building tools to enable people to learn and teach

24th January 2013

since i’ve become a level 30 professional tweeter, blogging has really fallen by the wayside. it’s about that time of year though where i need to renew this domain, which reminds me of this awful wordpress install which has about a million + 1 vulnerabilities.

gym membership : exercising :: domain renewal : cultivating a respectable web presence.

anyway. back to our regularly scheduled programming –

though bay area awareness of khan academy is high (both in the ed + tech dimensions), i occasionally encounter people who are confused that khan academy would hire software engineers. “aren’t all the videos on youtube? do you make videos? no? then what do you do?”

some of our developers *do* make educational content (see https://www.khanacademy.org/math/calculus/differential-calculus/visualizing-derivatives-tutorial/e/visualizing_derivatives by stupendous stephanie).

for the rest of us (where i really only have authority to speak for myself. i am not the lorax, i do not speak for the trees), we build tools to enable people to learn + teach.

during the summer, a few of us worked on q&a, enabling faculty like brit to answer students’ questions or to challenge them with more questions: https://www.khanacademy.org/profile/britcruise/discussion. we noticed some particularly wonderful users who set great examples, and we enabled them as more powerful moderators to nurture and guide our growing community.

more recently, i worked on a super duper top secret project codenamed medusa. did i say secret? i mean not secret at all. here’s the shoddy documentation i wrote, which will only be relevant to you if your name is sal, beth, steven, brit, rishi, karl, vi, ben, stephanie, or <your  name if you create educational content on khan academy, now or in the future!>.

the tldr version of medusa’s purpose is to enable faculty to upload and organize their content. yes, the very content that is the metaphorical bread + butter of khan academy, unless you are on that ridiculous paleo diet (ahem).

my latest weeklong sprint enabled faculty to express their ideas in a different medium: text. yes, we had videos, yes we had exercises, yes we (more recently) had programs, and now we have the most complicated of them all: text! see one of the first articles written on khan academy: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-history/introduction-to-art-history/the-basics/a/a-beginners-guide-to-the-history-of-western-culture

so, the next time someone raises their eyebrow at me like they’re bob and bob from office space, i’ll link them to this blog post. this is what i do! i’m also a people person, i swear! the engineers can’t deal with people!

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