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#MTT2K: Teachers critique Khan Academy

Pretty much everyone has an opinion about learning, and the teaching that causes, impedes or just precedes it. Sal Khan famously just started making videos with the aim of helping people learn, without paying much attention to the hows and whys of pedagogy. That means that pretty much everyone has an opinion about Sal’s site, Khan Academy. Recently some teachers and educationalists held a competition for “the best video commentary on a Khan Academy video” to “encourage math educators to create videos that help their peers bring a critical eye to the Khan series”.

(So this post has been in our news queue since June, when the #mtt2k competition started. The winners were announced a fortnight ago. I let it sit there for so long because we make a point of not being about education here. We didn’t cover the whole “Is Algebra Necessary” thing because of the sheer inanity and tendentiousness of it all. The videos produced for #mtt2k are interesting, though, so here’s the post I should’ve written at least two weeks ago.)

A  couple of maths education professors in the States realised they had some opinions about Khan Academy, the “flipped classroom” site it seems everyone and their funding body thinks is the future of learning. They decided to present their thoughts in a style following Mystery Science Theatre 30001. To wit, the two of them put a Khan video on the projector and made sarky comments about it. Here’s that video:

Sal Khan saw that video and reacted pleasingly reasonably to it – he redid the video in question, taking care to respond to the criticisms levelled against it. And then Justin Reich and Dan Meyer announced a prize for the best video commentary on a Khan Academy video, called the #mtt2k prize. No doubt Twitter was involved at some point in the naming; I haven’t bothered reading that far.

Anyway, the winners were announced a couple of weeks ago. The Grand Prize winner was Michael Pershan’s What if Khan Academy was Made in Japan? It’s very good!

I’m surprised at how well Khan Academy accepted all this criticism, and how everyone seems to be genuinely motivated by the goal of making education better, above personal or institutional reputation. In fact, as I was writing this post, Vi Hart (now a Khan employee) announced YouTube Next EDU Guru, a (terribly uninterestingly named) development programme “providing training and mentoring to the next generation of educational content creators”, backed by Khan Academy and YouTube. If that’s your sort of thing, go and have a look. I don’t care. All this optimism and harmony is wearing me out.

Source: Math Teachers’ Parody Prompts Project To Critique Khan Academy’s Lessons on Slate

  1. Me neither. I hear it’s a big deal chez les Yankees []

4 Responses to “#MTT2K: Teachers critique Khan Academy”

  1. John Golden

    Thanks for covering this. Just wanted to mention that Dave and I are math ed profs at Grand Valley State University. Not nearly mature enough to be teaching high schoolers, as evidenced by the video.

  2. geonz

    … and he can afford to “take it well,” as in, say a few words and then turn around and persist in his claims that his videos are revolutionizing education, without bothering to fix the problems.


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