April 23, 2014

A short critique of the Khan Academy

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Bean, E. (2012) Wrath of Khan?: Deconstructing the online learning academy Detroit Web 2.0 Examiner, March 12

Eric Bean is an educator who has signed up as a coach/volunteer for the Khan Academy. 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. The focus is mainly on k-12, supporting home schooling or providing additional support for students outside (and sometimes inside) school.

Bean has a number of criticisms from the point of view of a ‘coach’. (Interesting use of language here by the Khan Academy: why not teacher or tutor or instructor? Is there a difference in Salman Khan’s mind, and if so, what is it?) Bean’s main criticism is that the interface and navigation for coaches is poor, especially compared to the student interface.

I have another criticism. As someone who struggles with math, the Khan Academy would seem perfect for me. My problem though is I don’t know where to begin. 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. Also, where’s the feedback? If I still don’t understand after watching the video several times and doing the exercises, what do I do?

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. As a resource that can be embedded within such a managed structure, I can see that the Khan videos can be very useful. Also they will be invaluable for a student who has gone to a lesson in school and not really understood it, so long as he/she can find a video and recognize that it deals with the problem he/she is struggling with. 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). And having available dynamic audio-visual teaching materials on demand for free is great.

However, with a little more effort, the Khan Academy could be so much more. Providing a coherent route through the material would be an enormous help. (This could also be said of iTunes U, incidentally, which is a mess in terms of organization of material). Connecting me to a ‘live’ coach or volunteer would also be helpful. I get the feeling that both the Khan Academy and i Tunes U are more about supply and ‘push’ of resources, rather than looking at the service from both the learner’s and the instructor’s viewpoint. Do I hear the word ‘instructional designer’? Where is learning theory in all this? It’s as if 100 years of research on learning has just gone down the toilet.

So, please don’t argue that the Khan Academy or ITunes U are alternatives to conventional education; both are valuable collections of content that still need to be incorporated within a broader structure that supports learning. Unfortunately their success – in terms of use – shows how often that supporting structure is lacking or insufficient for many learners.

 

 

Comments

  1. I am hoping to build low-cost accredited courses using the Khan Academy. It would be useful if the instructor could superimpose a route through the materials, preferably from our LMS (Moodle). However, Khan Academy has only recently started developing tools for supervision of students and they do seem to be an improvement on what went before, so Eric’s view that “with a little more effort the Khan Academy could do so much more” might indicate that it won’t be long before this facility is available.

    • Kate C says:

      Brian Mulligan-

      So you are going to take something that someone else has created for free and use it to charge people?

      Classy.

      • Just thinking says:

        Kate C – does that kind of snide remark generally work well for you?

        None of us teach anything that isn’t already available for free in libraries. The whole point is that we make it accessible and add value to the content through our methods. What is different about what Brian is considering?

      • J.R. says:

        Kate C: you forgot to add: …and then advertise it for free in discussion forums like this.

  2. wryan says:

    Too many people are missing the point; thinking Khan academy is just a video site like youtube. They completely miss the “practice” tab which is what makes the system so revolutionary.
    The videos are embedded within a coherent structure that tells you where you can start and suggests where to go next. If you think starting at the very beginning of the concept map is too easy then you can start where ever you want, but if you find you lack the necessary prior knowledge then you should go back to the “addition 1″ and move forward from there.
    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.

    • Tony Bates says:

      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. It’s not really conceptually based in terms of concepts that need to be mastered before moving on to other concepts. An exercise map is not the same as a concept map.

      The fact that ‘too many people are missing the point’ just reinforces my main point that although the videos and practice exercises are valuable, more consideration of the end users’ needs and more professionalism in the design and navigation of the web site would make it so much more useful.

