Tag Archives: Khan Academy

Interview on NSTA’s Lab Out Loud Podcast

In which I talk with the hosts of Lab Out Loud, science teachers Dale Basler and Brian Bartel, about blogging, active student engagement, flipped classrooms, pseudoteaching, and the Khan Academy:

Episode 66 – But Are They Really Learning?

Same Planet, Different Worlds

What is the future of learning?

Vision #1: Doing Old Things in New Ways

Vision #2: Doing New Things in New Ways

(Thanks to David Smith of the Da Vinci Discovery Center of Science & Technology for bringing the Cyberlearning video to my attention)

Interview with MSNBC.com

A few weeks ago I was interviewed for MSNBC.com’s “Future of Technology” series for a story on Khan Academy and online lectures. I appear in these two videos:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

View it on MSNBC.com: Khan Academy sparks education reform debate
(mobile friendly link)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

View it on MSNBC.com: Teaching with technology: What works in class
(mobile friendly link)

I am grateful to the show’s producers, Matt Rivera and Wilson Rothman, for giving me the opportunity to share my work in the classroom and for staying true to my main criticisms. And extra kudos to Matt for what I fear is now commonplace in journalism: he was a one-man show — he brought and set up all the equipment (camera, lights, and sound) AND conducted the interview. Thanks!

Khan vs. Karplus: Elevator Edition

Exhibit A: Sal Khan on elevators

Exhibit B: My students on elevators
Framed around the Karplus learning cycle (Exploration, Invention, and Application) my students construct the conceptual and mathematical models themselves.

1. Exploration Phase:

2. Invention Phase: 

  • Draw a motion diagram for the object attached to the scale when the scale is stationary, then being pulled up and then stops.
  • Draw a force diagram for the object attached to the scale when the scale is stationary, then being pulled up and then stops. Decide whether the force diagram is consistent with the motion diagram. How is the force diagram related ot the reading of the scale?
  • Use the force diagram and the idea under test to make a prediction of the relative readings of the scale.
  • Observe the experiment and reconcile the outcome with your prediction.

(Video and questions for this phase taken from Eugenia Etkina’s awesome site Physics Teaching Technology Resource which has many more video experiments.)

3. Application Phase:

Instead of showing our students a better lecture, let’s get them doing something better than lecture.

UPDATE: Welcome New York Times readers! Other recommended posts:

Khan Academy: My Final Remarks

Many people aren’t getting the nuances of my recent Khan Academy arguments. I’ll make my final remarks and then put this thread to rest.

Khan Academy videos are nothing new. MIT OpenCourseWare has been around for TEN YEARS now. Walter Lewin’s awesome physics lectures have been available for most of those 10 years — despite the fact they are pseudoteaching, and his students emerged with no greater understanding of physics than those of professors before him.

And I didn’t have a problem with Khan Academy (as a collection of videos) until very recently.

For me, the problem is the way Khan Academy is being promoted. The way the media sees it as “revolutionizing education.” The way people with power and money view education as simply “sit-and-get.”

(c) tcoffey (via Flickr)

If your philosophy of education is sit-and-get, i.e., teaching is telling and learning is listening, then Khan Academy is way more efficient than classroom lecturing. Khan Academy does it better.

But TRUE progressive educators, TRUE education visionaries and revolutionaries don’t want to do these things better. We want to DO BETTER THINGS.

Ironically, everything that is wrong with Khan Academy has been addressed in two previous TED talks:

According to Dan, today’s math curriculum is teaching students to expect — and excel at — paint-by-numbers classwork, robbing kids of a skill more important than solving problems: formulating them. How does Khan Academy foster problem posing and creativity?

Rather than instructing students with Khan’s videos, we should be inspiring them to figure things out on their own and learn how to create their own knowledge by working together. For example, instead of relying on lectures and textbooks, the Modeling Instruction paradigm emphasizes active student construction of conceptual and mathematical models in an interactive learning community. Students are engaged with simple scenarios to learn to model the physical world. In comparison to traditional instruction, Modeling is extremely effective — under expert modeling instruction high school students average more than two standard deviations higher on a standard instrument for assessing conceptual understanding of physics.

Watch one Modeling class in action:

In the clip, the teacher says, “I don’t lecture at all. Instead, I create experiences for the students either in the lab or puzzles and problems for them to solve and it’s up to them to try to figure that out.” I’ve often wondered why this type of teaching hasn’t gotten more attention in the media. Maybe because the teacher is using simple things like whiteboards and bowling balls rather than shiny iPads and SmartBoards?

