Jonathan Butcher is education director for the Goldwater Institute.
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The Kahn Academy has turned the learning process upside down by letting students learn as homework and allowing teachers to focus teaching where it is needed.
It will be seen as a threat to traditional educators. Before politicians get involved teachers unions and our massive educational bureaucracy must be convinced that online learning won’t take their jobs away. It must also be protected from profiteering and privatization.
One of the best features of online learning is that it uses tools and media skills students already are experts of and will be using in the foreseeable future.
I'm tempted to say that all online courses should be free, but in reality it is necessary to acknowledge that many courses would have considerable expense involved.
And not all teachers are in a position where they can afford to invest their time and effort for free… nor should they.
It's really wonderful that Khan has been able to devote so much time to creating these courses.
He is an educational hero and should probably get some kind of government award.
We give soldiers who did great things medals and honors, WHY NOT TEACHERS?
Great article if you omit the final paragraph. The classroom environment will allow children to be more interactive with other students along with teachers. Instead of today’s classroom of sit down and be quiet. Sal’s intentions are not to eliminate the classroom but to make it interactive.
Sal is doing great things with the Khan Academy website, I would suggest that everyone who knows or is a student to give it a try. It is free and has helped all I have suggested this site too, including myself.
My son spends a lot of time on Khan Academy and the new portion to actually practice the work instead of being a passive learner is a step in the right direction. I even agree that providing access and real integration of technology is important. However, we cannot ignore that employers are clamoring for a workforce who also has strong interpersonal skills. You cannot learn those through a computer alone. My own experience as an online and on ground college instructor shows me that each student needs a wide variety of learning modalities to meet individual learning styles. We also need students who know how to work together in a room to achieve a common goal. These "soft" skills cannot be forgotten.
Khan is great - many teachers frequently refer students who need extra help to use it. But there's a problem: at many schools, including several large ones in the East Valley, there is a significant portion of the student body which doesn't own a computer or have access to the internet. Yes, they can go to the public library, but for too many students using a computer regularly and at a time convenient for them is not an option. Once again we're looking at a great tool for the haves, nothing for the have-nots.
Except for the internet aspect of Khan, some teachers have been doing this for a long time -- homework as "learning" and classwork as reinforcement. Good literature teachers do this all the time.
Khan can reach the vast majority of students, a great benefit. However, the students at either edge, the remedial and the advanced, won't reap the same benefits.
80% of homes have a computer. If the have nots can't get to school early or leave late(more time for their parent(s) to look for jobs), or be motivated enough go to the library, or boys and girls club, or church where they may be PCs- there is no helping them-give them a free PC and they will play video games on it instead.
"a significant portion of the student body which doesn't own a computer or have access to the internet."
Sorry, but this just isn't true.
Not having a computer doesn't mean you have no access to the internet...and yes, it may not be the most "convenient" for you...my advice is to do what needs to be done to succeed and stop making excuses.
We in the profession have had programs for a long time to help students at all levels--from remediation to enrichment. I regularly had students working in the computer lab on math. Generally, the same was true in the computer lab as in the classroom. The students who were serious about learning were motivated to achieve points or have interactive play time if they mastered levels. The students who could not be trusted for five seconds if I took my eyes off of them were fooling a round or just pressing enter through the programs, and then failing. The students had access from home or the library, as well, wherever they could find and utilitze a computer. Remote monitoring allowed me to check on their progress, print out their time of use and the results. Again, motivated students and their parents made sure those students utilized the programs; students whose parents could care less [and who did have computers at home] did NOTHING.
There is no excuse not to be able to learn in this day and age. Students who couldn't cut the mustard also had free tutoring by certified teachers, and it was mainly just a babysitting service.
The lack of motivation kneecapped students more than anything else. On the other hand, students who were disadvantaged [no computer at home] found a way to get to the library or go to the computer lab during any free time they earned. They also utilized classroom computers. The "sit 'n' git" part of classroom learning cannot entirely be replaced by computers. Self-discipline and motivation are still the most important attributes for students to be able to get ahead.
Khan got started by helping a niece on U-tube and it caught on from there. He has been helped by a considerable grant from Bill Gates. The Academy has been accepted globally and is growing.
The Khan Academy is ideal for core studies such as math, science, basic language, programming and history. Music, physical education and vocational hands-on courses are still viable subjects that must be teacher led. They also provide social interaction required as part of the learning experience.