      • wryan says:

        just ended up back here again while searching for criticisms of Khan academy. I am still really excited about it but always looking to see if there is another side. Most of what i have read has been people missing the point, especially the idea, promoted strongly by Sal Khan, that real world experience is the most important thing, and that tools such as Khan Academy should therefore exist to increase our efficiency when doing non-real-world tasks such as watching a lecture or doing arithmetic on paper.
        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. You will be seeing much more in the way of providing teachers with ideas for activities- probably under the “teacher resources” section, especially as more schools start pilot programs and hopefully teachers are provided with ways to share lesson plans for hands- on activities.

        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. Much of what you have said reflects things that need to be improved- like the coaching tools- I hadn’t considered that someone would try to teach someone else using only the site interface, I have been thinking of it more as an automatic grade book for a classroom teacher. Also, they use the word coach because you can designate anyone you want and as many as you want. If it make my best friend a coach, he is not teaching me, but he could be encouraging me as he watches my progress.
        Bottom line to me- Khan Academy in its current state is much more useful than many teachers I know of. To those other folks on the internet who have attacked Khan as an assault on teachers, I say that any teacher who really does not better than Khan Academy should be replaced. Real teachers should be doing things only a real person can do. A teacher should consider themself to be an artist and should welcome the freedom provided when the boring stuff is taken care of.

        • wryan says:

          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. You can also learn How they figured it out so that you can apply it in your own life. Khan Academy can do everything up to that point where you need to apply it in your own life.

      • Brian Bailey says:

        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. Remember, until recently, Khan was a one-man operation. Taking that into account it is amazing what he has accomplished. He is not a corporation and is non-profit so it is up to others to help him out. 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. He should be applauded for his pioneering efforts rather than criticized by many who haven’t created anything remotely similar. You have to start somewhere and the key is to start. When cars were invented I’m sure no one knew they would one day drive and park themselves.

      • Kartikeya Shukla says:

        If you cant understan anything, you can ask questions?
        And if you dont know where to begn just ask them.
        I think you are a moron.

  3. Camie Rodan says:

    “Providing a coherent route through the material would be an enormous help.”

    I couldn’t agree more. 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. http://www.saylor.org offers over 200+ free, online college-level courses that are created by college professors using these amazing, freely available resources. While our courses are self-paced with automated assessments – meaning, like Khan, we don’t have live instructors assisting students through courses – we are just weeks away from launching a student forum that will allow students to work through courses together.

    Given your feedback on the Khan Academy, I thought that you might be interested in checking out http://www.saylor.org – if you hadn’t heard of it already.

  4. Daniel says:

    I think we can draw an analogy to the late 90`s chat rooms which later evolved into social networking sites like Facebook. Although Khan academy has drawbacks such as you mentioned, they will either improve on them or be replaced by someone more innovative, just as AOL was. Sites such as the Great Courses offer another model which may very well be integrated with the Khan academy model.

    • J.R. says:

      When I saw a “Critique of the Khan Academy” link, I expected either gushing praise or strong condemnation. Instead, I found a very level and thoughtful analysis.

      I agree – those who feel like Khan is ushering in a new era of education might be overestimating the revolutionary potential of the videos. But I do feel they are revolutionary nonetheless.

      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. Search engines return thousands (if not millions) of links to potentially relevant materia; hyperlinks guide me from one publication to the next; CNTL-F lets me locate any phrase I want instantly inside articles that are 30 or 40 pages long. It would have seemed like science fiction when I was a senior in high school.

      Back to Khan. No, Khan isn’t a Superteacher who will transform 100,000,000 Americans into “little Einstiens” over the next 10 years. He won’t singlehandedly make teens stop posting inane pictures of cats on their Facebook pages and embrace a love of STEM education instead. That said, when I was stumped on a math problem in high school, I had to wait until the next day to ask the teacher, or call a friend who I hoped could assist me – neither option proved very useful at 10:30 PM on the night before a homework assigment was due. My daughter, though, can visit the Khan Academy, where a warm, friendly voice can give her a fresh take on a confusing topic, and maybe the lightbulb will turn on. Or, if she comes to me for help, I can get a quick refresher or something I learned decades ago.