While Khan argues that his videos now eliminate “one-size-fits-all” education, his videos are exactly that. I tried finding Khan Academy videos for my students to use as references for studying, or to use as a tutorial when there’s a substitute teacher, but I haven’t found a good one. They either tackle problems that are too hard (college level) or they don’t use a lot of the multiple representations that are so fundamental to my teaching (kinematic graphs, interaction diagrams, energy pie graphs, momentum bar charts, color-coded circuit diagrams showing pressure and flow, etc.) Khan Academy videos do not align with proper Physics Education Research pedagogy.

I find it troublesome that the Khan Academy team is not spending time and energy on the pedagogy of teaching math and science, but rather on refining the gaming mechanics of Khan Academy in response to “good” and “bad” behavior of students working through the software exercises. The “gamification” of learning in Khan Academy has had disastrous consequences at the Los Altos school pilot.

There are some truly innovative learning technologies that have been
around for years. If Khan Academy wants to grow out of their infancy as electronic worksheet drills, I hope their team takes a look at these more transformative educational technologies, all of which have been researched and tested:

Khan Academy also promotes the “usefulness” of its dashboard for its exercise software. I find most of that information useless, like knowing how many times a student rewound the movie, how many times she paused it, or how long he spent on a module. Those times could be affected by distractions from family, self-imposed distractions like facebook and texting, etc.

Feedback I would find WAY MORE useful:

  • knowing how many times a student attempted the same problem
  • knowing the student’s answer history to each problem; i.e, what the student’s wrong answers were
  • knowing the type of mistake a student made when choosing a wrong answer; e.g., did he forget to square the distance, did she apply kinetic energy conservation instead of momentum conservation, did he disregard the fact that the forces where in opposite directions, did she confuse force of friction with coefficient of friction, did he assume constant velocity when in fact it was accelerating, etc.
  • software that anticipates and recognizes those common mistakes (like all great teachers do) and gives the students immediate, tailored feedback during the exercise

Finally, everyone is talking about using Khan Academy as a way to do more inquiry and more project-based learning. However, Bill Gates and Sal Khan are not showing any examples about what students and teachers are doing beyond Khan Academy. The news stories are not showing the open-ended problems the kids should be engaging with after mastering the basics — instead they show kids sitting in front of laptops working drills and watching videos. The focus is on the wrong things.

Khan Academy is just one tool in a teacher’s arsenal. (If it’s the only tool, that is a HUGE problem.) Khan Academy can be useful for some kids as vehicle (build skills) to help them get to better places (solving complex problems).

Now let’s please shift the focus (yours and mine) toward the destination.

Important Talks/Media about Khan Academy

More Blog Posts Critical of Khan Academy, from me and others

Khan Academy-Related Blogs

Khan Academy Gets It Right. Twice. Sort of.

1. On Motivation

John Resig, rock-star programmer and creater of JQuery, recently announced he will be leaving his job at Mozilla to work for Khan Academy. Yesterday, Mr. Resig started an Ask Me Anything meme at Reddit [h/t to John Burk]. This exchange caught my attention:

Mr. Resig is spot-on. And we need build those environments in our schools, rather then destroy them with the policies promoted by people like Bill Gates (who is a major financial contributor to Khan Academy).

2. On Learning

Sal Khan was on Charlie Rose last night. The entire video is below, but jump to 17:53 and watch until the end (~4 minutes):

Sal Khan is spot-on in his response to Mr. Rose’s question. And we need our students to do exactly that, rather than watching a 10-minute pre-digested video.

Khan Academy is an Indictment of Education

The fact that TED, Bill Gates, and the media love Khan Academy shows the failure of education. Khan Academy looks great because our country has reduced teaching and learning to preparing students to bubble in answer sheets for multiple choice tests. But if we shift the purpose of education from consuming knowledge and stating answers to creating knowledge and exploring solutions, the fallacy of Khan Academy “reinventing education” is blatently apparent.

Khan Academy can help students find the answer to this exercise:

But can it help students find a solution to this problem?

New playing fields are going to be built on the lot across the street from our school. Unfortunately, people will need to cross Route 121 (a 2-lane highway) to get to those fields.  Currently, the proposed pedestrian crossing is a crosswalk with a flashing yellow light. Is there a speeding problem on Route 121? Do you think the proposed crossing is adequate?

Khan Academy works here:

But does it work for this problem here?

Khan Academy can show students how to do this:

But can it show students how to do this?

Khan Academy and iPads could make math classrooms look like this:

But shouldn’t math classrooms sound like this?

And lastly, take these 8 students from The Independent Project:

Is there an app for that?

As my students would say, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Khan Academy is merely a player. We need to change the game.