If classroom lectures and PowerPoint presentations were the best method of teaching today’s techno-kids, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. With their media trained short attention spans, a bloat of superfluous information and a desire for instant gratification the interactive online method works well. It does not replace the class room. It simply changes the roll of the teacher from lecturer to teacher.
I notice commenters who are “damning with faint praise” are those who are in the education business. While traditional classroom educators are the biggest speed bump on the highway to superior methods of learning in today’s environment, they should not feel threatened if they are able to adapt.
mesateacher: the classroom in a Kahn environment has a computer at each desk. Computers should be part of the classroom environment in a modern school anyway. School libraries only need books as show and tell or museum pieces and should have computers available for research and reading. Your have vs. have-not scenario is an excuse to resist change. Get rid of the ink-wells and replace them with the computer students need to work in the jobs of tomorrow.
Mike: the very crux of Khan’s method, with the teacher monitoring feature, is that those on the edges get the attention of the teacher and don’t get lost or bored. Try a few lessons and you will understand.
JMJ: Working in a computer lab is not the same as learning in the environment proposed by Khan. A teacher can tell how long the student is spending on a lesson, how well they are performing and if they are behind, with, or ahead of expectations. They can’t just press enter to move through the lessons.
Perhaps you equate discipline problems with learning problems. In no case can you blame the child. Children are born to learn. Someplace along the way someone has failed them; parents, the system, teachers, society… sometimes you may have to let the current batch go by and try to get to the next batch sooner, before damage is done.
Kids are more likely to learn if they are interested and challenged. Because lecturing teachers always have to teach to the lowest level of learner, often discipline problems are the result of kids falling behind or becoming bored. Part of motivation is derived from success. Khan lessons provide reward for success and tend to keep the learner interested in the next step.
sockratties, the Khan method is such a Socratic method of teaching...NOT. Why didn't I think of that? Why didn't I have your phone number all those years when I was teaching so I could have consulted with you? I wonder how all the students who were successful would feel, now--that maybe the methods I used, which allowed for multiple means of delivering information and instruction, including computer programs, hands-on methods [inlcuding putting together real products using real directions for real use] were such a waste of time...? I wonder if they'd give up their medical practices, now, and their professional positions, just to go back and learn in an impersonal Khan setting such as you describe? I wonder if the kids who didn't pay attention and who are pushing brooms, now, would blame me and other teachers for their failed lot in life? Probably.
There are many ways of teaching. Khan is just one component, and it is great to help students with multiple ways of learning materials. But, you can lead a horse to water, and you can't always MAKE him/her drink.
What are your credentials? [Those are the qualifications which make you able to offer your expertise in education to those of the rest of us who did it for a living--and mostly succeeded, by the way.]
When are you going to run for state superintendent of education so you can enlighten the rest of us on par with what's already clogging up the works?
JMJ - thank you for making my point which was meant as constructive criticism. It’s interesting that your response to a discussion is a personal attack. Is that what you teach your students? Once you think you’re perfect you can’t improve. Too Bad!
While my degree is in computer science I was a professional educator for 30 years before retiring. Now I only teach as a volunteer, not for pay. I admit that my students were mostly graduates of engineering or science programs but the basics of educating don’t change. If you want that horse to drink when you lead him to water you start by making him thirsty.
One of my early memories is of a teacher who thought she was doing something good by assigning multiplication and long division problems as punishment. Since I often was tardy or talked in clasa I thought I hated math and avoided it until I had to use it in the Air Force. Even the best of intentions can have negative results. I do believe that desire for the status quo will be the greatest drag on improving our failing educational system.
One of the problems with the Khan method is that you don’t get to strut around the room flaunting your expertise. Think about that the next time you’re standing at the white board and your students are looking at the clock. Kids who didn’t pay attention may have lost interest because your teaching was about you instead of about them. The Khan method lets you do your stuff, you just get to focus it where it is needed.
sockratties, teaching graduate level courses is hardly the same as teaching children, some of whom are motivated, many of whom are not. It would be ridiculous to think that you'd have behavior problems to deal with at that level of teaching. The sad reality is that many children [because that's who I teach] are not highly motivated to reach that level of expertise in an area. There is a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of support from parents, and the Kahn method is not the answer for such students.
Self-motivated, interested and intelligent students far exceed the average or underachieving students' un-lofty goals of becoming welfare cases, or, if ambitious, Burger King counter help.