      Math teachers, relax. Your jobs are safe. But Khan may be a better teacher’s aid than any of those gray-haired “aids” who roamed the hallways of my school system, eating up tens of thousands of dollars from the school budget annually. After all, who would bother to visit them, when the math teacher was right down the hall?

  5. I have serious concerns about the Khan academy, especially when I read that 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).

    This is scary and dire: the ‘Khan’ model has suddenly appeared on the world’s radar. Why? Is there any evidence of educational effectiveness? No! None! How and why is Khan academy “the future of education”????

    This should scare us, as educators.

    ‘Philanthropists’ like Bill Gates and others wielding billions of dollars are promoting this crap.

    Yes, it is crap. It is not related to understanding or facilitating how people learn. It does not even care how people learn. BIG business is trying to take over teaching and learning by selling videos. Videos that are content-filled but have little or no pedagogical support.

    wryan: despite your optimism about Khan’s potential contribution, the videos are stuff—. Watching or reading or listening to stuff is not in and of itself sufficient means for learning. Khan is NOT an educator and his fame is an insult to educators worldwide. As Tony noted, there are no pedagogical supports, scaffolds or trails to help guide learners or to assess and build on previous knowledge.

    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.

    However, we do need teachers. And mentors. And facilitators. Knowledge is built on discourse, on debate, on learning to talk the talk and walk the talk, not just to recite the stuff. Resources like books and videos and audio lectures (even in a lecture hall) can assist but it is the engagement with peers, facilitated by a member of the knowledge community in that discipline who helps us to learn, to understand the analytical terms and then how to apply them appropriately. We engage in discussions, in debates, in presenting ideas and trying to defend them, in articulating positions and in being exposed to multiple perspectives on a problem or issue. Learning is a process not a product.

    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. This is called variously: parenting, mentoring, apprenticeship, peer learning, collaboration, teamwork, graduate school, hands-on training, adult education.

    Bill Gates is seriously wrong. And the Khan Academy warrants concern: Where is the evidence?

    The future of education must be defended from these know-nots!

    imho, Linda

    • wryan says:

      so are you saying that there is zero use to practicing math problems and zero use to showing someone how they are done? Do you want to just throw students into situations where math is required without giving them any instruction or practice? A lot of people refer to students “Constructing their own knowledge,” so does this mean they want students to first independently conceive of the concepts of none, one, and many, then develop a system of symbols to represent values and choose a base for the system before inventing arithmetic? If not then please describe the kind of learning scenario you envision which does not require any instruction or practice.
      Much of the evidence is anecdotal because it has to do with individual learning styles. lots of people saying “now I finally understand math for the first time.”
      I know there is always another side to a story so I have been searching for decent criticisms frequently. It seems that most of the people who have negative reactions have not even bothered to try out the site. Personally I have been doing it just for fun and to be more informed as I try to encourage the teachers in the school system I work in to try it out. I have earned over 100,000 points and realized a lot of things that I never thought about e.g. i learned the processes for multiplication of decimals and long division in 4th grade, but now between Sal’s in-depth lectures and plenty of time to work through problems without worrying about time limits or grading, I have had the chance to really understand why it works. My teachers never talked about what place value has to do with the multiplication algorithm, but Sal got me to think about it.
      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.

      So has anyone here actually used Khan academy? Not just checked it out but actually established themselves as member?

      • wryan says:

        rethinking- much of the evidence you can see is anecdotal http://www.khanacademy.org/stories but the actual data on thousands of students is constantly being compiled internally and used to increase the efficiency of the system so that students only practice as much as they need to and get review when the data says it is likely to be useful.
        Also remember, If you think “One-way transmission has never succeeded” then you do not believe that books serve any role in education either.

        • 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. etc.

          I do not argue that books serve no role in learning. Of course they do and all types of archived and collected knowledge and information are essential. Don’t bait me…that is unnecessary and I think you know that is not my position.

