USA Today has an interesting article on the rise of Khan Academy, the popular and well-funded video-lesson provider founded by former hedge fund manager Sal Khan. As the article notes, Khan’s success is partly responsible for the momentum behind the concept of the “flipped classroom,” where students watch expert videos on their own time and then do “homework” or review with their teacher during normal class time.
For investors and education reformers, the flipped classroom has come to represent a bold and much-needed new paradigm for instructional delivery in the digital era. But it is a source of divisiveness among educators, with some saying it devalues the role of teachers. “If a teacher is just lecturing like a computer might, maybe that teacher should be replaced,” physics teacher Frank Noschese tells USA Today. “But the truth is most teachers don’t just drone on, they educate.”
Other teachers, however, say they find the flipped model liberating, contending that it gives them time to modify their instruction to particular students’ needs.
Regardless, the USA Today piece suggests that teachers who are resistant to the Khan model and similar tech-driven pedagogical changes may be on the wrong side of history. It refers to “a looming tech-education iceberg.” According to Victor Hu, head of education technology and services for Goldman Sachs, the article notes, venture capital firms have put $2 billion into ed tech in the past five years. “Technology is doing to education what it’s done to countless other industries: disrupting it,” Hu says.
Commenting on the article on his blog, former teacher and ed tech pioneer Will Richardson agrees, but with significant qualifications:
The money that is flowing into the education space is going to dramatically "disrupt" what we do. I agree that we need to be disrupted, but right now, we're not driving it. The disruptions schools need have little to do with people making big profits.
Your thoughts? Is technological “disruption” of the conventions of teaching inevitable? If so, do you see this as a good thing? How are you responding? What role should educators themselves play in guiding technological change in schools?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.