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A Self-Appointed Teacher Runs a One-Man ‘Academy’ on YouTube

The Harlan Institute is always looking for ways to use the Internet to educate and teach students in new and innovative ways. Salmann Khan, who runs a one-man “academy” on YouTube has proved to be a virtuoso of online education.

Check out this article from the Chronicle of High Education.

The most popular educator on YouTube does not have a Ph.D. He has never taught at a college or university. And he delivers all of his lectures from a bedroom closet.

This upstart is Salman Khan, a 33-year-old who quit his job as a financial analyst to spend more time making homemade lecture videos in his home studio. His unusual teaching materials started as a way to tutor his faraway cousins, but his lectures have grown into an online phenomenon—and a kind of protest against what he sees as a flawed educational system.

“My single biggest goal is to try to deliver things the way I wish they were delivered to me,” he told me recently.

The resulting videos don’t look or feel like typical college lectures or any of the lecture videos that traditional colleges put on their Web sites or YouTube channels. For one thing, these lectures are short—about 10 minutes each. And they’re low-tech: Viewers see only the scrawls of equations or bad drawings that Mr. Khan writes on his digital sketchpad software as he narrates.

The lo-fi videos seem to work for students, many of whom have written glowing testimonials or even donated a few bucks via a PayPal link. The free videos have drawn hundreds of thousands of views, making them more popular than the lectures by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, famous for making course materials free, or any other traditional institution online, according to the leaders of YouTube’s education section.

Mr. Khan calls his collection of videos “Khan Academy,” and he lists himself as founder and faculty. That means he teaches every subject, and he has produced 1,400 lectures since he started in 2006. Now he records one to five lectures per day.

What an amazing story!

Violent Video Games Touted As Learning Tool

Interesting article from the Huffington Post on the value of using video games–albeit violent ones– as learning tools.

“People that play these fast-paced games have better vision, better attention and better cognition,” said Daphne Bavelier, an assistant professor in the department of brain and cognitive science at the University of Rochester.

Bavelier was a presenter at Games for Learning, a daylong symposium on the educational uses of video games and computer games.

The event, the first of its kind, was an indication that electronic games are gaining legitimacy in the classroom.

President Barack Obama recently identified the creation of good educational software as one of the “grand challenges for American innovation,” and the federal Department of Education’s assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement, Jim Shelton, attended Thursday’s conference.

Panelists discussed how people learn and how games can be engineered to be even more educational.

“People do learn from games,” said J. Dexter Fletcher of the Institute for Defense Analyses.

Sigmund Tobias of the State University of New York at Albany said an Israeli air force study found that students who played the game “Space Fortress” had better rankings in their pilot training than students who did not.

He added that students who played “pro-social” games that promote cooperation were more likely than others to help out in real-life situations like intervening when someone is being harassed.

Poll: Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name Any U.S. Supreme Court Justices

Very disturbing news about the state of our civic education in America.  Nearly two-thirds of Americans cannot name any members of the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a new national survey by FindLaw.com. From the poll:

Clarence Thomas is the most well known justice but could be named by only 19 percent of Americans. Chief Justice John Roberts was named by 16 percent of people. Sonia Sotomayor, the newest justice, could be named by only 15 percent of Americans following a highly visible nomination and confirmation process last year.

According to the FindLaw.com survey, the percentages of Americans who can name any U.S. Supreme Court justices are:

  • Clarence Thomas – 19%
  • John Roberts – 16%
  • Sonia Sotomayor – 15%
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg – 13%
  • Antonin Scalia – 10%
  • Samuel Alito – 8%
  • John Paul Stevens – 8%
  • Anthony Kennedy – 6%
  • Stephen Breyer – 3%

Only 1 percent of Americans could correctly name all nine current members of the Supreme Court.

In addition, many Americans think that retired justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter are still active members of the Supreme Court. O’Connor and Souter retired from the Court in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

Curiously, the most taciturn Justice is the most well known. And Justice Kennedy, the most important  Justice on the bench, is the least well known. Poor Justice Breyer.

Press Release- Launch of the New Harlan Institute Web Site

May 28, 2010 – Washington, D.C.

Today the Harlan Institute launched its new web site at www.HarlanInstitute.org. The new web site offers an engaging and easy to use design. By using this site, teachers and students can learn more about the Harlan Institute’s initiatives, including FantasySCOTUS.org and YourConstitution.net.

FantasySCOTUS.org will be a Supreme Court fantasy league targeted towards high school classes that teach about the Supreme Court, the constitution, and civics. In a partnership with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s iCivics, the site will be free for all teachers and students to use, starting in August 2010.

YourConstitution.net will bring the constitution to life by shining a light on the faces and places that gave rise to famous Supreme Court cases, and telling their stories. This interactive website will take the reader through a visual tour of some of the most famous cases in constitutional law history.

About the Harlan Institute

The Harlan Institute’s (www.HarlanInstitute.org) mission is to bring a stylized law school experience into the high school classroom to ensure that our next generation of leaders has a proper understanding of our most fundamental laws. The Harlan Institute developed FantasySCOTUS.org, a Supreme Court fantasy league that teaches students about Supreme Court cases and allows them to make predictions about the outcome of the case.



Josh Blackman
(202) 294-9003
The Harlan Institute
twitter: @HarlanInstitute



FantasySCOTUS.org will be a Supreme Court fantasy league targeted towards high school classes that teach about the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and civics. In a partnership with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’siCivics, the site will be free for all teachers and students to use, starting in August 2010.

During the October 2010 Supreme Court term, the Institute,will select cases of special interest to students. These cases will focus primarily on constitutional issues, though other significant non-constitutional cases will also be considered. Each class will submit predictions for these ten cases, speculating as to the outcome of the case (Affirm or Reverse/Vacate), the split, and the Justices in the majority and in the dissent.

In addition to the predictions, classes will also hone their writing skills in a fun and interactive medium: blogging. Each classroom will maintain a blog, and students will write posts about each of the cases, including their analysis of the precedents, their thoughts about oral arguments, and predictions for the holding. While the predictions will be graded automatically, Institute personnel will be responsible for grading and critiquing the blog posts according to a predetermined scoring rubric. In addition, we will offer an interactive chat room and forum, where teachers and students can interact with each other, and learn more about the cases.

Classes will compete against other classes in small leagues . Depending how many classes sign up, we can create leagues based on states, regions, or other bases. At the end of the Supreme Court term, the team with the best score in each league and their teacher will receive a to-be-determined prize.

What makes FantasySCOTUS.org so effective for pedagogical purposes is that it is real. These are real cases that the students will read in the news. Leveraging the immense popularity of fantasy sports among teenagers, FantasySCOTUS.org will transform following the Supreme Court from a routine review of old cases into an exciting game of predicting live cases. Factoring in the competition aspect, as students will compete with other classes across the Nation, this engaging and interactive platform will make the Supreme Court speak to the students unlike ever before.

To learn more about FantasySCOTUS.org, and if you are interested in signing up, please visit ourFantasySCOTUS page.

FantasySCOTUS Scoreboard

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