          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.

          • wryan says:

            absolutely, we need both facts and skills to back up real world tasks. Skills like math are only developed through practice and how much practice you need varies from person to person.
            This is exactly why we need to free teachers from any tasks that a computer can do better. In terms of instruction, video is better than a book because it can show the process of working a problem in real time. But one way it is also better than a live lecture is that it is on demand, empowering the learner in the same way that books can. If means you never need to feel like you are wasting a teacher’s time by asking for the explanation again and you can even review things that you might be embarrassed to admit that you missed.
            On the practice/assessment end, we need to free teachers from making and correcting worksheets and free students from doing more problems than they need to to understand the subject.
            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. But I don’t think that is ideal for either of us.
            The intended scenario is what Khan is working hard towards, experimenting with camp experiences, partnering with schools.
            I think you would agree with Khan’s thoughts here
            http://www.khanacademy.org/about/blog/post/6844033473/bringing-creativity-to-class-time-by-sal-khan

        • Tony Bates says:

          Thanks, Linda and wryan, for a stimulating discussion and comments about the Khan Academy.

          I’m not just being conciliatory (that’s not my style) but I think you are both right (and Erin, too). The Khan Academy is a very useful source of practice for math, if used in conjunction with a teacher or instructor. Practice makes perfect and Khan Academy videos are much better than those boring textbook exercises we used to do. 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.

          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. My other point is not a direct criticism of the Khan Academy, but of the hype and unrealistic claims that are made about it – such as Bill Gates’ statements.

          One reason of course for the success of the Khan Academy is the poor math teaching students get in many schools in the USA. 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.

          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. 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. The Khan Academy is a useful resource, but a fix for this problem it does not make.

          • wryan says:

            I absolutely agree. I am certainly concerned about bad teaching and the misuse of tools, but I am more concerned about stagnation. If educators can be provided with the best tools, the best educators can use them. There is no way a tool like this will fix the worst teachers, but if it can save time for good teachers and their students then they can focus on good teaching. Don’t judge it based on something it’s not intended to do.
            I don’t think it is productive to criticize Khan Academy based on the fact that it is a work in progress. The company and site are still very young. They are constantly making improvements and adding content and they have a lot of people asking for things.
            http://khanacademy.desk.com/customer/portal/questions/170780-i-wish-there-were-this-feature-on-khan-academy-
            http://khanacademy.desk.com/customer/portal/questions/169932-i-wish-khan-academy-covered-this-topic-

            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. Perhaps this kind of guidance can also help people who could be good teachers but have fallen into a trap of only doing things the way they were taught.
            I must emphasize that I am talking about math here and the way the site can give students problem sets. This could also work for the hard sciences such as physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, as well as music theory. I hope that at some point they will format the site to make a clearer distinction between the problem set engine with associated videos and the rest of the videos on random topics- which is really just a list of links to youtube.

    • Mike says:

      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. 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.

      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. I barely passed High School and could barely figure out fractions. After devoting my time to Khan I can do fractions with my eyes closed and am now learning more and more everyday.

      Now if there was a real-world problem that I needed to resolve, I am not sure how I would do. But, my line of work (web development) math can greatly improve efficiency. I have applied what I have learned so far to my work and I can see how much my coding has improved. A good example is averages, I had a project that required me to figure out the average score of a student. I wrote a script that was about 200 lines because I did not know how to do it any other way. 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.

      I have no money, I have no other resources than what I can find on the web. I do have to say for people like me, this is the future of education. The sad thing about America and the debt crises is more than half of all debt is student loans (just Google “student loan debt crises” for a resource). In my opinion education is more about business rather than education and Khan academy breaks that trend.

      This is only the beginning and Khan is evolving unlike education. To my little knowledge, educational technology is lacking. 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.

      That might be a poor example, but it affected my life, and to me, that is HUGE!

