Education Opinion

Don’t Use Khan Academy without Watching All This First

By Justin Reich — July 17, 2012 2 min read
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I’m pleased to report that with a month still left to go, there are over 14 entries in the #MTT2K Khan-test: 14 videos ranging from silly to snarky to measured, from off-the-cuff to carefully planned and researched. They scrutinize Khan Academy videos on vectors, coordinate planes, trigonometry, number lines, exponents, parallax, and put calls. Collectively, they are a great resources for educators thinking about using video instruction broadly, and using Khan Academy materials specifically. All 14 entries thus far, as well as a listing of posts and articles about #MTT2K, are now cataloged here.

With 14 entries, the Khan-test is officially a go, and we’ll have winners of the grand, second, and third prize and a people’s choice awards. There is still nearly a full month remaining until the deadline of August 15, so hopefully many more educators will create entries to share. The full contest rules are available here, but the gist is: make an enlightening and entertaining video examining Khan Academy videos and post it to YouTube with the tag #mtt2k.

When I first watched Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000, I thought to myself, “This is what I need to show whenever I introduce Khan Academy to teachers.”

For readers new to the story, Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000, or MTT2K, was a satirical video produced by two teacher educators, John Golden and David Coffey, that was intended highlight three kinds of concerns with Khan Academy videos: that Khan sometimes makes mathematical errors, that his explanations can be confusing and pedagogically problematic, and that the entire Khan enterprise is overly focused on teaching mathematical procedures rather than nurturing mathematical thinking. It has been viewed over 25,000 times.

I periodically run workshops for teachers about applying the idea of the Flipped Classroom, and as part of that workshop I often show Khan Academy. I lead teachers to Khan Academy because I think that a library of 3000 organized video lectures on mathematics is a great contribution to education, and a resource that teachers can thoughtfully use. But I never had a succinct way of expressing my concerns with Khan Academy, a set of concerns that are particularly important given the tendency of the press, Bill Gates, and others to portray Sal Khan as possessing Messianic qualities. MTT2K was a fun way of saying, “Wait a minute, you need to carefully review these teaching materials like you should review anything else you use in your classroom.” My Flipped Classroom syllabus now includes a link to the MTT2K page.

I had a hunch that if I put a little money on the table, I could nudge some clever educators to produce a series of videos that I could use in my workshops to help educators make good choices around Khan materials and video instruction broadly. This Thursday, I’m running my first Flipped workshop since the #MTT2K kicked off, and I’m really excited to share everything that my colleagues have produced. It’s somewhat important to critique Khan. It’s incredibly important to role model the critical eye that educators should bring to education materials, wherever they come from.

But I will say this: I still haven’t seen any #MTT2K videos with a talking robot, and I consider that a serious omission. Get on it, people.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my papers, presentations and so forth, visit EdTechResearcher.

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