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Friday, October 12, 2012

Khan Academy: the hype and the reality

  • Are you a teacher who has been incorporating Khan Academy videos into your instruction?
  • Are you an administrator whose school is considering using Khan Academy videos as part of a school-wide math initiative?
  • Are you home-schooling and using Khan Academy videos?

If so, you need to read on....

In the American Educator article, "Khan Academy: The Hype and The Reality", former math teacher and coach Karim Kai Ani praises Salman Khan for creating such a large collection of instructional videos and sharing them for free – but has several criticisms
  • Khan’s style of instruction is very traditional – Do this, then do this – which presents math as a “meaningless series of steps,” says Ani.
  • Khan says he does “two minutes of research on Google” to get ready for each video he records, doesn’t use a script, and admits, “I don’t know what I’m going to say half the time.” Ani says, “If a teacher said that, he or she would be fired. And yet, in the past year, Sal Khan has been hailed as the savior for everything that ails public education.”
  • Some of the videos are flawed. For example, Khan’s explanation of slope is “rise over run,” which is actually a way to calculate it. “In fact,” says Ani, “slope is a rate that describes how two variables change in relation to one another… To the layperson, this may seem like a trivial distinction, but slope is one of the most fundamental concepts in secondary math.” In June, two math professors pointed out errors in Khan’s lesson on negative numbers, and Khan revised the video.
  • Ani is bothered by Khan’s reaction to criticism, which he’s labeled “nitpicking” and driven by jealousy.
  • Khan Academy is not the silver bullet it’s hyped to be, says Ani. The real work of improving classroom instruction is providing teachers with PD and resources and giving teams the time to collaborate and create content that will engage students and teach them at a conceptual level. “We face challenges in K-12 education,” Ani concludes, “and they will not be solved with just a Wacom tablet and a YouTube account. Instead, they’ll be solved by teachers who understand their content and how children learn, who walk into the classroom every day and think, ‘I know exactly what I’m going to say, because that’s what teaching means.’”        
There is a longer version of this article that appeared in The Answer Sheet, a Washington Post blog. 

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