I found Khan Academy a few years ago when I was taking my math certification subject area test. I had forgotten how to multiply matrices. Sounds ridiculous for a math teacher, right? Well, it was my reality. Of course, right away, I Googled “multiplication of matrices”. Sal Khan’s video on this was one of the first things to pop up. I was excited that I found a video and not a written explanation because I am a very visual learner. I watched the video and the information came flooding back to me. I actually understood it better this time than the first. For me, it was important that he was talking and writing as a teacher would be if they were standing right in front of me. I started to look around his You Tube channel and found that there were many more videos. I occasionally referenced his videos when I wanted to be more clear on a topic or to find an alternative way to explain something to my own students. You might say that Sal and I were best friends, HA! I kept our “friendship” under wraps. I wasn’t purposely not telling anyone, I just never thought to share my new experience. Fast forward a few years and I am watching a 60 minutes broadcast as I normally do on Sunday nights and there he was, my friend! I was only familiar with Sal Khan’s You Tube Channel and they were talking about a whole different program that you can use in your classroom! I thought I was in heaven. I was finally able to share my best friend!! The next day I went into school and bragged to our director how awesome this guy is. She took a look at the story from 60 minutes and was equally impressed. We immediately applied to be a Khan Academy pilot school (still waiting to see if we made it) and started using a few videos in class. Now here we are in summer and I have plenty of time to kill so I decided to do more research about his program and even started a few students on Khan Academy. I was surprised when I found some negative attention for Sal Khan.
One of the most preposterous accusations is that technology will replace technology. Yes, we have had a multitude of lay offs in education and our system is suffering because if it, but that is certainly not Sal Khan’s fault, it is the economy that we are living in. He is producing educational videos to HELP teachers, not replace them.
By now, unless you are living under a rock, you have heard that Bill Gates has given Khan Academy a very generous donation. Why is this under attack? A billionaire gives a donation to a non-profit because he believes in the vision. Sure, Bill Gates has his opinions on education and some of these opinions you may not agree with but Gates is not giving Khan a donation and saying he must subscribe to his belief system. He is giving Khan a donation in order to proceed in KHAN’s vision. Gates does not dictate education policy or reform. He is simply willing to lay down a few bucks to see where Sal Khan can go with this program.
The biggest complaint, Khan Academy is only exists in a lecture environment. Students need more than this. They need hands on experience. I wholeheartedly agree! The reason I feel that we should not attack Sal Khan on this yet is because, his program is not completed. That is what Gates gave him the money for!! Maybe, just maybe, Khan will give tools to teachers to use to provide this type of experience. Let’s give the man a chance before we decide he isn’t what math education needs.
The bottom line of Khan Academy is it isn’t finished. Right now, I cannot use it as my sole curriculum in my classroom. The videos and activities have too many holes in them. It doesn’t offer a student the full picture of an Algebra 1 class, or any other class. One day, maybe it will. For now, I will use Khan Academy in my classroom for diagnostics, drills, reviews, and enrichment. I teach in a blended classroom with multiple levels. I teach Algebra 1 at the same time I teach Geometry and Algebra 2. Khan Academy is the answer to many of my problems as a teacher. You don’t have to believe in the program, but I do ask that you think beyond a normal mainstream Algebra 1 class where the teacher is dedicated to teaching that particular class all period.
All in all, I don’t think the question should be if Khan Academy revolutionizes math education, it should be how do WE revolutionize math education.
Most of my commentary was a discussion to go with The Wrath Against Khan: Why Some Educators are Questioning Khan Academy, by Audrey Watters.