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Laura Vanderkam
The Math of Khan « Back to Story

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Compliments to Ms. Vanderkam and the Journal for a reasonably balanced review of the Khan Academy and —constructivism— the fad of the day. As noted, we have an imperfect world full of imperfect teachers. And since no other country uses Common Core and constructivism, maybe we should realize that it may be a bad idea.
I use to watch Derek Muller videos, but after awhile I realized I wasn't learning anything. He doesn't seem to be interested in teaching. He just likes to show off. As for grades, mine never improved after watching his videos.

I think I'll give Khan Academy a try.
This is Awsome!
In the community college system, we focus on teaching over research. The Khan Academy is a fantastic resource, and an excellent inspiration to anyone who wishes to be a better educator.

I believe Tim's comment below says it all. (Congratulations, Tim!).

There are other technologies that can help as well in our attention deficit world .. RSAnimation, for example. Today's teacher needs to assess new tools and integrate them into their bag of tricks.

By the way, there is a typo in the article. There is no equation editor in the feedback section, but the correct equation is:
e^(-i*Pi)+1 = 0
(The minus sign is missing in the article)

Jim Johnston,
Professor,
Fanshawe College
Thanks for the article examining Khan Academy. Even though I'm 60 and retired I enjoy using the site - for brush up on electricity and magnetism that I need for hobby work, refreshers on selected topics in chemistry, or working on his Brain Teasers or odd items like Milankovitch cycles.
I was not aware of the pedagogical debate about constructivism versus lecture and drill. I'm sure either way works - certainly whole generations of students didn't suffer badly from lectures. I think if we looked at the best K-12 education (or equivalent) in foreign countries we would still find a lot of "drill, baby, drill" and parents who care about their kids' schoolwork.
I am 35 year old who barely finished high school. About 4 years ago I decided I wanted to be an engineer. Off to community college I went to enroll in pre algebra. 4 years and 12 semesters of math later I finished all of the prerequisites for a degree in electrical engineering and a math minor. There were a few professors along the way that were proficient teachers but most weren't. Sal Khan was the best one out of all of them. He can teach the unteachable. He is a master in his approach to teaching. I challenge all of you "non math people" to watch a Khan Academy video on vector calculus and I guarantee you will get it. Thanks Sal, I owe you big time.
Neva, you're pretty close but not quite on the mark.

It's not that there's an institutional bias against good teachers. It's an institutional indifference to teaching skill and in a way, that's much more damaging.

If there were a bias against teaching skill that would be difficult to obscure and impossible to justify. But by simply ignoring teaching skill there's nothing to oppose. There's no there, there.

In the absence of an overt opposition to teaching skill on the part of the public education system it's just too easy to assume that skill *is* valued.

It isn't.

No teacher gets a job because of their brilliant technique and admirable results and no teacher keeps their jobs for those reasons. Similarly, the ed school that produces the best teachers gets no credit for that capability; their graduates don't command a higher starting salary then the bottom end graduates of the bottom rung ed school.

Having done a slew of Khan Academy videos, I don't find Sal Khan to be a superior lecturer. He's confident, enthusiastic and keeps up a quick pace but as far as unveiling the underlying factors, not so much.

What elevates his lectures above those of his pedantic superiors though are the limitations imposed by Youtube.

Constrained to about ten minutes Sal had break his lectures up into bite-sized (no pun intended) chunks. This approach works wonderfully well but is beyond the reach of classic lecturers since the lecturer's time is more valuable then that of the students. That being the case, classic lecture formats aggregate attendees and set lecture times and lengths according to the schedule of the lecturer.

Sal Khan can simply ignore those factors when planning his lectures so the economics of lectures are stood on their head; the lecturer's "time" is cost-free and it's immaterial whether one person's "attending" a lecture or a million.

Then there's testing about which *far* too little's been discussed.

To go with bite-sized lectures there are bite-sized tests. Feedback's immediate so a student can replay the lecture and retake the test until they get it right. At the same time a teacher can be viewing the student's progress and be aware immediately of a downturn in performance.

Those tests even provide feedback to improve the lectures.

If a given lecture is a stumbling block for a disproportionate number of students then a red flag's raised. Perhaps the lecture ought to be redone or broken up. Perhaps the tests aren't as good as they ought to be. In any case, attention's focused on a problem area.

Then there's the graphical representation of progress through courses...
Opposition to excellent teaching is the reason our educational system cannot improve until the university resumes teaching teachers how to teach, instead of dreaming up constant experiments that keep our young ignorant.

Imagine! Educators ranting against success in teaching!!! Small wonder that we have to home school our youth to give them a chance to thrive.

Ignore the tenured & their graduate students searching for a revolutionary thought to leave their mark on the system, and continue to inspire our youth!

Curiosity and eagerness to learn must not continue to be wasted!!

I think it's obvious that we have enough ideas on how to significantly improve education that the host of ideas available can collectively bring America's students back to the top. However a lot of these potential reforms wouldn't be necessary if parents were more involved in their childs education and if schools were made safe for kids (permanently expel disruptive students, pot-heads, gang members, etc). I like what Mr. Khan and others are doing to change the status-quo but the fact is the unions will fight for decades if need be in every single state and municipality if it means less teachers with jobs or if teachers have to do more work and take on more responsibility. By all means this country needs people like Mr. Khan but all I'm saying is that parental involvement and making schools safe for kids can be accomplished now and without the expensive and lengthy battles with teachers unions that will ensue when reforms like these are being discussed.
One flaw. the program is terribly addicting and my doctor said I should get some rest.. Thanks again to CITY for the revelation. Actually Khan's Academy was added to my favorites some months ago, but I took the whirlwind tour last night for the first time.
Automata, T. Logan.
Kahn's new technological teaching method will end many a bureaucrats career. And since the government pays teachers, they are bureaucrats, and they have the same follow-the-rules mentality of other bureaucrats.

No wonder they argue against Kahn; their jobs are threatened.

Not tomorrow, but in a few years, teachers will be few and far between. I hope some teachers see that coming and change careers.
In the Los Altos School District Khan Academy is not used to 'flip' the classroom, nor has our district considered Khan consider to be a tool to allow us to increase class size. It HAS proven to be a fantastic tool for differentiating and enriching instruction. While I could imagine a class of 40 with tools like Khan academy to be better than a class of 40 without such aides, that viepoint is no more valid than deriding Khan as drill and kill. Schools are not factories where the goal is to increase output per employee. As a country we need to improve outcomes for students and provide a more rich education, not produce automatons.
David
I recall when we last met, we spoke a little about learning math. I thought that you would enjoy this article on the subject.
V.
Dr. Sanford Aranoff March 12, 2012 at 11:05 AM
I hope they stress explaining the principles and logic, instead of simply saying how to do certain things. Here are some books stressing teaching principles and logic:

Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better

Rational Thinking, Government Policies, Science, and Living