Rick Hess was right to question the simplistic hyping of Khan Academy’s online video lectures in this Straight Up post. But we think he’s only got it half-right: it’s less a matter of OVER-hyping than MIS-hyping the true potential of what Khan is doing. Just to summarize, Khan Academy offers short, engaging tutorials in math, science and other subjects and is experimenting with having kids use these during homework time, freeing up school time for problem solving and collaborative work – a concept commonly called “flipping.”
We’ve written here and here about the importance figuring out as a nation how to “extend the reach” of great teachers to more students, since great teachers accountable for student learning are the one “intervention” we know can close achievement gaps and raise the bar for all students. Khan Academy represents a potential “double-dose” of reach extension. The hype emphasizes one of the two “doses” – the potential of videos of a super-instructor like Khan to reach millions of kids, what we call “boundless” reach extension (smart instructional software is another version).
The second potential dose is less hyped, but probably more important for learning outcomes: the potential to enable the best in-person teachers to reach more students with personalized instruction. Large amounts of top teachers’ time could be freed up if kids were soaking up more knowledge and basic skills via Khan, smart software, or other vehicles. Excellent teachers could use that time to reach more kids. But homework flipping is not required (a good thing – see the end of our post). Kids can learn online at school, replacing teachers’ rote lectures and one-size-fits-few whole group learning.