Monday, March 28, 2011

Khan Academy

I just found out about the Khan Academy, a website that has free video lectures on math and science and software with practice exercises. Salman Khan recently did a TED talk about how he got into education and how his site works. People are saying "this is the future of education" and for once I am on the bandwagon. Khan emphasizes how his site can complement in-class instruction, but he is really understating the radical implications of his approach. First, it clarifies how poorly the field of education has been performing for some time. Second, adopting khan academy lectures and exercises in the classroom radically redefines the role of the teacher, from someone who focuses on giving static lectures to the entire class to someone who focuses on giving targeted interaction to particular students based on real-time data about their performance. Third, given the availability of free peer tutors via Khan's website, the need for traditional education institutions seems to deline at the margin.

How resistant will primary, secondary, and higher ed institutions be to this new approach to education? Khan seems to be accumulating data that might give objective evidence for the effectiveness of his methods; how much will such evidence (assuming it exists) matter in public debates over education? My prediction: traditional education institutions and their employees, from the public school district to the four year university, will dig in their heels to resist re-hauling the education system on Khanian lines. I hope I am wrong.
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