Sunday, September 14, 2014

Patel Academy

My nieces Sonia and Sarina (ages 11 and 7) sometimes record videos with questions on topics they are curious about and send them to their masis, masas, mamas, and mamis for answers. Sort of like a family-powered, demand-driven Khan Academy. Patel Academy. Recently they sent me and Jay a question about how FaceTime works:

They are very cute, I especially loved Sonia's articulate enthusiasm and Sarina as she avoided getting slapped in the face. I took the question up because it was interesting, I knew the answer, and thought it would be fun to make the video and delight the girls. I wanted to do something Khan Academy style because the response required a diagram to explain properly. I eventually settled on screen capturing an animated powerpoint, which gave me all the control I needed and perhaps better graphics than drawing on a tab. It was also way easier to set up than a screen-captured stencil and tab:

The video was a big hit with the girls. Sejal and Sanjay were also thrilled, and so was I! I believe Sal Khan got started with his videos in much the same way, making them for young family members. I could see why it was so engaging. It took me a while to do the pixel graphic, but most of the time was taken up recording the voice-over. I tried to make it perfect, since a video lasts forever. I stubbornly didn't script it out, so did about 30 takes before I got it decent. But the whole time I was totally energized and excited to do it. It's fun to think about how to simplify complex topics, fun to produce videos, and most of all fun to think of and feel love for my nieces. They came back with this response and follow-up questions:

This was vintage Sejal, who with Sanjay sent back such sweet and heartfelt notes of praise and gratitude. I was grateful too for the opportunity to be part of the game and feel close and connected to the girls even though I'm so far away. For my responses I did one each for Sonia and Sarina's questions, who asked about what the Internet's "pipes" were and how computers work with 1's and 0s:

Video used like this is an outstanding way to learn and engage. It takes thoughtful effort to record a video response and even the question. Both sides are engaged deeply as they organize their thoughts to record something with quality for the other. It was good fun learning and re-learning (CS61C flashbacks when explaining opcodes!).

I think a great model for growing Khan Academy (if they haven't already done this) is to decentralize the video production and empower TedX-style Khan Academies like Patel Academy. I would have loved some peer-review of my videos and suggestions to improve. If Khan Academy is really to scale, the only way is to birth a million local informal KhanX Academies amongst social groups large and small. Also it's great if the student, not just the teacher, record so the learning is demand-driven and the student's engagement is stepped up by creating, not just consuming.

Imagine, even, if the students turned around and started producing their own instructional videos to keep the chain going!

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