Education & School · Organizational Change & Development

Salman Khan and Katie Salen: A Dialogue

Salman Khan and Katie Salen (Source: Fast Company, March 2013)
Salman Khan and Katie Salen (Source: Fast Company, March 2013)

Salman Khan and Katie Salen are two people inventing new directions for how we learn. In this article in Fast Company (March 2013), they share where their visions for education intersect and diverge:

Khan: “… The ability to seek out information and take ownership of your own learning is far more important than any particular skill.

Salen: “ We also think about whether something is the right tool for the right task. So sometimes face-to-face interaction just beats technology. You don’t want some kind of device or online experience mediating that.

Khan Academy, Sal Khan’s brain child, is an online collection of media where you can, their website claims “learn almost anything  for free” (and I think they might be right).  Katie Salen and the Institute of Play in New York City have designed an entire school based around games and play.  Between what these two are doing might be the future of education.

Here’s Khan in 2011:

Khan: “Class has so much potential” when you “liberate” the learner from the lecture, giving the school day renewed focus on dialogue, projects and experiences, Khan says.  His online learning world, in theory, gives the teacher a “larger responsibility to do [the] less traditional stuff which is to invent a project or find and interesting project”.

Katie Salen helped design the program at the game-based Quest to Learn school:

Salen: “[The school] looks at the notion of how games work as learning systems and has developed a pedagogical approach that delivers what we call “game-like learning” … and all this means is that kids are dropped into complex, challenge-based contexts that they have no ability to solve at the beginning of 10-weeks, and then that 10-week structure – what we call a mission – is broken down into a series of smaller challenges that scaffold and really engage that kid in learning how to do something that will allow them to solve that complex problem.”

I wish I could get stories of average public schools using these strategies – it seems it’s always a charter or private school.  If the various “gaps” in the education system are to be met, we need solutions that can be widely used.  Between the resources of Khan Academy – “liberating time” in school by flipping classrooms – and the game structure of Katie Salen’s Quest to Learn school, we are given two fascinating examples of what could be the future of schooling.


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