March 12, 2012

Khan Academy: Good or Bad. It's not THE gold standard.

Like many other's I watched the recent Khan Academy piece on 60 minutes. Everyone has their opinion on the Khan Academy (I certainly do) ranging from thinking it's a God sent educational revolution to thinking quite the opposite.  Yet, might both be true?

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If you think school and education should consist of talking at students for the better part of the period and then having them answer questions nearly identical to what you just showed them, then KA is potentially an improvement. No more lectures to prepare, no more examples to walk through, just time and energy to mingle giving help and advice as you go. If your classes have 30+ kids maybe this is a realistic (or only) way of spending some time with each student or having a better chance to individualize instruction. I remember my public school classrooms and full implementation of KA would have been a vast improvement.

Or if you think school and education should consist of students drawing conclusions in their own words and creating their own understanding then KA is nothing new its just more of the same albeit in digital/rewindable form. If you believe that learning is evidenced by transfer of knowledge not simply the recall of knowledge then the KA is a horrible idea. If you already spend the majority of class time sitting next to students engaging them in conversation about what they understand and what they don't understand then KA is a huge step backwards.

Sometimes beauty is not the only thing in the eye of the beholder...

However, after trying to digest all the fervor over the KA, I have one remaining complaint. The KA is being put out there as the gold standard as the best that can be done. The KA might be better than some are doing but it is not the top of the educational food chain. I would challenge Sal Khan (or Bill Gates, the $$$ for KA ) to go visit a truly student-centered classroom. Go watch Dan Meyer or Frank Noschese in action. What about the Exeter Math program? Before you declare you have THE solution go see what other solutions exist.

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