Why I Admire Khan Academy

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Khan Academy lobby

Quizlet CEO Matt Glotzbach and I visited Khan Academy today to have lunch with their new COO Ginny Lee, who I’ve known for a long time. The visit reinforced in my mind the three things that have long made me an admirer of theirs, and have great similarities to Quizlet:

  1. Persistence and staying power. Unlike many education technology ventures, the folks at Khan have been at it for many years and are in it for the long haul. They’re not trying to get a quick win or become the next Silicon Valley rocketship. Khan keeps doubling down on efforts to improve ed tech for students and classrooms, coming back year after year to learn from what worked and didn’t, constantly demonstrating their long-term commitment. I think staying power like this will be required to succeed in the education world, because it takes many years to build up trust and a track record – among students, teachers, parents, administrators, and public opinion generally.
  2. Mission. Khan Academy’s stated mission is a simple, audaciously ambitious goal: “To provide a free world-class education to anyone, anywhere.” Who could not want them to succeed at that? I’m not saying they will, or that there won’t be many others who contribute toward achieving this great goal (if it is ever achieved). But hats off to them for trying, and for helping inspire others to think really big.
  3. Creativity. When you walk into the Khan Academy lobby, you can breathe in the inspiration. The blackboard walls of their main staircase are covered with knowledge (see above pic), and there are little kids running around with backpacks, participating in a test classroom right in their office. Khan started by making creative videos to teaches his nieces and nephews, chose the non-for-profit model, itself a very creative approach to ed tech (enabling its product to be 100% free), and has clearly succeeded in infusing the work environment with the kind of creative energy that good things come from.

So check out Khan Academy sometime (or their apps) if you haven’t already… they’re doing really good stuff!

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