      • mandy says:

        I wholehearteldy agree!!! My kids an I LOVE Khan Academy. It has been the first and only thing that has helped us all understand math. We love it and it is FREE!!!!! 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. I just wish there were some worksheets to print out ocassionaly to have the kids do in correspondence with the work online. I love it and I’m so so grateful for it. I thing he has done such a loving and generous thing for the world.

    • Anony says:

      I think people are missing the point.
      Khan is not interested in big business and maximizing dollars.

      If you can, watch his interviews on Charlie Rose:
      (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJFKE8kyz7w)
      (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FtoAne0npQ)

      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. In fact, he enjoys teaching topics that are underappreciated and learning just for the sake of learning.

  6. Erin says:

    I think Khan Academy has its place as an instructional tool and a resource site for adult learners. 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. I told her about Khan Academy, and she is using that as a resource for when she gets stuck. It’s a nicely laid out, adult oriented, authoritative resource on a number of subjects. Type in “online math tutoring” and you usually get ad-riddled sites with juvenile material – not at all suitable 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. Completely self-driven education will not work. We need mentors. We need educators. I think any tools that these mentors and educators can have at their disposal is a good thing – which Khan Academy is. But treating those tools as a replacement for practice is like expecting a screwdriver to build a house.

  7. I agree that the discussion was valuable, and that—as Tony noted—we mostly agree about the value of tools and resources such as Khan Academy for upgrading or clarifying questions that we are interested in. Pedagogically such resources need to be better designed to support the learner.

    A bigger concern, for me, is how these individualized courseware are being positioned as a valid replacement for
    educators, tutors, mentors, trainers, peer discussions, group work, etc.

    Recall the quote that I cited:

    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).

    Future of education? That is what we must beware.

    • wryan says:

      I don’t really care about the hype. Ideas about what constitutes education have been a hot topic since at least Socrates and at times society, religion, philosophers, and governments have had many different opinions. I am much more concerned with whether Khan Academy is a good tool for what it is intended for. I just want to know what you mean by “Pedagogically such resources need to be better designed to support the learner.” In my own experience and the experience of other actual users the practice/assessment system is very well thought out and constantly being worked on. What do you think this system could do that it is not doing yet?

  8. Maria says:

    Someone stated that Math scores at an all time low in America. Has anyone ever thought, aside from blaming a teacher/administrator/school board, blaming the parents who aren’t monitoring what their kids are doing with their time afterschool. With all the socializing they do in a classroom/halls DURING school time, in the evening their spending their time socializing on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr.

    Have your kids log the time they spend on these social networks and compare it with the time they spend on school work. Then compare the amount of time they spend on school work that is difficult. You’ll notice they’ll spend a fraction of their evening to school work.

    “So why is little Jimmy not getting his math homework?” – He’s too busy snooping his friends facebook and tweeting garbage.

    So when a student comes across someone like Khan Academy, Yourmathteacherhelp, bananaiscool, papapodcasts, or Algebra1Teacher on Youtube, of course they will find them helpful. They weren’t paying attention in the first place in class, so why not watch it online.

    Besides, them listening to a lesson through the eyes of someone different can be a valauble tool. Think of when a parent shares some valuable advice to their kids and the kids don’t listen. Then have someone like a REAL teacher offer that same advice and the kid is nodding and saying “you’re right teach!”

    All this talk about KA, do a Youtube/Google search for any subject and you’ll find tons of other people who’ve created a video on that topic. KA is NOT the only online educator out there. WHy aren’t we congratulating EVERY online video out there.

    My hat goes out to all the online educators who haven’t been given money by Microsoft or Google who’ve put on videos online for free and are using their own time to do them.

    Check these people out: Yourmathteacherhelp, bananaiscool, papapodcasts, or Algebra1Teacher – Let’s thank them. They are in fact ACTUAL teachers whom on top of their classes, lesson planning, marking, find the time to do these videos. Sal Khan living is ONLY making these videos. Why hasn’t he thought about becoming a teacher?!

