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Can Salman Khan’s vision become a reality in tomorrow’s schools?

October 10, 2011

Recently, I watched Salman Khan’s ten minute video on Edutopia called, Big Thinkers: Salman Khan on Liberating the Classroom for Creativity.  In the video he explains his vision for how Khan Academy videos can replace lecture-style teaching, allowing the teacher to free him or herself up to implement project-based learning in the classroom.  Watch his explanation and see what you think.

These are some questions on my mind that need resolution before I would be willing to share his vision.

  1. If school is a place for project-based learning, what type of homework should we give students?
  2. Khan suggests that meaningful project-based learning is an important part of a student’s education, so what is the ultimate purpose of lecture style, online instruction at home?
  3. In real project-based learning, students are unraveling their confusion about concepts in their collaborative groups with teachers as facilitator, so do we really think that students will go home and listen to Khan’s lectures?
  4. Is Khan admitting that the online lectures he delivers are not engaging students’ creative thinking skills or their desire to tap into their creative energy?   (it is implied by the title of the video)
  5. What is the value of face-to-face teaching when a student runs up against concepts that are hard to understand?  Reading a student’s body language, asking probing questions, trying new avenues for explanation, etc.  These seem important.  Khan is unable to utilize these approaches in his program, at least not now.

Clearly, Khan’s work has taken hold in such a way that his academy is fulfilling the needs of some students.  The ultimate goal of education should be to fulfill the needs of all students and differentiate the instructional methods to accomplish the goal.  In that sense, there is a place for Khan Academy!  However, I am not sure that students from large numbers of schools are going to be logging in to his academy for lecture-style instruction while their classroom teachers engage them in creative problem-based learning.  That seems rather naive to think it will play out that way.

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