Big news this week: Khan Academy releases an iPad app and the TED organization opens their education channel on YouTube.
If that really represents cutting edge in education reform these days, the whole process is moving backwards.
Let’s face it, Khan Academy is nothing more than a large collection of lecture/demos in the classic instructional sense, and the ones I’ve seen are just as boring as those given by too many teachers who simply present information without interacting with their students. Khan’s advantage is a good press agent and some deep pockets with little understand of instructional pedagogy.
While TED’s materials are much better produced – many of them inform, motivate and even inspire, all the things you want from a great teacher – they are still lectures.
Then there’s the idea of the “flipped” classroom, a concept that the media inextricably links to the Khan videos and too often declares to the next ultimate in education reform. So, where’s the change in having students watch Khan or TED lectures at home instead of at school?
Kids are still watching a lecture with no options to interact with the presenter or anyone else. At least watching it live in the classroom they might have the option to ask questions. The only major difference with making the lecture homework is the venue (and the pause button).
And showing Khan videos during class, taking valuable time that could be spent on more immediate activities (as I’ve watch a few teachers doing in recent weeks) is bordering on educational malpractice.
No, Khan Academy is not reform. Not even close. Sending kids home to watch boring lectures is worse than most of what passes for homework now.
To me, all this emphasis on Kahn represents the desire on the part of many political and business types to automate and standardize the learning process, minimize the impact of the teacher, and turn it into something that can be easily measured.
It can’t be done. Advocates of this approach completely ignore something any good teacher could tell you: there’s very little “standard” about any group of kids.
* That’s the PG version of the explicative I really use when reading stuff like this. :-)