Online-learning expert Will Richardson criticizes the “Khanification of education”—the seemingly widely accepted process by which “anyone with a passion can make a video and be given ‘teacher’ status.” But Richardson also thinks that the growing influence of Khan Academy and similar “flipped classroom” resources raises urgent questions for real teachers in terms of how they define and distinguish themselves in the current education environment. He concludes:
Here's a hint: Our value lies in that which cannot be Khanified. We better figure out ways pretty quickly to articulate that value in spades to parents, boards, corporations, etc.
For his part, incidentally, Salman Khan has repeatedly contended that his videos and related classroom-technology initiatives are not meant to diminish the teacher’s role but rather to enhance it. As he wrote in a recent Education Week Commentary:
Technology will never replace teachers; in fact, it will make teachers even more important. Technology will give teachers valuable real-time data to diagnose students' weak points and design appropriate interventions. It will enable teachers to more quickly gauge students' comprehension of new topics so they can adjust their lesson plans on the spot. Virtual tools may have the potential to provide educational materials to children who have access to nothing else—say, in a remote village in India—but they will never be a substitute for rich experiences with fellow students and amazing teachers.
But in some ways, at least under the surface, I think he and Richardson may be saying something similar. That is, teachers today need to adapt to new conceptions of what classroom instruction means. They need to redefine their purpose and, even as they leverage technology strategically, focus on the aspects of education that cannot be reduced to digitization.
What are your thoughts on this? How can teachers redefine their value amidst the growth of electronic instructional resources? How, if at all, are you trying to change your practice?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.