Could the KHAAAAAAN! Academy revolutionize *classroom* education?

Data is only as useful as your ability to analyze and apply it. More data is nifty, but not necessarily more useful. Are teachers really going to be ready to figure out what the numbers and graphs mean in real-world terms?

I think, for many teaching purposes, walking around the classroom and observing as students complete exercises is exactly the amont of data a teacher needs to adjust the flow of the lesson. Teaching is a very active two-way feedback system already, even without printouts and tables for every little nuance. There may not be any need to exactly quantify what teachers are perfectly capable of observing, and the additional level of precision may just be wasted data.

Of course, some teachers will find this system useful, and well suited for their classroom style. But you have to look at how technology has historically affected teaching- it’s often in small ways, and not by everyone. Powerpoint, for example, has changed lecturing. But not every teacher finds it useful- I don’t like using it, and prefer the immediacy and interactivity of the good old blackboard. Hypertext text books never really took off, but Wikipedia has become a very useful reference and research jumping-off point.

And by all means, start using technology slowly, letting it evolve and find it’s niche without forcing it to be something it might not be.

Let me preface my comments by saying that I have successfully used Khan’s videos, and think what he is trying to do is a great, great thing.

That said, competition on the basis of efficacy and quality is good. But, the free market doesn’t always select for those things. It’s what currently happens with textbooks. The guy with the biggest budget, or most name recognition can dominate the market without regard to their relative quality. The brand becomes more valuable than the product. That’s an issue I can see arising with Khan Academy or any other venture like it. So long as it occupies its own space, and has a need to differentiate itself from competitors, some portion of their resources will go towards gaining market share (etc.) and not the videos.

Along the same lines, different resources can obviously be a good thing. But that’s only helpful if you have a good filtering system, and an objective rating system. Imagine if google presented all results instead of filtering and ranking them. You would know the good stuff was in there somewhere, but it would be almost impossible to find. Or imagine if their results didn’t differentiate between media types, and/or common intelligibly computer languages and formats. My point is that Khan academy alone, as it currently exists, will not introduce better ways of looking at things; only Khan’s way. Competition will only come from competing organizations. The increased competition for non-profit dollars and online presence will mean that those organizations will each have fewer resources. Ultimately, those organization will be left to compete on name recognition and financial resources as opposed to how effective their stuff is.

I agree, but the question is how to enable each student to find their most successful path. The free market is what gives you the current textbook situation. Most would agree that every student does not have the best textbook for them. Sometimes, the textbooks are bad, or out of date. Other times, there is a mismatch with the student’s learning style. The list on goes and on. Worse yet, most schools make all the students use the same textbook. Those issues aren’t resolved as a result of using Khan Academy. All it does it shift the inefficient use of time onto the student. That in and of itself is a good thing from a financial perspective, but it does not help them find their best path. Even if you have several "Khan Academy"s competing, presenting different approaches, you still put the organization above the lessons. If Khan’s video on adding fractions is great, but their video on subtracting them is terrible, you would not necessarily know that. More importantly, if a competing organization had the opposite issue (addition=bad, subtraction=good), how would a student know to combine the two in that order? With good enough measurement and data, I suppose we might be able to tell people to go to site X for this, site Y for that, and site Z for the next thing, but most of the time, people just stick with one for continuity’s sake. That’s a problem.

I would argue that the reason most things become universally adopted is because there is an accepted standard. Home video popularity didn’t explode until there was a agreed upon, freely available standard. I would also argue that if one endeavors to find the best of anything, you create a single entity or platform to manage the competition. Most would agree that at any given time, the NFL has the vast, vast majority of the world’s best football players. Could you say the same for the English Premier league or Spain’s La Liga with regard to soccer? Probably not. Ultimately, students would be better off if Khan academy were just a brand utilizing the same platform and online space as its competition, rather than a distinct entity on those lines. I would much prefer it be part of the open courseware consortium, or a government-funded central location rather than having no affiliation.

Not Khan Academy, but I went through Open Yale Courses lectures on Physics 200, including going through all the homework problems, bought the textbook (cheap used because it is four years old) and took the exams. FWIW, I aced the exams. I am not Yale material (I have the rejection letter to prove it).

I probably put in as much effort as I did in an average course in college twenty five years ago. That is one of the keys. The other is, that even though I have not taken a Physics class since high school, I was very interested in the subject.

I think many students in an alternative format simply do not put in the time. Online students don’t do the homework, required readings, etc. And it is less of an issue to be called out for this by the teacher or professor over the internet, than in person, in front of your peers. At least in post-secondary education many of the alternative format students have other priorities in their lives (family, work or both) that dominate their academic focus.

But it works for some people if they are sufficiently keen and motivated. But then those are dream students for most teachers in a classroom anyway. If you had 50 of those, a teacher would be able to teach them more than 25 kids, half of whom have no interest or focus.

So here is another vote for, it’s a nice idea, but not one with wide application.

If students learn math best from science fiction villains, then schools really need to use this.

Other than that, I’m skeptical of the concept. Mainly because somebody proposes to eliminate the “textbook, lecture, homework, exam model” of education and replace it with something better at least two or three times a decade. Vast amounts of time and money have been wasted on that nonsense with little or no benefit.

The Khan Academy and all similar videos could probably eliminate 75% of classroom education.

Classroom lecturing has been obsolete since the invention of the VHS tape. Lecturing is STUPID. The kids should watch videos and go to the teacher individually to ask specific questions. It is so much fun to sit in class and listen to kids ask questions you already know the answer to.

But then there is Vero Beach High School in Florida, 1987

that we NEVER hear about.

It was demonstrated in 1987 that computers could do a better job than most teachers.

You can imagine how thrilled the teachers unions are at the idea of making that widely known.

What kind of computers did they have in 1987? The 486 was not introduced until 1989.

Now we have these:

Not to mention dual-core netbooks. So for less than $350 what can really be done with education? Create a 100 gigabyte education pack to load on the 250 gig drive. That is enough for thousands of books, gigabytes of software, videos, music. The question is what can’t we do but do our educational institutions want to make that change in SINGULARITY?

Asimov already told us about it: