Both Bean’s criticism and my confusion are clear indications of the value of good learning design, and the need for structure and management in learning.
So you are going to take something that someone else has created for free and use it to charge people? Too many people are missing the point; thinking Khan academy is just a video site like youtube.
The videos are embedded within a coherent structure that tells you where you can start and suggests where to go next. If you really have done the exercises in the recommended order, watched the videos and asked for all of the hints and still don’t get it then you need to find yourself a coach either online or off. Thanks, wryan, but I did look through the practice materials and the knowledge map and it was not at all helpful in finding a route through the material.
Although someone could learn quite a bit with just the site, it is most powerful when it frees up teachers from correcting endless papers and instead allows then to provide real world experiences back up by the necessary abstract concepts. I also wanted to make you aware that the site made some changes to the interface, including the concept map, just a few days ago- i do agree that the previous version was very tangled and hard to follow. I am glad to see that your comments here are more progressive than the people who just don’t get it. Bottom line to me- Khan Academy in its current state is much more useful than many teachers I know of. Or short answer- If you think that there is any use at all to a pure lecture, a textbook, a worksheet, or a written test, Khan academy replaces them all with a more efficient and more enjoyable system. The beauty of scientific thinking, or writing, and now of recording technology is that it allows us to learn from what others have already figured out- each of us does not have to start from scratch. Good points Tony but I would just add that a VP friend of mine in Vancouver, a former K-12 math teacher, LOVES Khan Academy.
I think we can draw an analogy to the late 90`s chat rooms which later evolved into social networking sites like Facebook.
I agree – those who feel like Khan is ushering in a new era of education might be overestimating the revolutionary potential of the videos.
When I was in high school (1980s), if I wanted to do research for a term paper, I had to wait until the library was open, then sift through card catalogues and microfiche, and eventually feed dimes into copiers as though they were slot machines. Maybe two decades later, I could do more extensive research from home than I ever could at the library, in my pajamas. If we learned what we need from books (or lectures) or videos alone, we would not need teachers and that is a big thrust of Khan and Gates. One-way transmission has never succeeded: human learning since Day 1 has been based on interaction and engagement, facilitated by someone who knows more or better. I know there is always another side to a story so I have been searching for decent criticisms frequently. I understand the concern that people will think this is all there is to math, ,and that is an age old concern and one which Sal shares and is a major reason that he continues to work on Khan Academy.
What I believe is that discourse is key and central to learning, that is discussion and debate INFORMED by relevant resources such as books, videos, articles, etc. Nor do I deny that videos and other individualized learning resources can and are valuable. But they do NOT replace the role of the teacher (or coach or mentor) and of peers in advancing learning and understanding. Otherwise, we could put students in the library for 4 years and then give them a university degree. Or we could make a huge number of videos and Bill Gates could announce that this is the future of education. This should have the possibility of vastly improving the kind of learning you are talking about by assuring that students are prepared and by being more efficient with time.
Worst case is that it will be misused in the same way that textbooks and worksheets have been misused- a teacher gives out a bunch of worksheets, corrects them, and calls that learning- except that with Khan academy at least individual students can work at different level and progress much farther. The intended scenario is what Khan is working hard towards, experimenting with camp experiences, partnering with schools.
My original point is that the Khan Academy is an excellent resource, but it could be so much better with more thought to design, navigation and and structure.


