Education

Critique of Khan Academy Goes Viral

By Katie Ash — July 10, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By now, you’ve probably heard of Sal Khan, the educator who began by creating videos to explain math to his cousins, which has grown into a library of over 3,000 assorted educational clips with more than 150 million views on YouTube. The resulting Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide students with free access to all those resources, has received grant funding from educational philanthropy giants like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

However, not everyone is thrilled with the concept. In June, two associate professors from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.,—Dave Coffey and John Golden—posted a video in the satirical style of Mystery Science Theater 3000 critiquing a Khan Academy video explaining how to multiply and divide negative and positive integers. The professors criticized Khan’s inconsistency with positive and negative signs in the video, and pointed out areas where he could improve his pedagogy, generally poking fun at the Khan Academy and its trove of videos.

The professors’ video went viral and is now up to over 20,000 views on YouTube. In response, the Khan Academy immediately pulled the math video in question and posted two separate videos explaining the concept, implementing many of the changes suggested by the professors in their satirical video. A few days later, the Khan Academy released yet another video dealing with the same subject and addressing more of the professors’ concerns. Update: I’ve been informed by Education Week opinion blogger Justin Reich that there are actually two videos explaining why a negative times a negative is a positive, bringing the total number of videos up to four.

But as Dave Coffey explained on his blog, it is the pedagogy of the lecture model and Khan’s emphasis on how to complete the mathematical procedures he’s explaining instead of the conceptual framework behind those procedures (the why of education) that is at the heart of the criticism.

To further address some of these concerns, educator Dan Meyer along with Education Week opinion blogger Justin Reich have launched a contest inviting others to create critiques of Khan Academy videos and post them to YouTube, with $750 in prize money. (An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly stated that Dave Coffey would be sponsoring the contest.) All videos are tagged with #MMT2K in honor of the first video, titled Mystery Teacher Theater 2000. Winners will be chosen by August 15. Two winners, the grand prize and people’s choice, will receive $250, while the second prize winner will take home $150, and the third prize winner will receive $100.

What do you think? Are Coffey and Golden splitting hairs in their critique of the Khan Academy videos? Or are they effectively keeping the organization in check? Are you planning on throwing your hat into the ring by creating a video yourself?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)