Thursday, October 25, 2012


CC BY Some rights reserved by cogdogblog
It's a true sign that you have become famous when your name gets used to describe a process. That's what's happened to Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, one of the most successful online learning sites  of the last few years. Today the site offers thousands of short and clear videos explaining all the concepts used in high school maths, physics, chemistry and biology with an in-built self-test framework that enables you to move up levels and gain rewards. It's the prime motor behind the flipped classroom concept and has won considerable media interest worldwide.

Will Richardson writes about The "Khanification" of education where non-teachers like Salman Khan are taking the lead in offering online education. He wonders that if non-teachers can have this kind of impact then what is the role of the trained teacher? The challenge of khanification is that the trained teacher's role has to be reassessed and redefined and that such a discussion is very timely.

"In many ways, I’ve been pushed by Sal Khan’s lack of teaching experience more than by his videos. But now this growing acceptance of non-teachers as teachers of content and skills (and, in some cases, better teachers of content and skills) poses an ever greater challenge for us to redefine the profession. And it circles back around to that question that I pose in the book: what is our value as classroom teachers in a world suddenly filled with teachers?"

There's an important distinction here; between instruction and teaching. As Tony Bates pointed out recently (My summer paranoia: computers will replace teachers in higher education), instruction is easily automated/recorded whereas teaching is a pedagogical process that requires human contact and interaction. Both sides are needed in education but maybe we need different types of educators: the experts and enthusiasts who are good at instruction and the teachers who provide the context, guidance, mentorship, depth and discussion. Teachers have so far been expected to do both tasks but maybe we're seeing a new division of labour. The teacher is not being replaced by a computer but the computer is helping to make the difference between teaching and instruction clearer.

1 comment:

  1. I have a concern that the people who are producing the videos are not aware of the pedagogical content knowledge needed to help people really understand what is going on. I reviewed several Khan videos about statistics in
    We need to be careful of the credentials of the producers of videos.