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Free learning videos go viral

By Salman Khan, Special to CNN
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Educator's 'profound change' on teaching
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Salman Khan: I had no idea my learning videos would go viral
  • He says he's given up hedge fund work, dedicated himself to nonprofit
  • Khan: Videos and software don't replace teachers but can make them more effective
  • Teachers can cut lecturing time and work with students one on one, he says

Editor's note: TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to "Ideas worth spreading" which it distributes through talks posted on its website.

(CNN) -- When I posted my first math video on YouTube in 2006, I had no idea that it would be the first of a series that would reach well over 2 million unique students a month -- or that this would become my life's focus.

Even stranger to the 2006 hedge-fund-analyst Salman would have been the idea that the videos would be the launching point for a not-for-profit organization that would completely rethink how learning can and should be done.

I hoped the videos would be a nice learning supplement for my extended family and whoever might stumble on them. I never would have guessed that they would be viewed over 65 million times in just a few years.

Watch Salman Khan's TED Talk

The Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org/) is now much more than videos. It is building content and tools to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Our software platform can guide independent learners from basic addition to advanced mathematics, integrating videos, exercises and analytics.

Khan: Use video to reinvent education
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Schools are beginning to use Khan Academy to liberate class time, reducing direct lecture instruction and increasing the teacher-to-student and student-to-student human interactions.

It also provides teachers with data and reporting to manage a classroom where every student is working at his or her own pace.

The student performance data from our initial pilots has been tremendous, and we are beginning to roll out to many more schools and districts. More importantly, we are seeing students engage with more energy and interest in math than any class we've ever seen before.

Teachers are free to dive deep into learning and form stronger intellectual and emotional bonds with students. Students teach and mentor each other. There is a feeling of freedom and exploration and progress.

One misconception many people have when they see videos or technology in the classroom is that this will either make the content mechanical or be an attempt to replace the teacher. We firmly believe that Khan Academy is doing the exact opposite.

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Our videos focus on conceptual development rather than formulas.

We believe that you don't need to memorize most things if you understand the underlying thought processes that lead to them. Our exercises address core skills so that they don't need to be addressed by the teacher. This allows the teacher to spend more time strengthening concepts with deeper, hands-on and experiential learning. Khan Academy believes this makes a teacher even more valuable in the classroom.

Software and videos are not an end in themselves, but rather a means to enable people to interact in more personalized and meaningful ways. Khan Academy can help an independent learner learn, but it is much, much more effective when a learner teams up with amazing teachers.

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Khan Academy is a learner-focused organization that believes access to a quality education is a fundamental human right. We are trying to make learning as fun, deep, and empowering as it can be for as many people as possible.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Salman Khan.

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