Using the energy and creativity of MIT students to define the future of STEM education—one short video at a time.
MIT + Khan Academy is a new K12 education collaboration designed to harness the joint creativity of Khan Academy’s enormous online outreach and MIT’s outstanding students in bringing the excitement and understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math to children throughout the U.S., and ultimately, around the world.
In late June, 2011, Ian Waitz, MIT’s Dean of Engineering, initiated a conversation with Salman Khan, an MIT alumnus and founder of Khan Academy—a radical experiment in online education that delivers small, sequential segments of very large knowledge areas via short-form video on YouTube. Khan has attracted an enormous following of K12 students who use his website and videos to supplement their classroom experiences.
Our conversation started with a basic question: How can MIT and Khan Academy work together to improve STEM education at the K12 level, and at the same time change the perception of the role of engineers and scientists in the world? MIT has a resource of 10,000 brilliant young people who represent the future of engineering and science—our students. They want to change the world, and are wiling to start by offering meaningful contributions to the national challenge facing K12 education. They also have access to some of the most sophisticated laboratory and experimental facilities in the world.
Khan has a powerful connection to the audience that most needs to be reached, and a deep relationship with MIT (he has three degrees from the Institute), but his access to research facilities is limited. We quickly settled on an approach: MIT would become Khan Academy’s “experiential partner.” MIT students would generate short-form videos to complement those already offered by Khan Academy, which are composed almost exclusively of a black-tablet background on which Khan draws equations, with explanations and commentary delivered as a voiceover. MIT students would, in effect, put Khan’s explanations into action using world-class researchers, experimental facilities, and equipment.
The MIT School of Engineering is now funding student teams to produce videos illustrating that the best spokes-people in the battle to engage young people in science and engineering are other young people—especially MIT students.
The results of this ongoing project are available on YouTube as well as through this site.
Since its inception, MIT + Khan Academy has attracted support from across MIT. Faculty, students, and staff from across the Institute have responded enthusiastically. MIT and Khan Academy's share educational purpose, and our complementary approaches and methodologies, give us the collective potential to engage hundreds of thousands of young minds in science and engineering in entirely new ways.
MIT + Khan Academy is not like any other project that has been undertaken by the Institute. We expect we will learn even more along our way, and that this knowledge will help us on our broader mission of helping develop the future of education through initiatives such as MITx. MIT + Khan Academy is an opportunity to change how MIT relates to the world, and how the world of K12 students and teachers relate to engineering and science. Our challenge in this arena is steep, as an institution and as a country, but the impacts of not meeting this challenge are grave.