[cross-posted, is I am doing more frequently, with Connected Principals]
I’m a fan. Khan Academy‘s visibility and popularity seems to be fast-growing, especially since getting such a laudatory piece on CNN: Innovation in Education: Bill Gate’s Favorite Teacher.
By any measure [it is] the most popular educational site on the web. Khan’s playlist of 1,630 tutorials (at last count) are now seen an average of 70,000 times a day…His low-tech, conversational tutorials -only his unadorned step-by-step doodles and diagrams on an electronic blackboard — are more than merely another example of viral media.
Khan Academy holds the promise of a virtual school: an educational transformation that de-emphasizes classrooms, campus and administrative infrastructure, and even brand-name instructors.
I think the lectures are great; he demonstrates that difficult and important learning concepts can be effectively articulated and demonstrated in bite size nuggets. My 11 year old son, last spring, became obsessed with the chemistry lectures here, and watched hours of Khan’s high school chemistry lessons, and then was the star of his summer school chem class.
I am curious to know others’ reactions: are some of you in my #cpchat universe feeling differently about Khan’s quality?
But more than that, I am interested in what you are thinking about how Khan Academy can contribute to educational progress and transformation. I realize that virtual academies are growing, and it is clear that Khan’s resources can inform and improve on-line learning, but for those of us who are committed to site-based learning,how do we “blend” khan into our schools?
Three of my initial thoughts:
1. Small: Khan Academy can provide a great value for students who need or could benefit from tutoring, but are unable due to finance or other reasons to have a tutor. Teachers and administrators who have made a practice of “recommending tutoring” should suggest khan as an alternative.
2. Small: Khan offers great value to students who miss a class due to illness, or wish to review difficult topics; teachers should be recommending this widely.
3. Big: Khan offers us an opportunity to rethink the norm, and invert our conventional school model of lesson delivery and skill application.
Currently, teachers often take class time, 30, 45, even 60 minutes, to teach lessons by lecture on the white-board while students listen and take notes. Some students acquire the understanding swiftly, and are bored to tears by the teacher’s repetition and exemplification; some students need to see the explanation more times than the teacher is able to provide. Then, we ask students to go home and apply their learning by solving, individually and unsupervised, difficult problems. Some students at home are required to do the same problem over and over, but don’t need the practice; other students just can’t do the problem without assistance; both groups are underserved.
Now, khanacademy.org and others like it let us invert the normal order: homework time is for lesson delivery, classtime for application and problem-solving. Have kids watch Khan’s lessons at home; some need only watch it once, those that need to can watch the succinct and crystal clear explanations many times if they wish. In-class time is used for learning applications and problem solving. Students that can quickly demonstrate to their teachers their mastery of the problem can be provided harder problems to extend their learning. Students struggling can get help from teachers then and there. Students can work together in collaborative, but supervised ways that out of class time cannot provide. The problem of copying and cheating on homework, rampant at present, also is reduced: if homework is to watch khan, what is there to copy?
Ted McCain’s Teaching for Tomorrow, so inspiring to me, helped me toward this framing; he calls for inverting the order of learning by putting problems first, content and skill delivery second. Now Khan lets us take the next step, to invert class and homework time, and I think we should seize the opportunity.
I’ve learned, from a friendly comment on the Connected Principals site by John Sowash, that there is a term for this inversion: it is called reverse instruction. I am not at all trying to claim any for the concept; I just want to explore how Khan makes it more possible than ever before. For more on reverse instruction, there is a terrific blog post, “Flip your classroom through reverse instruction” on John Sowash’s Electric Educator site, and a THE article, the VOD couple, here. I may try to write more about “reverse instruction” in the weeks to come.
But am I wrong? What am I missing? And how else can we/should we be seeking to harness the value and richness of Khan Academy?