CBS’s 60 Minutes ran a segment last night on the Khan Academy, which is essentially a series of online instructional videos for elementary school math. The guy was doing them on his own until Bill Gates got involved and threw a bunch of cash at him in order to make the video anthologies more user friendly, as in school setting friendly. What has developed is a program that allows participating classrooms to set the students free to tackle each concept at the student’s own pace all the while monitored by a teacher.
In my estimation there is no field of our society that is more prone to following trends than education. That is not necessarily a bad thing, in the sense that our motives are in the right place. We want to get people as smart as we can get them for as little money as possible. So whenever someone says, “I have an idea.” Someone in the education field will undoubtedly say, “OK, I’ll listen.”
I don’t have a lot to say about Khan Academy other than it is just one more of a long line of outcome-based models that have been tried, and many have failed. Not really failed as much as not really succeeded. Under this process, a student moves from one concept to another, being taught through this online video stream. The teacher is there to monitor each student’s progress. Schools keep computer labs open until 10 PM for students without internet access at home.
If this scheme works at all, it works in wealthy suburban districts where students have either access at home or a parent willing to take them to school in the evening and pick them up later. In other words, it isn’t going to reform education as we know it.
I’d be interested to read your thoughts after you view the video.