Yesterday EdWeek posted a video and accompanying article titled “Don’t Use Khan Academy Without Watching this First.”
In the video, two math teachers dissect a Khan Academy video. Regarding their critique, Dan Meyer, a former math teacher wrote:
This strikes me as a really, really effective way to assess the pedagogical content knowledge of new teachers: critique the pedagogy of the Khan Academy video of your choice. … I’m really curious how the Church of Our Lady of Technology in Silicon Valley will react to this kind of critique. That church tends to write off most educators’ criticism of Khan Academy as some admixture of jealousy and entrenchment. They aren’t always wrong about that. But the criticism that “this is actually fairly poor lecturing that’ll leave students with shaky procedural understanding and even shakier conceptual understanding” is much harder to refute.
This conversation is getting tedious. I can’t count the number of math teachers with whom I’ve debated the merits of Khan Academy. I get their point. Khan is not a trained educator. The videos are pedagogically questionable. Ability to do calculations does not equal love of math. They are correct.
But I wish educators would stop critiquing and start doing.
I understand that the enormous attention Khan gets is a litte annoying. Mainstream media treats him as if he is single handedly “saving education.” That is far from the truth. Lots of people were making education videos before Sal Khan. The one thing he has, and for which I give him enormous credit, is persistence. 2,000 videos is a lot. And it was the sheer number and comprehensive nature of the content that brought him all the attention.
What I would love to see is experienced math teachers create their own library of pedagogically sound math videos. There are plenty of tablet apps that make it relatively easy to make screencasts and Youtube or TeacherTube for free hosting. Of course it will take a long time for one teacher to match Khan’s library but I’m not even sure that’s the best approach. Teachers have networks and they could engage a group to make it happen. I’ve been surprised actually that there hasn’t been more teacher-driven alternatives. I thought LearnZillion was heading in that direction but so far they seem to favor closeness rather than openness.
Of course, what we’re talking about here is just online lectures. And lectures don’t equal learning. But we know lectures are one (very important) part of traditional learning and there is a market need for solid lectures.
There are lots of teachers making education videos online and, with a little digging, you can find them. What Khan does so well is put a lot of the videos in one location (and now supplements with exercises, etc). Sites like ShowMe and Educreations are on the path to making sharing easier but there’s still a lot of work to be done.