Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sharing my Thoughts on the Khan Academy

I had been sitting back, watching the discussion and ultimate backlash against the Khan Academy following the 60 Minutes Episode with little opinion one way or the other.

For those that haven't seen the episode, you can watch it on their website (Khan Academy: The Future of Education?) Not for nothing, I can see both sides of the argument. Does applications like the Khan Academy provide students with additional resources to help them get through difficult content? Yeah - it does. Will applications like the Khan Academy revolutionize education as a whole? No - not really.

Therefore, I sat back and watched the backlash go one direction and then the other without much thought until I came across Stephanie Sandifer's post Khan Academy, TED-Ed and the new leaders in education reform - REALLY?! ( For the record, it was not Stephanie Sandifer's post that made me cringe, but the quote from The Washington Post that she shared regarding Khan Academy and the need for educational reform (Jena McGregor - The Washington Post: Khan Academy, TED-Ed, and the new leaders in education reform).

In the final paragraphs of the article, Jena McGregor stated:

The large public-school education system, although not quite a big, slow company, is not really that different. Teachers are at the center of a system that has long relied on lecturing in classrooms and homework at home. No matter how good their intentions might be, it is hard for them to think about their own jobs differently, much less step outside the predominant teaching methods that have been used for hundreds of years. You can’t exactly study methods that haven’t been invented yet, and as difficult as it can be to get companies to experiment, doing the same on school children is even harder.
Who knows how much Khan’s video-based, “flipped-classroom” approach will truly change what ails American (and global) public schools. But whether it is Khan or someone else, my guess is that the most revolutionary—and potentially, most effective—educational reform will come from leaders outside the system.
What the...! Seriously? You truly believe that the educational reform will most likely come from leaders outside the system? Have you not seen what those leaders have already done to the system. You think those that penned No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top really know what they are doing? Do you honestly think that Michelle Rhee has the answers? Obviously, you have no idea what is going on in education much less the classrooms of those that should be considered leaders in educational reform!

I stand behind Stephanie Sandifier on this one. Those that are leading the change are those in the classroom; they are the ones working, building, developing, and educating day in and day out. They are not looking to sell their model to the highest bidder or the next district over. They are helping students grow; they are helping students learn.

Change needs to come from the inside. We need to find those leaders from within the system who understand what needs to be done, is willing to make that change, and is willing to model that change. There are a lot of teachers out there doing great things, but they being overshadowed by the current political witch hunt in education.

Does the Khan Academy hold merit in education? Absolutely - don't get me wrong this is not an attack on the Khan Academy. I don't think it's the answer, but I definitely think it can be part of the solution. Nevertheless, we cannot allow outsiders like Jena McGregor to think that they have the answer because they watched a 13-minute segment on television on a random Sunday evening. We cannot continue to allow Washington or state education departments to reign down upon education with this one-size-fits-all, pre-packaged programs thinking they have the answers either.

Maybe 60 Minutes should run a segment on teachers making a difference and highlight those that are doing more with less and who are bringing change to the classroom. Maybe then we'd get a bit more attention.


  1. "But whether it is Khan or someone else, my guess is that the most revolutionary—and potentially, most effective—educational reform will come from leaders outside the system."-McGregor

    Could you put parents in that category?

  2. Into the category of leaders from the outside?

    I consider parents to be part of the education system therefore working from the inside as well as the outside. It really depends on their role I suppose. They could be viewed from either side.

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