Monday, March 12, 2012

Khan Academy - not good pedagogy and not #edreform

Khan Academy

Last night, 60 minutes did a story on Khan Academy. For those of you who don’t know, Khan Academy is a collection of free video lectures. It was started as a way for the founder, Sal Khan, to help a family member with homework. Many people are saying that Khan Academy is “the greatest thing in education.” I disagree. 


Khan Academy is videos of lectures. This is nothing new. They are boring and do not allow the student to interact with the lecturer. They also focus on solving a math or science problem through basic steps, but do not focus on the actual theory behind the problem. The student may be able to solve that problem, but can they apply the concept to other problems and situations? Many of my students who have watched the videos say that they are boring, and even confusing at times, and that they would rather have me show them. I agree. I find the videos boring and not as great as people seem to say. The other sad thing is that there are millions of dollars flowing to Khan Academy to create more boring, teacher centered, lectures. This money could be better spent in schools on truly innovative ideas and projects.

Mr. Khan stated that the purpose of Khan Academy was to have the students watch the lectures at home, on their own, so teachers could do better things in class. How about we get rid of the lectures all together, or use them sparingly in class as an interactive discussion? How about we make sure that students can learn during class time. How about we assign “homework” to students that addresses their interests and needs?

Videos, whether shown in class or watched at home should show and explore something that the student can not see in class. Virtual field trips, animations that explain a concept, etc. are effective videos. Videos of lectures are not effective and should not be thought of as effective education reform.
Khan Academy is not education reform and it is nothing special or new. It is actually bad pedagogy. Learning needs to be interactive and student centered. Video lectures are neither.

One of the movements that are touting Khan Academy is the Flipped Classroom idea. This is where the students watch videos and lectures at home and the teacher does other work with them in class, such as answering questions and helping them do problems that would normally be done for homework. I have a lot of issues with the Flipped Classroom (read more here), including the fact that this increases the amount of time students have to do homework, doesn’t account for students not having access to the technology to view these videos, and does not follow effective pedagogy. I would rather see the entire class changed to project based learning and instead of doing tons of problem sets, have students research and solve real-world problems. Any homework students do should be to get them more interested in the topic and should be relevant to their lives.

I have no problem sharing Khan Academy with my students as one resource that they can use if they want to to help them with a topic. But for people to say it’s the next best thing in education is ridiculous and uniformed. It rates up there with thinking that more standardized tests actually help students learn.

What do you think?


Khan Academy

Flipped Classroom - what it is and my reservations of it

Flipped Classroom - my thoughts on it, some other ideas, & infographic

Making School Relevant for Students

10 Important Skills Students Need for the Future

Project Based Learning

Create a Personal Learning Network

Should we force students to learn? or How can we change schools to engage students?

Differentiating with Web 2.0 Technologies


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