The Laugh of Khan: if this is the future, then classrooms really are fl*pped.
|You're going to make me, aren't you?|
The problem is- and it is a problem- that I frequently hear it hailed as the future of education/ the saviour of education/ the model for the 21st century century and so on. And I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.
The Khan Academy. Motto: 'It is our mission to accelerate learning for students of all ages,' which is the most boring thing I have ever read outside of the Radio Times. The website is unbearably groovy, giving me the impression that everyone at HQ wears Thinking Crocs and calls each other by their favourite emotion. Don't believe me? One of the staff members is Toby, the Director of Wellness. Toby, I'll point out, is a dog.
The videos themselves are astonishingly pedestrian. Having been ordered several times by enthusiasts to watch a few, I was expecting something game-changing. What I got was a short chalk 'n' talk video that reminded me of watching someone's interactive whiteboard without the pen moving. It was fine, and clear, but no more than that. And the humour was funereal. What, I wondered, was the fuss? It certainly wasn't the tutorials themselves.
|Give me a huge bag of money and a lobotomy, and I'll tell you.|
|Controversial saviour of 21st Century Learning|
The main USP of Khan is that his academy offers an unusual and fluid level of access to potential audiences. But that isn't enough to get kids learning. You see, in a real school, we have to teach children who don't want to learn, sometimes. Who couldn't give a shit about the Tudors, or trigonometry. In a real school we also offer easy access to learning, and expertise. But that doesn't mean they want it. His assertion that 'almost every four or five year old takes ownership of their learning,' is touching, but laughable. It's the view of a man who knows nothing about scaled-up education (for example, an ex-Hedge Fund analyst) or someone drowned in Rousseau or Montessori. I have many children who are starving to learn, and practically bite my hand off when I offer them a lesson. I have far more who would rather be texting unimaginative insults to their friends or playing on their X Box. Because they're kids.
|James Kirk's most feared adversary|
Do the Khan videos serve any purpose? Sure. They're better than nothing. I wish him luck, because if a child has the choice between no teacher in their remote village, and seeing one of his videos about spelling or maths, then let it be the latter. But that's the strategy of disaster relief, not world class education, which requires experts with whom you can interact, peers with who you can discuss, and people there to encourage and push you when you feel like giving up or succumbing to misunderstanding.
In other words, a real school. With real teachers. I know, it's radical, isn't it? Perhaps Bill Gates will give me a box of money to start one up.
Original TES article:http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6313486http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6313486
Meet Toby. https://www.khanacademy.org/about/the-team Then have a weep.