Let’s talk about: The Khan Academy’s ongoing mission to provide a FREE world class education to everyone

Our ‘Let’s talk about’ series continues with online learning. Salman Khan went from remotely tutoring his cousin to creating a free global classroom funded by google and gates. Is Thinky Pinky going to change the world? we sign up, test drive and take a look around the Khan Academy to find out.

Salman Khan the American educator and entrepreneur (not to be confused with the famous Indian actor of the same name) was born 1976 in New Orleans, Louisiana to parents from India and Bangladesh. A former hedge fund analyst he’s produced more than 6,500 free video lessons. From humble beginnings, in 2004 he began helping his cousin by remotely tutoring her. This led to other family members joining in and in 2006, Sal began uploading videos to YouTube so everyone could learn in their own time. Now, his online global school is an impressive organisation with 150 personnel.

“We are developers, teachers, designers, strategists, scientists, and content specialists who passionately believe in inspiring the world to learn. A few great people can make a big difference.”

Khan Academy
Salman Khan photo credit Heinz Awards website

In 2008 he incorporated the Khan Academy as a non-profit and worked on it in his spare time for a year before quitting his day job to go full time with his vision and mission to provide free education for everyone. Sal was living off his savings until nine months later when everything changed with his first major donor, then in 2010, he received grants of $3.5 million from Google and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Sal won the 19th Annual Heinz Award in 2014 in the category of ‘Human Condition’ and awarded Padma Shri in 2016 (one of India’s highest Civilian Awards) for literature and education. Thanks to Sal, his dream team and volunteers who share in his vision, anyone of any age who has access to the internet can, at any time of the day or night, educate themselves in a wide range of subjects.

“I just found your website. I’m 72 years old and I am now taking up learning where I left off. Thank you so much for all your hard work.”


Earlier this year (Summer 2018) Sal and his three year old son announced the launch of Khan Academy Kids – a free, fun educational program to inspire a lifetime of learning and discovery for young children.

To download the app and let the joyful learning begin go here

“… I am a primary school teacher in the north of England and when the conventional education system gets on my nerves, I only need to whack on a Khan Academy and my faith in the future of education is restored!”


WHOLE_istic Media Test Drives the Khan Academy and takes the change-maker, free education platform for a quick spin

I was a happy guinea pig. Keen as mustard. Confidently choosing Biology (killed it on Anatomy & Physiology at vocational college what could go wrong), Grammer (yes, owning it, often put commas in the wrong place), Art History, Music and Health & Medicine I was quite excited with no ‘first day at school nerves’. You can sign up as a learner (From kindergarten through high school to university level or adult learner), teacher or parent and personalise your experience with up to five subjects at a time.

With it’s highly intuitive and easy to use dashboard I couldn’t wait to get started and decided to flex my memory muscle with a quick quiz called ‘Introduction to the circulatory system.’ Quick? Not for this cringing mammal who got a long drawn out ego-bashing and wished she’d set her bar at ‘1st grade’ and not ‘adult learner.’

My profile and stats currently show I’ve earned 873 energy points, a meteorite and a badge for persistence. I sweated for my 9/12 and am taking one for the WHOLE_istic team by exposing myself as not as smart as I could be. This is not, I stress, any reflection on the content or quality of the learning experience. The design and methodology are excellent. I was (eventually) able to answer the trio of conundrums that stopped me scoring a goal and winning the match by using some or all of the hints. It praised me but didn’t let me off. Just like all good teachers I’ve encountered in the real world ‘it’ made me want to excel and not give in.

The ‘hints’ are lessons in themselves, well planned and constructed. Below is one that took me a full fifteen minutes (and a fresh cup of tea) to finally get right. I thought I’d breeze this question. Not so. Despite my initial cockiness (cruised the circulatory system section on my terrestrial college exam ergo, felt smug), I was forced to accept my memory vault door was more than a bit rusty. Helpful reminder that our brain is a group of co-operative muscles and just like a six pack – if you don’t use it, you lose it.

I’ve turned ‘the pathway of a red blood cell which starts in the right atrium and ends in the brain’ into a song to the tune of ‘Three Little Birds.’ Here’s hoping Bob Marley and The Wailers will get me through at the next try and ‘every little thing gonna be alright.’ This ‘Circulatory system introduction’ alone has no less than nine videos to aid learning:

Meet the heart | Flow through the heart | Two circulations in the body | Lub dub | Layers of the heart | Thermoregulation in the circulatory system | Arteries vs. veins | Arteries, arterioles, venules and veins | Circulatory system and the heart | Plus Heart flash cards and ‘The heart is a double pump.’ It’s someone with a thirst for learning’s utopian dream come true. Extraordinary that it’s free.

Simple click and drag from the selection on the left. Easy! You’d think. Except they all move around as you start correcting any in your list of answers so you’re constantly engaged, repeating the sequence in your head and checking yourself.

So, what do I think of the Khan Academy? Brilliant. Exceeded all expectations. Would I recommend it? Definitely. Will it become addictive? Probably. Will I ever get past the first ‘basic’ introductory quiz in my first chosen subject and actually start (and finish) a whole lesson? Who knows. Follow this blog and if it’s not too humiliating I’ll do an update, schedule (and blushes) allowing of course. If I had to rate it out of 5 stars it would be a perfect 10. Now you know why I didn’t choose maths.

My new friend is now Thinky Pinky and before I have another go at ‘Introduction to the circulatory system’ (in my defence the Anatomy & Physiology graduation I sailed through was a certified course for a professional therapist and not a cardiovascular surgeon) I’ll be taking lessons from him on mindset growth and how to write a smart goal.

Next time we’ll be talking about Free online learning sites from the UK such as the BBC, Open Learn, Future Learn, Reed and Study UK but in the meantime, Thinky Pinky can have the final word and tell you the truth about your brain when it’s learning.

So find your inner Thinky Pinky, get out there and do your best, don’t give up, grow those brains and remember you can learn anything.

WHOLE_istic Media Blog – Less artificial, more intelligent.
A place where information, education and ideas flow with ease.

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