The Wrath Against Khan: Why Some Educators Are Questioning Khan Academy

The Wrath Against Khan: Why Some Educators Are Questioning Khan Academy

Nice commentary on the Khan backlash, both from Downes and Audrey. The problem is that Khan solves the simple part of the problem (wonderfully well); but it seems like some people are making much broader claims of impact.

Why do people think that a set of screencasts will revolutionize learning? I’d say it’s based on a a misunderstanding of what tutoring is.

You see, we intuitively know that some of the students that fail would succeed with a tutor, so somehow a filmed tutor strikes us as a solution.

But the three things that separate the experience of being tutored from that of studying from a textbook — customization, conversation and feedback — they are all missing once you film a tutor and distribute it. Once you film it, it becomes just another educational resource, like a textbook. And we’ve had textbooks and worked examples, self-study guides and step by step instructions for almost as long as we’ve had mass publication — centuries. And, presented with these materials, some students learn to do stats, or physics, or algebra, and some don’t. Better textbooks help, cheaper textbooks help but they don’t solve the problem.

To the extent using Khan Academy frees up resources to do more tutor-like activity, either in classes, or MOOCs, or wherever — THAT’S where you’ll see the gains. And with things like the flipped classroom, that change is happening.But the gains here are not from Khan’s “tutoring” — he doesn’t actual tutor, he lectures. The gains are from the opportunities outsourcing that tutoring affords us.

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