No Khan Do

Salman Khan makes educational videos, lots of educational videos, using a simple technique--he draws out his thoughts on a "blackboard," while he thinks aloud. Much like someone unwrapping a problem on a napkin or on an old slate blackboard.

Bill Gates has practically adopted him, and the ed reformerati love him. He's an MIT grad, he's multicultural, he's an ex-hedge fund manager (maybe his biggest cachet, a sad reflection of our culture), and he's kinda cute. In an Ivy League rules kind of way. (What do I know, I used to be a stevedore....)

Sal Khan helps kids learn how to regurgitate what we already have in textbooks, without reading the textbooks, a video CliffsNotes for the now generation. He allows the worst parts of education to be efficiently streamlined for ingestion, about as effective and useful as cod liver oil. It works, but it's over-rated.

In the end, I think it's a student's ability to pause, rewind, and rehash what Khan says that makes him so valuable, and which makes his brand so sad--really, really sad. I'm a teacher, and a pretty good one. We need to pay attention to what our kids don't know.

If 21st century learning boils down to a hyped up version of what we did back in the 1930's, we're screwed. If Bill Gates is the valued judge of what education means (go learn his history), we're screwed. If we cannot do better in the classroom than Mr. Khan can do with his SmoothDraw and Camtasia (or what any of us can do on the back of a cocktail napkin), we're screwed.

Relax, we're not screwed (yet). Be better than the videos, not a hard task, unless regurgitation floats your boat.

Frank Noschese destroys Mr. Khan in a series of blog posts with far more sophistication than me.
Blackboard via Shorpy.

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