08:10 AM

Salman Khan: A Low-Tech High-Impact Visionary

(Above, is a brief extract of Salman Khan's speech at SVForum 2012 Visionary Awards.)

I had the enormous privilege of shaking the hand of Salman Khan, at the SVForum Visionary Awards earlier this week.

I thanked him for showing the world that public education can be enormously boosted through simple means.

For years I've railed at the poor state of Silicon Valley's public schools. For years I've reminded this community that we can't tell the world we are inventing the future if our public infrastructure, our schools, are in such a poor state.

John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, once told me, "Tom, we've tried and it can't be done, our public schools can't be fixed."

Others have told me it's too expensive, or that the bureaucracy and government regulations are the problem, and a hundred other reasons why schools can't be improved. Silicon Valley's much celebrated "can-do" culture disappears when it comes to the subject of public education.

I've even offered a simple idea that could cheaply, and without any government involvement, help any school: build a "Craigslist" community around each classroom. Within a ten minute walk of any classroom we have tremendous amounts of resources. If a teacher needs a box of pencils I can buy it next time I'm at Office Depot; if a teacher needs a rocket scientist to talk to the class I could ask my friend Bill if he'd help out on a live stream into the classroom. There's many things that we could do to better connect our schools to their local communities.

So what's holding things back? It's certainly not a problem of technology, or people - we have both in spades. It's a problem of vision - which paradoxically, is rarer than you'd think around here.

Silicon Valley's schools should be showcases, not basket cases.

Our rockstar CEOs will fly to Washington, DC, to complain about education yet they won't stroll down the street and address a school assembly.

Ugh. Don't get me started.

Mr Khan is someone who's doing something extremely important and he's doing it with a minuscule amount of tech. I have to remind people constantly, that they often confuse technology with innovation.

Innovation is not about technology, because technology is just a product. It's useless on its own -- until it's used as part of a vision, an entrepreneurial vision. And that's what Mr Khan and his small team of about 30 people are doing at the Khan Academy, using basic video streaming technology to help transform education globally.

At the SVForum Awards, Mr Khan was introduced by Ann Doerr, (below) who with her husband John Doerr, have been fabulously successful investors. Interestingly, she lauded Mr Khan, a former Wall Street "Quant," for refusing to sell out to commercial interests.

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