• September 2012

The Value of Bringing Business Opportunities Into the Classroom

By Andrea Keating
Founder and CEO
Crews Control
Photos below, courtesy of Khan Academy

Every industry has been transformed by technology, and the increasingly efficient workflow that technology brings to the table.

But as the parent of three children—the oldest entering college this year and the youngest entering high school—I believe that one of last areas to adapt to this new reality is the education industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that technology in the classroom has grown in leaps and bounds. And, in the 18 years that my kids have been in the school system, I have seen many changes and improvements.

What I haven’t seen—until very recently—is a concerted effort to turn education “upside down.” That is why I was thrilled to learn more about a real change agent in the field: Kahn Academy.

Why Khan Academy is on the cutting-edge

For those of you not familiar with this groundbreaking company, it was founded by Sal Kahn, a hedge fund manager, who began tutoring his cousin Nadia in math in August 2004.

She was struggling with “unit conversion,” and since she was in New Orleans and Sal was in Boston, he started tutoring her via telephone and Yahoo Doodle after work. As Nadia improved in math class, Sal began tutoring her brothers Arman and Ali.

Eventually, word got around and he was tutoring a handful of his cousins and family members. Scheduling became a real issue, and Sal started recording videos and posting them on YouTube in 2006 so everyone could watch on their own. More and more people kept watching, and Sal has continued to make videos ever since.

In September 2010, Khan Academy received large grants from Google ($2 million) and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation ($1.5 million) and began to build out an organization. Click here to read more about the history, mission, and future of this growing company.

It’s a saving grace for parents struggling to help kids with homework.

I have to give a huge thanks to Sal, for I stumbled upon Khan Academy when I was looking for a way to help my son with his homework on quadratic equations. I was stumped, and looked online to learn.

Not only did I find www.khanacademy.org to be an outstanding resource for my son’s math homework, I learned that Kahn Academy also has videos and curricula for nearly every subject—including K-12 math; science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics; and the humanities; with playlists on finance and history.

It blows me away at how simple it is to grasp a complex issue in 10 minutes or less when the material is presented in a way that is easy to digest.

Why can’t everything taught in school be so easy to understand?

Sal Khan is asking the same question. His solution—and goal—is to “flip” the traditional classwork and homework cycle.

Here’s how:

  • Currently, teachers present materials in a classroom setting, and then students go home and do their homework—on their own without any teacher support. And if a student fully grasps the material after the day’s instruction, that approach works well.
  • But what about the students who don’t quite understand the material—or are unsure if they are doing it right—and their parents don’t know how to explain, for example, quadratic equations? Those students get a poor grade on their homework, and have to go back to the teacher for further explanation the next day. (My son wants me to note here that after we used Khan’s video, he got an A.)
  • Kahn’s approach? Have students’ “homework” be to watch an overview video on how to solve a problem the night before the lesson is taught by the teacher in class. They’ll work on the sample problems, which gives them real-time feedback. If they get the problem right, they know they are ready for the lesson by the teacher. This benefits them in myriad ways, including having a basis for understanding the information, and the ability to go deeper in their learning because by the time they get to class they are ready to master the material.
  • In addition, students also can hear lectures on thousands of topics from some of the best and brightest minds in the fields of math, science, technology, or the arts.
  • Teachers can use all of these resources in their classrooms to better teach and help students fully understand the concepts, and help them put those concepts into practice.

Of course, this change in approach will take some work on the part of the student and parent.

We’ll need to make sure our children are actually watching the videos. Fortunately, Kahn Academy software monitors the students’ progress through the site.

And because not every child has access to computers at home to watch the videos, programs would have to be organized through the school or local libraries to make that access available.

To me, as a parent and entrepreneur, the benefits far outweigh any logistic problems.

The reason I find this all so fascinating is that it demonstrates how our society is bringing the fundamental philosophies of business into the classroom. Educators are asking:

  • How do I deliver the best product (education) to my clients (students) in a way that they can understand it (marketing and messaging)?
  • We know this approach works in business—so how can it best be done in classrooms across America?
  • Where else can we apply it?

And now I’d like to issue you this challenge.

Consider the business and education model that Khan Academy has built, and think about how you can use this approach in your business.

Questions, thoughts, ideas? Send me an email: Andrea@CrewsControl.com.


Andrea Keating founded Crews Control in 1988 as the first film-and-video-crew staffing agency.

Since then, the company’s focus has been to match each client with the perfect local crew for each specific shoot.

“That means we can offer our clients the quickest response time when they need to book a crew, and then provide the most dedicated customer service in the business,” she says.

Click here to learn more: www.crewscontrol.com.