Friday, March 18, 2011

Khan part 2

I have an obvious criticism of my previous post about the guy who made lectures available on line as part of this new "revolution" in education:
Does he think that every kid will watch 6 hours of lecture video at home and go to school?

The other issue regards what the role of a teacher actually is. A teacher is there to provide guidance and help and knowledge. The teacher has not only subject matter knowledge, but experience in teaching to a wide array of students. They know what works, how it works, and they have time to perfect their craft. Often times the delivery is just as important as the messenger. So by using a different teachers' videos, you are adding a challenge for the student to learn the same material from two different people. This could be an advantage in some instances, providing perspective on problem solving skills.

But the reasons that Khan cited for why this system worked were somewhat enlightening:
1. They could pause and rewind at will wasting less of my time.
2. They could go slowly through the material taking time for mastery.
3. They could work around exploring the material.

Well, I am not sure I want students to forge their own path through the material not should I expect younger learners to do this on their own. As for the other two, we are to blame for that. The standardized testing contributes, and so does the need to finish school in a year, so to speak.

Perhaps this is just evidence that we are caving to the social norms of this generation. Immediate gratification. Or it means that we recognize that we have too many different types of learners mixed into our classrooms. Does this mean we should segregate them? Smart kids go to advanced school, while slower kids go to slower schools? But really we already do this by separating the kids within the school into what I knew as "tracks". I was in the college track and even the name was daunting for kids not in it. They immediately knew what it meant to NOT be in that track.

I will bet other kids feel that same way with regard to funding, especially in the inner city and probably in the rural areas too where the smartest kids stick out like a sore thumb.

I believe Europe has a very interesting approach to education. I have only heard about the process around pre-college level: At some point in high school you are deemed worthy to attend college. Others are sent to develop a trade or craft I presume through some sort of apprenticeship. College though is just the first step. After 2 years you are selected into a major based on your math and science skills. But the principle in college is simple. You have 1 year. Show up to class or don't. Your choice. There is 1 test at the end. Pass and you advance.

The demonizing of teachers and the lack of funds mentality we pass on to our kids is showing up in the classroom. The American dream is no longer attainable for the masses. It is for the smart, or the big risk takers, or the already wealthy. This too is entering the classroom. The process of education is suffering from societal apathy. It is also suffering from "it is their job to teach you" or outsourcing of responsibility mentality. It is the students' job to learn.

I know this country has an outsource mentality, but we can not outsource education to be delivered outside the classroom. The outsource mentality is that someone else will do the grunt work ... the jobs no one wants to do. We don't have that problem in the classroom. Teachers like teaching. Ask them. They will tell you and in the process will invariably mention: "well, its not for the money". And they are correct. They enjoy the process as much as the material. They want their students to be successful.

At the least Khan is identifying issues in the classroom and pointing out that teachers are overworked. At best he is providing some help for teachers. Whether this works for the student, I think, depends on parents.

I am surprised that no one has investigated how well tutor businesses are doing. Their business was booming in my former "affluent" educational community. We could really learn a lot by looking at the whole picture (public, private schools, tutor companies, individual tutors) instead of only addressing portions of the problem; and only then by applying band aids to stop the hemorrhage.