as we can in that tool. Check it out –… The idea is to allow quality time-coded comments around videos. So you can take a youtube video, invite some people and start a dialogue. While Youtube presented itself as a really powerful tool to get people like Sal show their potential we think that this tool will add more value to those videos.

  14. William Mougayar

    Too bad we can’t see this from Canada. That’s really stupid. Which genius organization is to blame for this:”Dear Canada,We’re terribly sorry, but full episodes and video clips of The Colbert Report are not available…”

    1. fredwilson

      ughi just looked for it on youtube but did not find it

      1. William Mougayar

        Thanks for doing that. I think this has to do with Comedy Central or MTV Networks. I’m going to email them. We can’t try out Google Music beta either. That sucks.

    2. eyesparky

      I have to admit the message for Great Britain made me laugh.

      1. William Mougayar

        I put a comment on their site about that.

  15. Dave W Baldwin

    @douglascrets:disqus most schools have a cell phone ban… there is no way at this time to control the texting issues.  If you could have VERY imited wifi capability, you could have it in the classroom at time of doing the vid…but that is a tall order looking forward.@charliecrystle:disqus I only advise to broaden your statements, for the majority of the school districts have the ‘poor’ factor.  Sad as you know when parents claim them teachers are lying at you….@daveinhackensack:disqus This is where I fall in between you and CC, for I am aware that half are below average (?) yet the only way we will truly raise the world is to raise all boats.  If the vast majority of kids that scored a 2 out of 10 were enabled to score 3… there’d be a difference.  Increase that improvement to 4 and the world would change incredibly.  Somewhere the lazy ones who already score 8 will have to get off their ass.Once again, this is a revolution from within, for you have to inspire the child to want to learn.  Enable the teacher to do more with less and you have increased hands on. That combined with doing bigger projects resembling real world will get collaboration (open) among the kids.  Then no matter all the crap we have today, the world will improve with openly collaborative generation (they are already giving).@wmoug:disqus wouldn’t blame you for any slurs used toward the receiving of transmission issues.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      Dave,We have enough work on our hands stemming the decline of the U.S.; ‘raising the world’ seems like boiling the ocean at this point. It’s likely that the single biggest thing we could do to improve educational stats in this country is to limit immigration from countries with low academic performance.

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        Sad reality, I know. But if we set things forward that enable a better end run, we can do more. Don’t worry , I’m not looking to boil the oceans for what is to happen overseas will come in good time.

  16. Brad Lindenberg

    Recently I spent 3 weeks in Peru and of course it is a very poor, 3rd world nation however what was mind blowing was that I had access to the internet wherever I was. There was free, fast, unsecured wifi everywhere and the cell coverage in most places was better than New York City.Young kids who have no option but to work on their family farms carrying bundles of hay and picking fruit from trees can potentially use this platform to get a head start in life. Peru is a great example of where the internet infrastructure is ahead of access to education. These families literally live off the land they own. They eat corn, and chickens and goats that they farm. But they have access to the internet. Businesses in these nations must recognise this kind of education. Kahn must invest in translation so the people who need these lessons most can understand them. I also believe education is relative and that in a 3rd world nation faculties such as the Kahn Academy can, and should be accepted as the equivalent of a BA. Students have access to this information and if they put in the time to learn it must be recognised and rewarded with employment and a brighter future. 

    1. Dave Pinsen

      “Young kids who have no option but to work on their family farms carrying bundles of hay and picking fruit from trees can potentially use this platform to get a head start in life.”Sometimes the solution is social policy, and not technology. Under Lula, Brazil started paying poor parents to send their kids to school.”I also believe education is relative and that in a 3rd world nation faculties such as the Kahn Academy can, and should be accepted as the equivalent of a BA.”Degrees are about signaling (intelligence, but also class, breeding, indoctrination, and other factors), so I doubt self-directed web learning will ever be accepted in place of a degree from a locally prestigious school.

      1. Brad Lindenberg

        Sure, however when the baseline is basically poverty and no education, a self directed / web learning education is better than nothing.  In saying education is relative what I mean is that it is relative at a socio-economic level. 

    2. fredwilson

      yes, translation would be huge

      1. Brad Lindenberg

        The answer is probably something similar to Smartling – a crowd sourced transation service where the bilingual teachers that teach Spanish lessons to backpackers, travellers and business people can record voice overs that translate these videos in Spanish in their spare time and be remunerated for it.

      2. Miten Sampat

        i think an obvious next step here is to extend the format + packaging of the content into courses that have completeness to be “certifiable”.

  17. paramendra

    The Salman Khan I know:…

  18. Chris O'Donnell

    I’m a big fan of what Khan is attempting to do, but there really isn’t anything new or revolutionary about it. Expecting the kids to “do the lecture” themselves and then working together with peers, teachers, and parents to apply the knowledge is what homeschoolers having been doing since the 70s.

