Friday, March 18, 2011

The flip side and Khan Academy

There has been a lot of discussion in recent months on the concept of flipping the classroom. This means that instead of lesson time being devoted to the teacher going over the theory and then the students practicing at home, the lectures are watched at home on the net whilst classroom time is used for practice and discussion..

One of the most amazing success stories in net-based education is Khan Academy. Salman Khan started out by recording some maths tuition for his younger cousins on YouTube and noticed that other people also liked them. Now the website has over 2100 video lessons, mostly in maths, physics, chemistry and biology and has gained world attention, including the praise of big names like Bill Gates.

By offering all the explanatory lectures on the net Khan Academy allows teachers to flip the classroom; letting students watch the lectures at home and using classroom time for interaction and practice. Khan Academy also offers students plenty of exercises with the principle that you keep practicing until you get it all right. Teachers can let student go through the video material, track the class's progress and see exactly who is having trouble with what.

I know many who are a bit wary of net-based learning and wonder if this type of material is completely sound, whether there is a hidden agenda or whether this is the first step to dispensing with teachers completely. The answers seem clear however. If this material was not academically sound then it wouldn't be used by millions. The whole concept is the result of sheer enthusiasm and grassroots pressure without any commercial interests. Finally, the role of the teacher is enhanced in that he/she can now concentrate on really helping and tutoring instead of smply lecturing.

Watch the lecture below and judge for yourself but at the same time read an excellent post by Maryna Badenhorst, To flip or not to flip.She har drawn up a list of pros and cons on flipping the classroom and many of the drawbacks are well worth considering. In particular, who deletes obsolete lectures on the net? Outdated and inaccurate material will lie there forever and it's important that teachers revise the playlists they recommend to students. It is also important to stress that this method is just one of many ways to teach a subject and that a flexible mix is needed. Blended learning.


  1. This is really a powerful blow to our minister of education's latest idea of "more teacher time on the pulpit".

  2. Exactly. I wonder if he watches TED at all.