60 Minutes ran a feature last night on Khan Academy. As a teacher, I’m supposed to dislike Sal Khan and his venture into education. But as I watched the video, I found that I don’t have any problem with the man himself.
Here is the video. It’s about 13 minutes long:
I do have a problem, however, with the notion of Khan Academy videos replacing the teacher as a major part of instruction. Indeed, Mr. Khan says that the teacher should become a coach alongside students, rather than a lecturer at the front of the classroom. I totally agree. Nevertheless, his videos are much better for targeted remediation rather than general instruction.
There’s nothing wrong with his videos, but they’re not particularly engaging. I watched one last night and got through about three minutes of it before stopping. It’s intriguing that many students, particularly those in elementary school, enjoy learning with Khan Academy. I’m pretty sure my students would resist after a half hour.
What I’m most worried about, actually, is the continuing trend that’s suggesting that random people are better than teachers at figuring out solutions in education. At the end of the segment, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said that innovation always comes from outside the institution, so Khan’s success is no surprise.
In general, I try to embrace change, and by all means, I know that there’s a lot to fix in education. After all, I know that I can become a better teacher. So Mr. Khan, I welcome you to the conversation of education reform. I am hopeful, however, that you — along with Bill Gates and the others — will make sure to include teachers in the dialogue in a meaningful way.