    • Tony Bates says:

      Thanks, Maria – great comment

    • wryan says:

      As you have pointed out, video lectures are nothing new and the internet has made it possible for anyone to create and share them. This is why I choose not to focus on the video aspect of Khan Academy. While this might be how it started, the importance of the videos now is how the math videos are directly connected to the practice software.
      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. For those that do, it is simply a decision to be made about which you prefer, just as you might choose to get email service from yahoo even though everyone says google is better. A pretty good comparison there- does google deserve to be better, are it’s tools better than anyone elses, or does it have to do with the way they have developed and promoted that puts them on top? You can promote other sites if you find value in them, but don’t criticize KA specifically because it is more popular- consider whether it is popular for a reason.

      I am very glad that students socialize during school. learning to associate with other people is just as important or more important than academics and I constantly struggle with this as a teacher because I have a job to do but this is also their time to see their friends- we have created an infrastructure in many places where kids can only spend time with their friends if their parents drive them there, and that’s a whole other issue, but social media at least partially fills that void when kids can’t spend real time together. The whole thing is less then ideal, but it does not man that their time spent with friends, even online, is useless or “garbage.”

      What I am very confused about it your concept of a “teacher.” You seem to imply that students could learn a lot from their parents, even if their parents are not government certified and publicly employed teachers, but you also accuse Sal Khan of not being a real teacher. You negatively compare him to “actual” teachers who also make videos. I might present the opposite argument- wouldn’t someone who makes videos full time be better at it than someone who squeezes it in next to being a classroom teacher?

      I wonder, do you think children should be encourage to teach each other also, or is that a privilege restricted to “actual teachers?” Khan is a teacher, and if he felt like it he could take the required tests and go interview for the next public school job that comes up, but that is not his mission in life. You could say the same of a freelance lecturer, a minister, an occupational trainer, a private music instructor, a sports coach. Go to one of them and ask “why don’t you become a ‘real’ teacher?”

      and to Tony- I do check in here often to see if there is anything new said because this topic is very important and your original article was intelligent enough to invite intelligent dialogue. It is also interesting because some things on the internet change so fast. KA itself has made many changes even since that post was first written, so on such a topic we are never evaluating a finished product.

      • wryan says:

        Maria, those others you listed are just channels. If you are only considering the videos then I encourage you to try the “practice” section of KA for yourself.

        also, KA has alternate hosting of videos off of youtube. Many schools block youtube completely from their connection, making your other suggestions completely inaccessible from school

        • Maria says:

          That practice session was only created because of the money invested by Bill Gates and Google. Several million dollars invested to any of these teachers can help create a similar site. Outside investments sure do help create a free site like what he has. That kind of stuff does not come cheap for ANY standard teacher.

  9. APS says:

    But Khan already has videos telling you where to start. And I don’t know about the coach interface much but heard Khan has made it better. The difference between a coach and a tutor is that a coach coaches a person individually whereas a tutor teaches a whole group together.

    Kahn Academy is great, just that it doesn’t cover advanced topics yet.

  10. Take a look at “Reasoning Mind.”

  11. pjordan says:

    While the success of KA is often taken as an implicit criticism of teachers, I see the KA form factor as representing the obsolesence of math textbooks. I have noticed few commentators talk about the many detailed proofs and derivations on KA. Generally, youj will not find these in american textbooks; rather you wil find problems asking students to provide or finish a proof. Similarly, problem solutions are so compressed to be inscrutable. In contrast, Khan painstakingly plows through the algebra. In my personal learning, this has been enormously helpful.

