Khan Academy Turns Attention to Computer Science Education

By Erik W. Robelen — August 16, 2012 2 min read
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Khan Academy, a popular producer of free educational content best known for its math video lessons, is branching out into an area of STEM education that some experts believe is often neglected in schools: computer science.

The idea, writes John Resig, who is heading up the new educational platform, is to target people with no computer programming knowledge and offer them an engaging and fun environment in which to learn about the discipline.

“Over everything else we wanted to emphasize creativity and exploration and make it approachable for people of all ages, including young kids,” he said on his blog.

Here are stories in PC World and TechCrunch about the news.

The announcement comes as Khan Academy has begun to draw criticism for what some argue is questionable pedagogy in its math instructional videos. Here’s an EdWeek storify on the emergence of Khan Academy and the growing debate over its approach, as well as an interview earlier this year with Khan Academy founder Salman Khan. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Business School, Khan’s nonprofit organization grew out of his efforts to help his young relatives with their homework.

Khan Academy offers more than 3,000 free instructional videos in various subjects, including math, physics, finance, and history.

Resig writes that with the computer science platform, rather than starting off by explicitly teaching how a computer works or fundamental concepts of programming, “you put the student into [programming] code of graduating complexity and encourage them to manipulate, explore, and write their own programs.” He adds: “Once they start to explore and figure out things for themselves, then they can begin to dig into all the explanatory tutorials and documentation that are provided to clarify how things work.”

The new venture may prove welcome news to advocates of computer science education, who have become increasingly concerned that the subject is not getting the time and attention it deserves in K-12 schools. National statistics indicate that computing will be one of the fastest-growing areas for employment in coming years, but experts say the U.S. educational pipeline is expected to fall far short in producing college graduates in the field.

In this 2010 EdWeek story, I highlight some of the concerns, as well as recent efforts to give computer science a higher profile in schools.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.