Salman Khan is a low-tech global Visionary - teach any child anywhere

Salman Khan is a low-tech global Visionary - teach any child anywhere

Summary: Vision is far more important than technology.

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(Above, is a brief extract of Mr Khan's speech at SVForum 2012 Visionary Awards.)

I had the enormous privilege of shaking the hand of Salman Khan, at the SVForum Visionary Awards earlier this week.

I thanked him for showing the world that public education can be enormously boosted through simple means.

For years I've railed at the poor state of Silicon Valley's public schools. For years I've reminded this community that we can't tell the world we are inventing the future if our public infrastructure, our schools, are in such a poor state.

John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, once told me, "Tom, we've tried and it can't be done, our public schools can't be fixed."

Others have told me its too expensive, or that the bureaucracy and government regulations are the problem, and a hundred other reasons why schools can't be improved. Silicon Valley's much celebrated "can-do" culture disappears when it comes to the subject of public education.

I've even offered a simple idea that could cheaply, and without any government involvement, could help any school: build a "Craigslist" community around each classroom. Within a ten minute walk of any classroom we have tremendous amounts of resources. If a teacher needs a box of pencils I can buy it next time I'm at Office Depot; if a teacher needs a rocket scientist to talk to the class I could ask my friend Bill if he'd help out on a live stream into the classroom. Very cheap and very effective. So what's holding things back? It's certainly not a problem of technology, or people - we have both in spades. It's a problem of vision - which paradoxically, is rarer than you'd think around here.

Silicon Valley's schools should be showcases, not basket cases.

Our rockstar CEOs will fly to Washington, DC, to complain about education yet they won't stroll down the street and address a school assembly.

Ugh. Don't get me started.

Mr Khan is someone who's doing something extremely important and he's doing it with a minuscule amount of tech. I have to remind people constantly, that they often confuse technology with innovation.

Innovation is not about technology, because technology is just a product. It's useless on its own -- until it's used as part of a vision, an entrepreneurial vision. And that's what Mr Khan and his small team of about 30 people are doing at the Khan Academy, using basic video streaming technology to help transform education globally.

[We are living in a post-tech world - I'll explain in a future post.]

At the SVForum Awards, Mr Khan was introduced by Ann Doerr, (below) who with her husband John Doerr, have been fabulously successful investors. Interestingly, she lauded Mr Khan, a former Wall Street "Quant," for refusing to sell out to commercial interests.


Topics: Software Development, Browser, CXO, Emerging Tech

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  • It's nice and all I'm sure

    But I think the crux of the problem is that society from the top on down say they value education immensely.

    However, if you take the time to watch people/organisations/government for long enough to finish a pint there's only one conclusion that can be made. Oddly enough, there's an empty pint next to me, but I digress.

    The stark realisation is that they actually care more about pretty much anything else, right down to how the next football match will go. Education comes in a dismal last.

    I'm sure Khan, MIT, Stanford etc are not making the situation worse. However, they're not exactly changing the "We don't need no education" Pink Floyd realpolitik worldview.

    How do you change that? No idea, but it's got to happen before the triumph of the chavs occurs.
    ego.sum.stig
  • Spot on sahib

    Factor in caring parents and you have a formula for success. Feed, clothe, house and care for children and they shall respond.
    LostValley