  12. Jon Grossman says:

    Sal Khan: Compliments, Critiques and a Complement for Him

    The comments and opinions of this article are from a retired physician who has spent thousands of hours watching online tutoring videos from a variety of sources and tutors.
    The Threefold Nature of a Salman Khan
    The Creator was in an ambitious mood the day he made Sal:
    • Body – pre-eminent cerebral circuitry
    • Soul – unrivaled passion to learn
    • Spirit- global generosity and love toward his fellowman
    The confluence of these three human components eventually produced a guy who believes all people should have the right to a world-class education regardless of socio-economic and geographic barriers. If you review the rationales for the awarding of the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize on Wikipedia, you’ll see it’s not implausible that Sal could join that list one day.
    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found a desire to make amends to myself regarding my earlier education. Although I had usually performed well on tests, I was nothing more than a pseudo-intellectual thug. My grades were acquired through “muscle-mindedness”: using brute memorization to covet facts, figures and formulas; focusing on simply how to get the right answer instead of understanding why a given concept gives the right answer.
    So a few years ago, I started an online pilgrimage to find guidance in how to grasp concepts that had eluded me all my life, especially math and physics. Eventually, I came across Sal with his paternal vibe. When I watch Sal’s videos, I feel like a kid who is walking through an enchanted forest (Sal’s mind) with his enthusiastic dad pointing out all the amazing “fauna and flora.”
    No one will probably ever give me more epiphanies than Sal; I wouldn’t want to change one thing about his teaching style. I’m so grateful and privileged that he freely shares his marvelous mind with me. It’s hard for me to be even constructively critical of a person who has given me so much unconditionally, but ………
    Sal, no “dad” can teach their “child” everything. A “parent” should want to encourage multiple perspectives.
    I’ll expound below.

    “No Child and No Concept Left Behind”

    Although Khan Academy’s mission statement is “to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace”, I also recall Sal emphasizing something else: No concept should be left behind by a student.
    A student may understand 95% of all concepts in a given subject, but those 5% that slip by could be absolutely pre-requisite for another subject and even other career options. Sal, as do I, believes that students can eventually grasp 100% of course concepts if they go at their own pace and utilize the right resources. My contention is that Khan Academy is inherently designed so that no student is likely to ever grasp 100% of his/her targeted concepts because some of the right resources will never be there as long as Sal essentially excludes other good video tutors from contributing to the KA library.
    I have spent hundreds of hours watching Sal’s videos over the past three years, and although he is the most enjoyable, effective and brilliant teacher I’ve ever known, his approach is brilliantly informal– and sometimes informal is not what I need. As I said, I wouldn’t change a thing about Sal. Anyone who expects Sal to successfully create all the right visual and audio perspectives to drive home all intended concepts to every KA student is, well, deluded.
    I know, on the KA website it says, “The intent for Khan Academy has always been to expand faculty beyond Sal.” I’ve seen a tremendous expansion of support services offered to KA students over the years, but frankly, the scope of collaboration with other video faculty has been disappointingly small. Also, there are two types of video expansion (1) Increasing the breadth of subject matter offered and (2) Increasing the depth of topics already offered- i.e. having alternative online tutors that complement Sal’s videos
    Of course, I have the excess time and resources to seek alternative online videos when necessary, but what about all those students who have limited time and access to the internet? I would hope that Khan Academy would try to encourage and facilitate a student’s search for a different video tutor when the occasion arises. Why can’t there be a supplementary or auxiliary video library on the KA website to complement Sal’s library? At the very least, I would like to see KA provide KA-approved links to other free video websites.
    Bill Gates led Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg and others to collaborate and form The Giving Pledge: The campaign that encourages the wealthiest people in the United States to make a commitment to give most of their money to philanthropic causes. Why can’t Khan Academy become the clearing house for the “wealthiest” philanthropic minds? Sal’s academic successes and philanthropic drive are tantamount to Bill Gate’s business successes and philanthropic drive—- he could make this happen— The Goodwill Tutors’ Pledge.