Your comments were arrogant and you can keep your constructive criticism. Go teach children in a poverty- and drug-infested area for 20 years before spouting off about how the Khan Academy will making teachers fret for their positions. The Bag-of-Wind experts [even YOU, who should know that you have the creme-de-la-creme in your exalted hands] do not GET what it means to educage children. You can take kids like my own offspring and put them in a Khan situation, and they'd definitely still be scientists and engineers [as they are--you'd enjoy having them with your other brainiacs in your classes], but these are the exceptional students, not the rule, and to cut teachers off at the knees [with constructive criticism] is the 3000 foot high, 100 mile wide duststorm of dirt that "we", who do not have the ambitious end of the population seated in front of us, "get" to teach.
I have had students who have gone on to great things [medicine, engineering, business, writing, etc.] and who are successful. Assuming that we strut around is a bunch of bologna. When is the last time you visited a classroom with the general population seated before a teacher? Your arrogance proves that the assault on the teaching profession is alive and well and living large in Arizona.
Thanks for your credentialed perspective. How do you think your charges [your students] arrived in your esteemed presence? Khan Academy has not been around long enough for you to have the pleasure of these students' company because of it. You can thank me for providing you such students--and whetting their curiosity and providing them a pipeline to their dreams. And, not just myself. The students, themselves, their parents, and the myriad other teachers who motivated and helped them achieve, so you could take all the credit.
JMJ: I imagine I do sound arrogant to you. How can the public expect you to be responsible for the job you are paid to do. After all, we built the school system so you would have a place to ply your trade and what business is it of mine, and others who pay your salary, to criticize the results. It’s the unenthusiastic kids and their parents who are at fault. Shame on us for even suggesting you use 21st century tools. Of course you should be allowed to cherry pick the students that will be successful. Those failures just want to be welfare cases and burger flippers.
I have a great deal of sympathy for public school teachers. I know and respect many on a personal basis. I believe they are generally underpaid, overworked and at the bottom of a bloated bureaucracy. Most of them have a can-do attitude and a team spirit. They teach because they love their job in spite of Arizona politics. Your defensive comments lead me to believe you are not one of them. Your assumption that you are one of the few who GET what it means to see that light of understanding come on in a student’s eyes is your own kind of arrogance.
The last time I visited a classroom was this week and it wasn’t filled with the general population, it was filled with students who have special needs. Some of them may be the ones you lost while you were fishing for those that will excel. If they finally succeed I won’t be taking any of the credit. It will belong to the student.
My sentiments exactly sockratties.
Change must happen to correct the education system but every teacher that posts on this column reacts with the same venom as JMJ so it's not hard to see why nothing gets accomplished. Throwing more money at it isn't the solution. The Khan initiative is fantastic because it's a step in the right direction.
sock, no point contesting your views. They are yours. Mine are mine. Our experiences are obviously not the same. mnjcpa, right back at'cha. A "step in the right direction" is the beginning of any long, uphill climb.
You are both apparently already at the top, looking down on the rest of us.
No ones looking down on anyone JMJ and that's exactly the kind of small thinking I'm referring to.
The education system today is a bloated. government run bureaucracy that isn't the education system I enjoyed. And the only way to change that is to change the model, not to blame others for the failure. But when you grip it as tightly and with vitriol you've done with sock - then nothing gets accomplished. Try looking in a mirror instead.
Sock and mnjcpa, I have one comment. You ideas are del Toro, in other words baloney. Neither of you have spent one moment in a classroom despite what you write here. If you did, you would know
Wrong Irons......sock already discussed his teaching experience and I hold a couple of masters degrees, served on a school board, and had children in the school district and with a financial background I have a great deal of understanding of the finances of the education system.
By dismissing our points of view without one point that would change or improve the system, you've made my point again. Thanks for the help.
Did the Greeks or Romans or Einstien have computers in their classrooms? How were they ever able to learn from the "museum" artifacts that now take up space in school libraries? How did they go on to become some of the greatest minds and thinkers of all time? This is not an assualt on computers, they are a great tool. I will say that getting kids in front of them earlier and more often is probably creating a generation of maladjusted adults. Take a look around a cafe or waiting area, people no longer talk to eachother about all the information they take in, they talk to people miles away, check blithering emails and facebook posts and watch a stream of bad movies to fill their time.
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