OLTD 502 – Assignment #5
While not a perfect solution to the problems present in brick and mortar classrooms, I think that the Khan Academy does a lot of things right, and offers a viable way for educators to “flip” their classrooms. When looking at the potential impact that Sal Khan may have on our practice we need to view the resources he provides as a jumping off point for the face to face time we spend with our students. Simply watching a video will not guarantee mastery of a subject. The benefit that prior exposure to a subject provides, is that it allows for more meaningful conversations in the classroom to take place. When students come primed with some exposure to the topic being covered they are able to offer support and clarification to their peers and scaffold their understanding as a community of learners. Using this method, classrooms can be transformed from places where information is passively received, to forums where it is actively demonstrated. This type of learning would not be feasible without access to resources that are available to students outside of traditional class times.
Another thing I really like about the Khan Academy is that it offers students the chance to progress through topics at their own pace, with concept mastery being the only criteria in moving forward. Too often students are restricted by the pace of their group, and discouraged from going too far ahead in the course. Letting students set their own pace allows for novelty in the tasks they encounter and autonomy in moving their learning forward. Having access to student data also helps teachers to identify which students need extra support, and which students may be good candidates to tutor those students who are struggling with a concept. In this way teacher time is maximized, and responsibility for their learning is placed in the hands of the students as much as the teachers.
Reaction to the Khan website seems to be quite polarized, with educators either singing its praises, or decrying its potential to undermine the foundations our educational system is built on. The reality is, that our practice needs to change with the times, and the system we currently use is outdated, and not benefiting our students as it could. I don’t think the Khan Academy needs to be anything more than another tool that we use to engage our students, taking pieces that work for our practice and leaving behind what doesn’t. As this new school refines its practices, I think we will see great leaps forward in the delivery and interactivity of the content, with both students and teachers benefitting.