    1. Alex Murphy

      At scale, it is very different.

      1. Chris O'Donnell

        Ideas don’t have scale issues, implementations do. I’ve not heard a single person talk about Khan taking a new approach to the scaling issues inherent in a truly student centered education model. I’ve head countless people gush on as though Khan invented the idea of inverting the education model.And what I’m really waiting for is for Kahn to ask the obvious next question. If we can deliver the knowledge online, why exactly do we need this huge infrastructure of buildings called schools to apply it?

        1. Douglas Crets


        2. Alex Murphy

          His delivery is the scale part, he puts 10 min lessons on youtube thatavailable to 6 billion people. I love my 6th grade teacher, andhomescooling is great, it just doesn’t reach as many people.He didn’t invent anything. It is not the idea that matters …HE IS EXECUTING! Execution is everything!More educated people in the world = a better world. Plain and simple.As far as the comment about schools, 10 min you tube videos are awesomebecause they are part of the education stack. Books, homework, lessons,quizes, teachers, kahn lessons, they all fit together.The education system needs a bunch of help, you must realize that. Don’tshit on the people that are trying to help. On Jun 5, 2011 7:58 PM, “Disqus” <>

          1. Stanley (Mosk)

            “Execution is everything!”Yup.  Tell that to the retarded guy who was given the death penalty in Texas — he would tots agree with you. It’s probs scalable too!!  Hope there’s a badge for that shizzy for nizzy on Foursquare!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

        3. Guest

          I think that is an important insight (ideas do not have scale issues implementations do). Interestingly, if we implemented a totally 100% self-learning system than scale issues might emerge. However, I do not think it is totally appropriate to dismiss Khan Academy efforts either. Sometimes we need to flash a little light in dark places. I think there is a little light that is being cast … even if it is nothing more than reinvigorating similar efforts that many have used in home schooling for years as someone said earlier. Enjoy the good debate you have going.

        4. raycote

          I’m curious as to what exactly you mean by scale?Do you mean scaling the net based delivery systems?or Scaling the production of quality interactive video learning modules?Scaling the production of quality interactive video learning modules is a serious challenge. You need to produce a complete palette of high school and undergraduate courses in oder to get to critical mass. The production of truly high quality learning modules requires a team of topical experts, educational psychologists, perceptual ergonomics specialists, animators and testing expertise. Then for the system to really offer scale all modules in every course needs to be duplicated by many teams so as to offer student a selection of quality learning styles.

    2. Adrian Sanders

      Yup, also the underpinnings of this type of thought have been around since John Dewey:…The biggest problem is finding teacher facilitators willing to relearn how they engage kids, and parents who are patient enough to believe in long tail improvements to learning.

  19. Michael Moore-Jones

    Salman is incredible, but I found this video hugely frustrating to watch as he didn’t get the power of his message across. Like at the end – the fact that students can do homework in class and watch the lectures at home is probably the biggest revolution brought about by the Khan Academy, but it was just turned into a joke on the show.I completely agree with some of the other commenters that his TED talk is better!

  20. Alex Murphy

    What he is doing is so important.  There is an epidemic of “bad teaching” where teachers don’t get their lessons right.  If you’re waiting for superman, I think he is working on the problem right now.I love the fact that he mentioned that his two largest supporters are google and the gates foundation … Where is the apple foundation?

  21. Dave W Baldwin

    Per the ‘boil the oceans’ I recieved below, we need to understand the technology changes are beginning to have impact.When IgniteEducation started up, teachers were using many scrap ingredients to show something real world scientific to kids… using what was available.Now you have Salmon Khan doing short YouTubes.  The key winning point on the vid length is the length of class time… remember that.Moving from Ignite to Khan is a pretty big leap in a short period of time.  And Khan didn’t try to do some big song and dance to feed bureaucratic entities with tax dollars trying to do something that would be behind the curve from the beginning.Instead of watching Salmon and judging from your pov, show it to a kid and observe their reaction.

  22. Kenyan

    To me the idea is great for 2 reasons – the statistics and mapping of the children as they are learning must be helpful to the teachers, and for v personal reasons I now have a resource for learning about banking online – something they did not cover in my Bach. Arts! 

  23. Prokofy

    TED is a cult.You need dozens of kinds of TEDs and Khans, not just this one style/propagandistic ideology/etc.What kids need is pluralism, learning critical thinking and weighing all kinds of schools of thought.TED, Khan — these are only one school of thought. You need lots more.

    1. fredwilson

      agreed on the need for diversity of thoughtthat’s what is great about blogsyou have yours and i have mine

  24. BuyGiftsItems

    It was studying all I had to say was “the TV is to loud” and my parents turned OFF the TV downstairs.Kamagra