October 20, 2012

The difference between Khan and Austin

I get it. Will is has a point about the Khanifcation of Education. But as I expressed

…after watching a few and even knowing one of them, Paul Andersen, I was under the impression that most of these are classroom teachers. At least many of them are. So what's the problem? I get it, you're worried about Gates' vision of Khan but I think Khan himself argues against his work replacing teachers. I say, be wary of the business model approach but also let's stop crapping on people, teachers or not, who just want to share. If we keep this up, we're going to be discouraging new folks from sharing lest we check their credentials at the door.

These gurus are teachers and they're doing what many have us have been doing for years, sharing what they know. The fact that many of the things they're sharing are directly aligned with many curricula shouldn't make them any more of a teacher than a textbook should be seen as a teacher. They're resources. And while the video format is more compelling and often a richer learning experience, they don't replace a great teacher. They might replace a lousy one, but not a great one.  But we need to be very careful in our criticisms. Both Will and I have shared many times that the world is now full of teachers and one of our roles as classroom teachers is to help our students find the best ones and craft a learning environment that fosters our passions and also exposes us to new and unintended ideas. 

My learning project last year taught me something very important about the difference between Kahn academy and the personal relationship between a teacher and their students. Listen to the first 3 seconds of this video.

I explored many videos online to teach me to play guitar and many of them were useful. I know lots of people who have learned to play the guitar and other things simply from watching random youtube videos. The difference between all those guitar videos and this one is that none of the videos said, ""Sup Dean?" Those two words are a big deal to me. They represent the fact that Austin's video was personal, directed to me, addressing my specific needs. Playing guitar is a skill that likely can be learned without a traditional classroom teacher but the added value of a personal relationship between a teacher, in this case Austin, a 15 year old student from Connecticut and a student, an old man from Saskatchewan, made all the difference in the world. 

So yes, I get it, there's a danger in simplifying education to a series of online video tutorials but these folks that are being hailed as Edtech gurus are well meaning folks looking to share. They will never replace the personal relationship that enables a teacher to support learners as a mentor but they do play a huge role in providing useable resources that can be used to foster learning. Fight those wanting to dumb down education to a youtube channel but don't dismiss those willing to share their learning. Those are two very different conversations.

PS. Will, I still love you.