Parents, what's that whooshing sound I hear? Could it be ... the winds o' change blowing through the education world? Why yes, I believe it is. Behold, Khan Academy! The platform that is about to turn school upside-down. Maybe.
Sal Khan and his video-based educational nonprofit Khan Academy were profiled on 60 Minutes on Sunday. My first take was: What the hell is this, YouTube math?!? Will it work? We have questions -- so we did some digging around. Here's what we know so far.
How much does it cost? It's free. All you need is a computer with Internet access.
What's in it? Over 3,000 educational videos covering k-12 math as well as science and a bit of the humanities. Each video is around 10 minutes long.
Students get a custom, self-paced learning tool, a "help system," and a custom profile that lets them track their progress.
Teachers, tutors, and parents can see students' work in detail and get real-time reports for a whole class and loads of feedback that can help them create "targeted intervention." In other words, help figuring out exactly how to help each student with exactly what they need.
Will it replace teachers? Not yet. That would take decades of public policy debate, and even then, I really don't think it's meant to replace teachers, exactly.
Who likes it? Bill Gates, who has donated millions to the nonprofit via the Gates Foundation -- and he also makes his own kids use it. Google has promised $2 million for Khan to develop more curriculum. And over 4 million students have used the site, though I really can't say if they "like" it.
Who doesn't like it? A lot of educators are skeptical. They say it's a superficial approach to learning that focuses only on rote learning. You can read some criticism at Hacker Education and more at Wired Academic.
My take: Some teachers are going to see these tools and want to run with them because it enhances the approach they're already taking. Other teachers (probably those who take a more progressive approach to education) will want to skip it altogether. I think if you have a student who is struggling, especially in math, it's probably worth a try. You never know -- different approaches work for different kids. And you don't have much to lose, since it's free.
Is Khan Academy something you think you'd like to try? Do you think it's effective or do you think it's just a techy gimmick?
Image via Khan Academy