    A Perfect Complement to Sal’s Math Library: Mathispower4U.com

    As I mentioned, I have watched thousands of hours of online educational videos and many were very good, but recently I discovered a seasoned math teacher who blew me away. His name is James Sousa, and he is the reason I wrote this article. There are two things that come to mind when I watch James’ videos:
    (1) This guy is totally committed to creating videos that maximize the probability the student will successfully learn the lesson. He addresses every nuance of the student’s video-watching experience.
    (2) In my opinion, he is the perfect math-tutor complement of Salman Khan:
    • different personalities (Einstein vs Max Planck)
    • different teaching styles (jelly vs peanut butter)
    BUT…
    • both are massively invested in helping anyone who “wants to learn new concepts”
    • both aren’t driven by money.
    I believe that if KA collaborated with Mathispower4U, the probability that a student would leave no concept behind would be dramatically increased. It’s basic synergistic math: 1+1=3 (PB&J)

     For me to try and specify what James Sousa’s does would trivialize the 2000+ videos he has made with unwavering consistency. He’s had almost 3 million hits in just a couple years of exposure. Please, check him out!!
    http://mathispower4u.yolasite.com/

    Khan Academy.org : Cyber-Flagship for a Fleet of Goodwill Tutors

    Flagship: a ship, especially in a fleet, aboard which the commander of the fleet is quartered

    I believe that as a species, we have been spiritually evolving upward. Not too long ago, when distant, disadvantaged cultures saw a fleet of ships arriving on the shores of their continents, it usually meant men were coming to take gold/silver/slaves and leave disease/death/destruction. Now, when distant, disadvantaged people look out on the cyber-sea they see a beneficent man, Sal Khan, who is sailing his website to their shore bringing the gifts of knowledge and endless opportunities for a better life.
    My hope is that in the near future Khan Academy.org will evolve from a single vessel to a flagship with Sal leading a huge fleet of Goodwill Tutors.

    Jon Grossman, MD

  13. Munaf says:

    Let me start with my story. Back in early 2011 I read about khanacademy. Was very curious about astronomy but before watching his video I searched for any critics or any other website like it.Guess what….found none. I am not a student and school education never attracted me. But after completing his astronomy course I had a profound sense of our vast universe. Back in school had fear of maths but after watching some of the videos on brain teaser found simplicity and beauty of maths which encouraged me to learn calculus. What is the monetary value of this? None.But I think this type of curiosity makes us human.Thanks Sal…..

  14. kmcital says:

    I think you are all missing the vision of Khan Academy. It’s not a replacement or threat to teachers or proven learning methods. It’s a vast resource to enhance that process. It’s not meant to be just a one-way consumption of information, view this and see how a classroom can be transformed to be a self-paced master-based learning experience. This new environment includes coaching, peer tutoring, group instruction, project activities, and most of all personal connection with a mentor for each student. All that is done in the classroom instead of lecturing.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_Nw79t1F_8o

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  2. [...] of the pros and cons of some of these movements are ongoing, in particular the Khan Academy, by Tony Bates, David Andrade, and [...]

  3. A short critique of the Khan Academy…

    Tony Bates:Bean, E. (2012) Wrath of Khan?: Deconstructing the online learning academy Detroit Web 2.0 Examiner, March 12 Eric Bean is an educator who has signed up as a coach/volunteer for the Khan Academy. The Khan Academy has a library of over 3,000 …

  4. [...] A short critique of the Khan Academy [...]

  5. [...] The organization is unclear and it lacks sufficient learner support. [...]

  6. [...] However, some educators and other folks express concern about Khan Academy’s delivery of school.  Tony Bates, the CEO of Tony Bates Ltd, a private company that consults on e-learning platforms, wrote a piece recently evaluating Khan’s methods.  He writes, I have another criticism. As someone who struggles with math, the Khan Academy would seem perfect for me. My problem though is I don’t know where to begin. 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. Also, where’s the feedback? If I still don’t understand after watching the video several times and doing the exercises, what do I do?  (Click here for the reference) [...]

  7. [...] when it is examined further based on a professional approach, then we could identify a lots of issues relating to the structure of the video lectures, “errors” and misconceptions presented [...]

  8. [...] The organization is unclear and it lacks sufficient learner support. [...]

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