The Khan Academy

I really struggled this week coming up with something interesting to blog about that still focused on education.  Every article I found seemed dull and anything interesting I could come up with about schools veered away from education itself. Inspiration came from reading a classmate’s blog about “flipping the classroom”. This idea involves using the internet to provide pre-class lectures and then applying the information through exercises and discussion in the classroom. When I think about “flipping the classroom” Salman Khan and The Khan Academy come to mind.

The Khan academy is an online educational database which provides more than 3,300 video tutorials on everything from mathematics to science to economics and even history. The organization aims to “provide a high quality education to anyone, anywhere”. I learned about this resource in an education course last year and have even used it to help understand mathematics courses myself!

Last spring 20 minutes explored the mind of Salman Khan and took a closer look at the Khan Academy and its place in education.

I think that there are so many positive aspects associated with incorporating The Khan Academy in schooling today. It is probably the easiest resource to use in “flipping your classroom”. The videos on the Khan Academy act as lectures students can watch the night before class. Then, the student will be prepared with the information they need to make applications in class the next day. As a future educator, I believe that application is what is most important in student learning; it’s not memorizing facts that is important, it’s what you can do with that information. I also think it is really cool how teachers can use the program to get real-time information about how their students are learning. This information is crucial to being able to differentiate in your classroom and make sure every student is comfortable with the information.

The other thing that I think is great about the Khan Academy is that it could potentially replace textbooks. With all the advancements in technology and their prevalence in student’s lives, kids have a hard time sitting down and reading a textbook. Textbooks just aren’t set up in the format that clicks with student learning. Kids like to access information from many different points rather than linearly as it is given in books. Also, kids are presented with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic information opposed to only visual information. The other great thing about virtual learning over textbooks is that it’s free! Textbooks are expensive and take away a big chunk of school funding. The Khan Academy however is free. The video made a great point that schools could keep computer labs open after hours to provide computers to kids who cannot afford computers at home. Since The Khan Academy is free, it provides education to kids who couldn’t normally get it.

Many people worry that the video lectures in the Khan Academy could replace real life teachers. To me, this reaction is ridiculous. Online lectures should be used as a TOOL, not as the INSTITUTION. The Khan Academy is a great accompaniment to teaching. It should not be relied on to do the job of teachers, but rather should be used to enhance student learning. It could be a major player in “flipping the classroom” and making education more accessible to all students. I know I personally found it incredibly helpful and engaging when I used it. Maybe most importantly, it seems like the students are really enjoying and learning!

~Marie

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2 thoughts on “The Khan Academy

  1. alexdenu says:

    Marie,

    I love this idea! I think that the Khan Academy is an incredible glimpse into what the future of education looks like. It’s the setup for a perfect blend between technology and live human interaction and its so exciting to see it coming together! The whole integration of technology into classrooms is obviously something that our generation of educators needs to think about. Before when i would think about how i could ever bring technology into my classroom i would get worried and stress about the different ways and the different stereotypes that come along with it and i would have basically no answers. Dont get me wrong, i still feel totally overwhelmed and unprepared in many aspects of my career as an educator, but Khan Academy has helped me to realize that a successful integration of technology and education is possible and is becoming more an more popular. I love how the girl in the middle of the video said that she couldn’t think of what the hardest part of learning through Khan Academy was, and think about if someone had asked her what the hardest part of learning in school was! I guarantee she would come up with a thousand parts of normal school that get in the way of her learning. Ideas like this are also changing the role of the teacher from a lecturer to a guide, which is extremely exciting to me and should be exciting for everyone who wants to become a teacher. When i think about my future career as a teacher, i never think of how cool and fun its going to be to stand in front of a classroom and lecture for 45 minutes. Thats just not the exciting part about teaching! The excitement comes from the interactions with individual students and helping them to progress through material and to gain a deeper understanding of, and a passion for, the material being taught.
    -Alex Denu

  2. Ok… Here comes some opposition.

    I think Khan makes so many important elements of “school” obsolete. The sole purpose of school is not simply to sit and listen to math lectures or science lectures in isolation with a pair of headphones. Social interactions take place between students, teachers, and material in class learning TOGETHER, and those cannot be replaced by a program like Khan Academy.

    Don’t get me wrong, any chance that a struggling student has to get ahead should not be taken out of the equation. I liked your point about Khan being a “tool” for teachers instead of a substitute for them. Taking this further, I would argue that Khan should be a SUPPLEMENT for lectures instead of teacher help/question answering being a SUPPLEMENT for Khan.

    For example, I asked my friend what he thinks about using Khan Academy in secondary classrooms. My friend is an engineer at CSU who has actually used Khan when struggling to understand that content of his classes. His response was this:

    “I would feel ripped off if my high school classroom was a bunch of Khan videos.”

    I couldn’t agree more! I believe that what Khan Academy is working towards is wonderful- who wouldn’t agree that every person deserves an education (especially a free one)? However, Khan videos are effective because they simplify lectures down to the most basic elements. How is a teacher supposed to help a student understand a video that is designed to help students who don’t understand a certain concept?

    Along with this, what would something like Khan Academy do to the relationship between teacher and student on the whole? Sal thinks it would increase the mentor role of teachers, but I couldn’t disagree more. Of course the man who created the system would believe this, but what about a teacher who is rapidly losing respect from students who are moving along with headphones in their ears?

    I suppose it’s a delicate line between dependence and supplementing!

    Thanks for posting this video! It provided interesting thoughts for me both online and in “real life” :]

    -Megan

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