Sunday, March 11, 2012

Khaaaaaaaaan! Academy

Shatner is clearly not a fan.

The future of education involves technology.  No one disputes this.  Less certain is how that technology will and should be utilized.  If you are savvy enough to locate this post then you have most likely heard of Khan Academy.  If you haven't then you need to watch the 60 Minutes segment linked below.  Everybody who's anybody in education including Bill Gates and everyone in the media seem to be falling in love with the potential of what Khan academy might mean for the future of our schools.  I'm in love too.  I love the simplicity and usefulness of Khan's videos.  But as a Star Trek fan and teacher, I am wary since Khan was formerly managing hedge funds and also has ties to Bill Gates. I, like Captain Kirk, approach the unknown carefully.  I wish I could say it is because I am smart.  It's not. 

Khan's emergence is nothing short of amazing and it illustrates how the internet has redefined our world and access to knowledge.  When I watch some of his videos I get sort of hypnotized.  They are great.  His intellect shines through; even just hearing his voice and seeing his illustrations you realize how capable his mind actually is.  But they are videos.   A lot of folks seem to forget this. To describe them as better than lecture is like saying DVDs are better than VHS.   It is a logic that is hard to argue with I suppose.

The brilliant Sal Khan seems to best understand how to use this as a resource.  He stresses the non-profit approach and that to me is a profound fact.  The technology use is meant to free the teacher up to help kids.   These videos have tremendous potential to achieve quick concise conveyance of knowledge and empower teachers to do more.

Yet as the phrase "flipping the classroom" shows, there are potential issues with implementation.  Please forgive me and other teachers for pausing and thinking but we do so with cause.   Maybe we are wary of how powerful people are drooling over this approach to learning.  Resources such as Khan's are perceived by decision makers as more than they can possibly be.  Another latest greatest thing.   You hear the phrase "the future"...that alone makes me cringe a little.  What will be the implications of all this?  I couldn't pretend to know(actually I could but won't). 

Some issues that arise:
Should all students everywhere access the same uniform version of the same set of information?  Is that a good thing?  (I get annoyed I can't ask questions or get simple clarification.)   There are few if any teachers working to develop this stuff...from what I can tell.  Some cite the "gamification" of math skills as they work to earn "badges."  It'd be better to tie that into the reliance on standardized testing as a whole.  I could go on, but I am a busy man.  Google for yourself,  but as always be mindful of the source.  You can't trust everybody as you can trust the TU.

For now, all I know is that I have used Khan's videos with my students as well as for myself.  Maybe he could put all these videos on one of those new laserdisc or something?


  1. Funny, I just commented to my wife that this Khan Academy seems like a really great resource. Unfortunately, too many people won't let it be just that, they've got to turn it into the new "Superman" that will save education. I could make things better, but it can't make everything "all better."

    You said "Please forgive me and other teachers for pausing and thinking." I think too many corporate reformers look at our pausing and thinking as a bad thing. Since when did it become a bad idea to look at what's ahead before taking a step?

    Nice post. I don't want to hop on the "anti-Khan" bandwagon (maybe I could get a job there some day), but it is getting overblown in some circles.

  2. Seen this?

    Whether or not Khan is the wave of the future, whether or not 1:1 Apple/iPad classrooms are the next new thing, huge areas of rural America have no access to the internet. I can't even try to find out if this stuff works, because my students don't have an on-ramp on to the information superhighway.

  3. Jessica....Great post. Shows how us folks down here in VA are always a step behind the northeast. Turner and I talk about this type of technology panacea thing a lot. But kids without internet? They know we landed on the moon right? How can a kid achieve w/o the internet? Preposterous. Clearly you are failing as a teacher. :) (That was sarcasm)

    I am blessed to teach where I do but have both students who do not have internet and ones whose parents will not let them have access to the internet. This insular thinking, that everything in eduction can be remedied by doing this or that, scares me more as a father than a teacher. Kinda reminds me of something. I'd tell you what it is but it is on the internet so it won't matter. Does the stuff work? Doesn't seem to matter what we think does it?

    I suspect if your students have you working with them they are as well off as those who have the internet. I'd choose a good teacher over a reliable internet connection for my own children any day.

  4. I think we will have to also share with the world the realities of working with the infamous "cart 1". I'll get Turner to write it so it will be good. Stay tuned.

  5. Last thing...Neil deGrasse Tyson(who I love watching) gets all fired up about the "future" in this clip. What is this future we are striving for/towards?

  6. I think I've watched this NdGT video about 15 times this week.