Education Opinion

What if Khan Academy was Made in Japan?: #MTT2K Grand Prize

By Justin Reich — August 29, 2012 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

After much deliberation, Dan Meyer and I are very pleased to announce the winners of this summer’s #MTT2K prize for the most entertaining and enlightening video engaging Khan Academy.

Of course, the real winners of the competition are everyone who looked critically at Khan Academy (and looked critically at its critics) and developed a more nuanced view. If after reading some of the conversation generated about Khan Academy this summer, you have a stronger position that Khan Academy is [completely awesome/situationally useful/seriously problematic] then I’m pleased to have played a tiny role in nudging the conversation.

But this post is about the prize winners! And we have four great videos.

Grand Prize

The Grand Prize, by unanimous decision (and almost the winner of the People’s Choice as well) is Michael Pershan’s What if Khan Academy was Made in Japan? There were two main types of videos: ones that critiqued the pedagogical moves within Khan’s lectures (the theme is well articulated by Chris Danielson and Michael Goldenberg in print here) and ones that raised questions about about the overall approach to learning articulated by Khan and colleagues. Michael’s video was the best of the latter category.

Michael’s piece is carefully researched, charmingly presented, offers an incisive critique of the Khan/Flipped paradigm, and concludes with an example of an alternative model. Dan and I also have blogger-crushes on him, and we think he’s making tremendous online contributions to math education through Math Mistakes, his blog, and his Twitter stream. And he’s a third year teacher in NYC, so unless he’s sold some stock to pay for a comfortable lifestyle, he can probably use a couple of bucks.

People’s Choice Award

The People’s Choice award, voted on by you the people, goes to Dr. Tae’s The History of the Korean War brought to you by UniversiTae and presented by Dr. Tae. It is, by far, the funniest of the entries, and certainly one of the ones most imbued with the satirical spirit of the original MTT2K. It has among the highest production values of the entries, and walks a line between silly and savage that leaves you wondering where he’s poking at Khan and where he’s just aiming for laughs. Be forewarned, it’s a pretty fierce critique.

Second Place

The second place winner was Kate Nowak’s commentary on Khan’s video about the Coordinate Plane. Kate’s video is among those that address Khan’s pedagogical moves within each lecture. It’s a fair critique, offering specific points of praise, probing questions, and targeted concerns.

As a non-math educator, one of the things that I learned from watching the whole set of videos was the tremendous depth of math-teaching knowledge contained in the math education community. Experienced educators, researchers, and educators drawing from research have a very rich sense of where kids are likely to get stuck, and the kinds of errors that novice math educators, even famous ones, might make. Kate’s video does a great job of surfacing this math-teaching wisdom.

Another of my favorite features is that since she uses Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker, it’s a very easy model to emulate. If math educators or department heads are thinking of using an #MTT2K exercise for a class or in-service, Kate shows a model that people can use without a ton of time or technical skill.

I can’t actually embed the video, but here it is.

Third Place

And the third place goes to Susan Jones, primarily for the inclusion of talking robots. Was it too much to ask, people? Talking robots? Could I have made it more clear that we wanted talking robots? Susan thought, “no, Justin, that’s not too much to ask” and so she gets 100 bucks. She also has a great evaluation of a Khan video on exponents, a neat alternative presentation, and she used this as a project to teach herself animation. In the spirit of all great learners, she submitted four drafts of the same video as the contest went on.


To all the Khan-test entrants, thanks for your contributions to the public dialogue, and I would encourage everyone to view all of the videos some fall afternoon while you are avoiding grading a stack of papers. Special mentions go out to Gary Rubenstien for having the most entries, Rhett Allain for provoking the most vitriolic reaction, and to John Golden and David Coffey for putting some junk on the Internet that started a summer of very productive conversation.

In the week ahead, I may post more broadly about what I learned from the #MTT2K discussions this summer: maybe something on the role and power of satire and maybe something else on my take on Khan’s micro-pedagogy within lectures and his organization’s larger approach. Maybe Dan will post on one of those things, and I’ll get a break and just link to that.

For now, I’ll leave with this thought: the media has a vested interest in lionizing technology and finding silver bullets (to mix metaphors, which may lead to dead were-lions). The future solutions we need will be nuanced and contextual. This is not the last time educators will need to push back on the media in the ed-tech space and ask for some deeper conversations.

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

The opinions expressed in EdTech Researcher are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.