For the haters out there, relax – Khan Academy is not the devil.
For the folks that think Khan Academy is the greatest thing ever, y’all chill too; it’s not a silver bullet – they don’t exist.
Given those two statements, I’m a fan of Khan Academy. What it does do is offer students some scaffolding and support. It also allows students some level of control and differentiation; it’s an option among many others to review/acquire computational skills. I don’t think it was ever intended to teach mathematical reasoning.
A great education is a product of a number of things working well. I created this diagram to illustrate how I think several important components are related to each other.
(Elements in GREEN are teacher created or designed.)
(Elements in BLUE are strategies or processess used by the student to construct knowledge.)
Knowledge & Skills - these are the "chunks" of knowledge that we need in order to tackle the essential questions. Auto mechanics must know about cars. Doctors must know about the human body. Surgeons need certain skills to operate.
Key Understandings - this is what we are able to do with the knowledge & skills. I don't care how much a mechanic knows about cars if he doesn't understand how to fix mine when it's broken. I don't care if the doctor can name every disease known to man if he doesn't understand how to treat my illness.
Lessons and Activities - As educators we have to design lessons and activities that provide students an opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills they need in order to address their essential questions. This is the place where information has to be delivered to the student in some form or fashion.
Literacy/Comprehension Strategies - In the lessons and activities knowledge is delivered. Literacy and comprehension strategies are tools a student uses to make sense of the knowledge and construct their own understanding. Most students need guidance and an environment that promotes the critical thinking necessary to synthesize new knowledge.
Khan Academy is one small process option in practicing, reviewing, or acquiring computational skills. I think it's a way to give some students the "nudge" they may need when they are stuck in some calculations. In any scenario, Khan Academy is a small piece of a larger plan to educate a student. Khan Academy may not be perfect, but it's a start and an attempt to give learners some control over their education. I think of it more as an on-demand tutor, not a complete educational solution.
If an administrator comes into my room and sees all of my students glued to their laptops watching KA videos, just go ahead and fire me now. I think I need to spend my time with my students in a more meaningful way. If we see a student in tutorials watching a video to quickly review some skill (maybe they are embarrassed to ask for help) so they can complete a problem, then I think that's great.
I hope to catch any misconceptions a student has if I'm doing a good job at formative assessment - KA doesn't have to be perfect. Can they get better? Sure - but it's still my job to monitor a student's learning and guide them along the path of their education.
So now I'm done talking about Khan Academy. Let's talk next time about something that is more important.