Why I Am Skeptical of Sal Khan

I suppose the title of this post says everything: I am skeptical of Sal Khan and I am worried about the influence he is having on education.

Now, if you've read this blog before (thank you, if you have), you might be wondering why I'm saying this. I am teaching a flipped chemistry class...his big point is that a flipped class is more effective than traditional classrooms because of 24/7 access, etc, etc.

I agree 100% with those comments.

So, why am I skeptical?

I'm skeptical because I'm afraid the flipped model is becoming a fad in the United States. I'm afraid its a buzzword that teachers (who don't always understand the true working of the model) are going to start using to stay "current" or to keep administration happy.

I'm all for availability of material, and the volume of material that Mr. Khan has created and catalogued blows my mind (over 2,200 videos and counting). But, I'm concerned that teachers are going to turn these amazing resources into pop-and-play video lessons just to say they use them. I'm afraid that the power of the videos will be lost by just handing out an accompanying worksheet to fill in and get graded. I'm also afraid the availability of most curricula high schools offer will tempt teachers to sit back and stop teaching.

Again, I'm all for availability of resources, but there is also something to be said about learning from your teacher...not just a disembodied voice on YouTube.

So, I guess I should have titled this "How Do We Keep the Flipped Class From Becoming Ineffective?" It's not what Mr. Khan is saying that worries me...its what the people that are listening to him will ultimately do with this idea. What I would like to see is more everyday teachers getting the focus. There are hundreds of teachers in the US alone using a flipped class...but they don't get invited to do TED Talks or speak at keynote conventions.

I am convinced the power of flipping a classroom lies in the word-of-mouth transmission. We need teachers using a flipped model to step out and become more vocal about their methods. There are people like Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams (the guys I learned from) in Colorado, working very, very hard to promote the flipped classroom. We need to organize meetings, classroom visits, tutorials, webinars...anything that will help spread the word on how to effectively use podcasting in the classroom.

If you want more information on flipping your class, a good start is to visit The Flipped Class Network.

2 thoughts on “Why I Am Skeptical of Sal Khan

  1. There’s a great post at the Generation YES blog raising some interesting but somewhat different concerns about the Khan Academy. http://blog.genyes.org/index.php/2011/04/02/khanacademy/

    I’m skeptical of any panacea solution. I think flipping classrooms is one option among many. There have been inspiring and effective educators for generations long before the notion of flipping classrooms came along. It isn’t as if education was always terrible before we introduced technology and flipping. In fact how different is a flipped class from giving students an assignment to read a chapter of a textbook? The main difference is the medium of information delivery.

    I think flipping has a lot of potential. Students would benefit from having significant time to collaborate and work toward solving problems and using information in class. Plus despite what I said in the previous paragraph, the medium does make a huge difference. Having the ability to see and hear how to do something – not just read about it – raises the bar for information delivery. Plus, it makes a lot of sense to push the lower order tasks of remembering and understanding to situations out of the classroom so that the higher order tasks where the students need the most support can be worked through together.

    So I agree that flipping can work and work well, but it should not become a fad and be seen as THE way to teach. And I agree that it should not be blindly adopted so that the teacher just places the computer on the stage as the sage and makes class a study hall. Implementation of any strategy is everything.

    Very nice post! Thank you.

  2. FLIPpant remarks | And so it begins says:

    […] classroom involves letting the content be learnt at home and the mastery happen in the classroom. Brian Bennett himself (if I¬†paraphrase¬†correctly) has some reservations about what the student resources out […]

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