Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Khan Academy: How Good Is It?

While I definitely find Khan Academy to be a useful supplement, I have several issues with the program itself. First, there is nothing of value for English teachers. There are numerous subjects within the domain of English Language Arts that could be elaborated on in a ten- or fifteen-minute video, yet the subject itself has yet to be explored by Khan. The only way an English teacher could potentially utilize the site would be through one of the history or science videos, specifically if the text that an ELA class is studying involves said video. But why do that when there are tons of other great resources available both online and off?

This brings up another issue: the history section is lacking. There are few videos and worksheets, and this may be an issue that Khan may have an issue addressing. Whereas the math and science videos are capable of solving and explaining problems and concepts within a small window, history can be so comprehensive that it cannot be properly covered in a six-minute video (especially the video on Lincoln's assassination above). 

Khan's bread and butter is his math and science section videos, and he should be commended for his intentions, yet his arrogance towards those who correct him (see this article) is appalling. One of the goals of all teachers is self-assessment, and Khan seems to lack this. For a guy (with no education background) who is admittedly winging it with each video to proceed and denounce those who challenge the veracity of his "lessons" is more than off-putting. The goal isn't merely to have student's learn at home but to have them learn correctly.

I'm all for changing the status quo in education, and I like some ideals of Khan Academy and the flipped classroom in general, yet it can only go so far. It is up to teachers and parents to motivate and excite our kids; furthermore, kids need to be willing to work and accept some responsibility for their own learning. Students also need to be able to decompress from learning, so having them watch a series of videos at home is not going to do much if they don't have the motivation or time to do so.

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