This morning, when they really should have been doing something better with their time, the boys turned on their computer so they could drool over lego sets they are saving up for, or play games or something. I walked into the room and said, somewhat sternly, “what are you doing?”

“Turning this off.” they quickly replied.

“Can I show you something you are allowed to do on the computer right now?” I asked.

“Um, sure.” they answered, sounding very skeptical.

I then took them to the Khan Academy and got them started doing some math problems earning points. And they loved it. A neighbor and friend of mine told me last week that he’s had his kids earning points at the Khan Academy all summer, so on a whim today I decided to give it a try. I’m amazed how how well it worked.

The points are meaningless, and Isaac caught on to that really quickly. Isaac who plays video games as much as we let him (or more if he can get away with it), said, “What do the points get you?” I said, “The same thing your Mario Kart points get you, nothing.” He argued a bit that Mario Kart points get you new cars to drive or new tracks, or something like that. I told him that those were ultimately still worthless, and he seemed to get it (remember, they are saving for legos). And then he gave in and started earning points from Khan Academy along with his brother. I was a little amazed.

This 20 minute video explains what Khan Academy is (the presenter is Sal Khan, the guy who started it all). It’s pretty profound. I had to stop for a moment and just ponder that youtube is what made it all possible. The website that I used to think of as “America’s Funniest Home Videos, Internet Edition” is now helping change education. His whole point about turning the classroom around was really interesting to me as well. The problem with testing and swiss cheese holes in our knowledge hit home too. Go watch it.

I don’t know how long the kids will stay interested in Khan Academy, but even if it was just a couple hours of one summer day I feel pretty good about it. I think they’ll do more. They have only watched one of the videos, and they loved it. Isaac had tried to teach Micah the trick wtih multiplying by 10, and when he watched Sal explain it he was like, “Wow, he explains it a lot better than I did!” and they all laughed when Sal messed up and had to erase and go back. It was great. I think they’ll watch more and earn more points.