Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Khan Academy is the New Encyclopedia Britannica


I love Khan Academy. It is such a great resource! But I have been wondering about it for a few months. 

Khan Academy's website states: "We're a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere." They do a great job of providing lessons and they even provide some tools to track learning but do they or can they truly provide an education?

I am more inclined to think of it as a new type of encyclopedia.  

When I was growing up I would spend hours with our World Book Encyclopedias. I would browse and read and I think that I learned quite a bit.  Pretty much everything that I needed to reference was in there and it was one of the most valuable resources I had access to at the time....AND I liked it.  But I don't think it provided my education.

Khan Academy is a great encyclopedia of mini-lessons.  Very comprehensive, especially in the area of math. All the way from basic arithmetic to advanced mathematics, it provides a valuable resource we can use to learn math. It is continually growing and I am sure that other areas will be just as robust in the future.  But, lets not confuse it with an education.

Khan Academy is a great example of where we are in education.  There is great content and there is great access to content, but in what context are we putting the content and access?

Wikipedia says "education in its general sense is a form of learning in which knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, research, or simply through autodidacticism"(learning on your own).  Learning on your own is where we get hung up on innovation. Everyone thinks that the future of education is self-directed learning.  If we rely too heavily on self-direction, significant gaps in society's collective intelligence will appear.  

As we move further into the 21st century we tend to believe there are easy replacements to our education system. Something we can just switch to.  I think some might believe that Khan Academy is  a good example one of those replacements. We have to be careful that we don't replace an education with a reference tool.

I think Sugata Mitra rightly points out that there is a need for encouragement.  Some kind of intrinsic motivation needs to happen in self-drected learning.  However, to believe that one simply places the responsibility for learning into the hands of small children and walks away will not yield the results needed for a full education.  We need that mentor piece.  The granny that is in awe of the child's learning.

I still love it. 

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