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  The reality is, that our practice needs to change with the times, and the system we currently use is outdated, and not benefiting our students as it could.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.

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One response to “OLTD 502 – Assignment #5”

  1. Randy LaBonte says :

    Hi Ben. Finally got a chance to chase down your blog and the post on Khan Academy. I enjoy reading what you write – and got caught up again in Calvin & Hobbs! I think this is why it is taking me so long to finish my comments about everyone’s posts! Oh, and I might have already read a lot of your final assignment posting… Will come back to it later

    First, you did this before in prior posts, but even in this one some links to what you are referencing (Khan, etc.) would help you later. Think of your blog as learning bread crumbs for yourself.

    I think you have hit the right note on Khan and the flipped approach: “we need to view the resources he provides as a jumping off point for the face to face time we spend with our students”. I think Salman Khan’s popularity is due to the simplicity of his approach. Will this revolutionize teaching? Change the very nature of the teacher’s role? Make classrooms and teachers redundant? That is what the VHS and a TV on a stand was supposed to do to me in the 80’s! Didn’t work, did it?

    I really like Caperton’s post (http://www.edutopia.org/blog/rethinking-the-flipped-classroom-idit-harel-caperton). For me, I believe ‘flipped’ and Khan’s approach to be more of an “and” – a different way of organizing and providing resources and learning materials. The problem with the fear of the ‘Khanification’ of education is that no innovation in education has ever been a ‘one size fits all’ – and those that are likely will be doomed from the start.

    Here are some links from others that delve into flipped classrooms in a bit more detail:

    http://www.edutopia.org/blog/rethinking-the-flipped-classroom-idit-harel-caperton

    Shelley Wright’s writing also interests me. Her piece on the end of the love affair with flipped learning (http://shelleywright.wordpress.com/2012/10/) led her to write more about other thoughts related to her practice:
    http://shelleywright.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/i-used-to-think/. I would argue with Shelley Wright’s view of abandoning flipped learning and challenge that she actually would use a similar teaching approach – posting instructional resources online for students to access – as part of her overall student-centred approach. You have said much the same thing here. I think your conclusion really sums it up:
    “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.”

    I think it important to keep a 30,000 foot and multi-dimensional view to what it takes to engage learning. So while intrigued by flipped, I too see it only as one strategy in personalizing. I look forward to learning more from you and your learning journey. Keep up the good work on the blog!

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