One reason of course for the success of the Khan Academy is the poor math teaching students get in many schools in the USA.
A better fix would be to do a better job in getting people with a good background in mathematics to enter the teaching profession, but that requires more funding and better pay for k-12 teachers. I don’t think it is productive to criticize Khan Academy based on the fact that it is a work in progress. It is a living, growing system and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next, especially guidance for relevant real world activities as they are experiment with at their camps. I must emphasize that I am talking about math here and the way the site can give students problem sets. I am 35 and have a son who is 11 and sadly in the beginning of the year I could not even help him with his math homework among other subjects. After only one month of doing about one hour of practice per day I , not only can help my son, but have passed him up.
Now if there was a real-world problem that I needed to resolve, I am not sure how I would do. Khan has actually had businessmen approach him and he’s repeatedly told them that he is not looking make Khan Academy into a money making machine. I think Khan Academy has its place as an instructional tool and a resource site for adult learners. Replacing education with something like Khan Academy, with limited mentoring and guidance through the material, as Tony talks about in his post, simply will not work.
Bill Gates joined Simon Khan onstage at the Ted Talk on education to call “Khan Academy ‘the future of education’” (Wired, April 2012, p.078). Have your kids log the time they spend on these social networks and compare it with the time they spend on school work. So when a student comes across someone like Khan Academy, Yourmathteacherhelp, bananaiscool, papapodcasts, or Algebra1Teacher on Youtube, of course they will find them helpful. Besides, them listening to a lesson through the eyes of someone different can be a valauble tool. As you have pointed out, video lectures are nothing new and the internet has made it possible for anyone to create and share them. You have mentioned other sites with videos, and we might as well just include youtube itself, but unless those sites also have practice sections then we are talking about two very different things.
That practice session was only created because of the money invested by Bill Gates and Google. The Khan Academy has a library of over 3,000 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 315 practice exercises, all free.
As a resource that can be embedded within such a managed structure, I can see that the Khan videos can be very useful. The whole point is that we make it accessible and add value to the content through our methods. It’s not really conceptually based in terms of concepts that need to be mastered before moving on to other concepts. Contextualizing and providing a path through Open Educational Resources, such as the excellent videos that Khan has created, is one of the major goals of the Saylor Foundation. Of course they do and all types of archived and collected knowledge and information are essential. The Khan Academy is a very useful source of practice for math, if used in conjunction with a teacher or instructor. This is due though to the lack of teachers with a good foundation in both mathematics and teaching, and it is this as much as anything else that is driving students to the Khan Academy.
My concern is that state legislators will see the Khan Academy as a quick and cheap fix, rather than tackling probably the most serious barrier that is stopping the USA maintaining its economic lead and prosperity: the shortage of highly skilled engineers and scientists. I am certainly concerned about bad teaching and the misuse of tools, but I am more concerned about stagnation. Math is what he tends to bring home the most, so rather than watch him fail because of my inability to help him, I decided to find a free online resource and Khan is what I found. In fact, he enjoys teaching topics that are underappreciated and learning just for the sake of learning.


My adult sister is currently taking high school calculus online, and was having a great deal of difficulty, even with the tutors available to her.
They weren’t paying attention in the first place in class, so why not watch it online. Think of when a parent shares some valuable advice to their kids and the kids don’t listen.
They are in fact ACTUAL teachers whom on top of their classes, lesson planning, marking, find the time to do these videos. The focus is mainly on k-12, supporting home schooling or providing additional support for students outside (and sometimes inside) school. Practice makes perfect and Khan Academy videos are much better than those boring textbook exercises we used to do. After devoting my time to Khan I can do fractions with my eyes closed and am now learning more and more everyday.
I have applied what I have learned so far to my work and I can see how much my coding has improved. Most people HATE change, but maybe this approach is the future and if smart people opened up to the idea it could grow into an evolved education. I told her about Khan Academy, and she is using that as a resource for when she gets stuck.
Just jumping at random into a video suddenly makes me aware that I need lots of prior knowledge before I can understand this video, but there’s no help on that. The videos may also provide help to instructors who themselves are a little shaky in the topic (and there are plenty of those in math and physics teaching). Knowledge is built on discourse, on debate, on learning to talk the talk and walk the talk, not just to recite the stuff. But they are not a replacement for a teacher who can identify what the math problem is and direct students to appropriate sections of the Khan Academy.
A good example is averages, I had a project that required me to figure out the average score of a student. In my opinion education is more about business rather than education and Khan academy breaks that trend.
It’s a nicely laid out, adult oriented, authoritative resource on a number of subjects. It is much better to have something like Khan Academy as an additional tool which has most definately helped thousands of math students, than to have nothing. If not then please describe the kind of learning scenario you envision which does not require any instruction or practice. I wrote a script that was about 200 lines because I did not know how to do it any other way. I think any tools that these mentors and educators can have at their disposal is a good thing – which Khan Academy is. If I still don’t understand after watching the video several times and doing the exercises, what do I do? He should be applauded for his pioneering efforts rather than criticized by many who haven’t created anything remotely similar. Needless to say the page took forever to load, but after a lesson I learned from Khan I rewrote the code and the end result was about ten lines of code and people noticed. This is NOT about big business and although I respect the above teachers opinion, and I’m sure change is scary, job security is scary, I have yet to find a math teacher for my kids that is as easy to understand and informative as the Khan videos. But treating those tools as a replacement for practice is like expecting a screwdriver to build a house. When cars were invented I’m sure no one knew they would one day drive and park themselves.



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