Khan Academy: Rise and Backlash

This collection gives some context to the ongoing media coverage of the Khan Academy. At first almost exclusively heralded as having the potential to be an education game-changer, the videos—and Salman Khan himself—have recently come under fire for what some say is questionable pedagogy.

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  1. According to its website, the Khan Academy offers a library of over 3,300 videos that cover K-12 math and science topics, with the goal of "changing education for the better."
  2. In an article for the Wall Street Journal back in April of 2011, Salman Khan, the hedge-fund manager turned Khan Academy founder, wrote, "It is often said that technology makes modern life less personal, but in this case, it has allowed teachers to take a big step toward humanizing their instruction."
  3. This Education Week story, which was in our top 5 education technology stories for 2011, explains how schools are using Khan's videos to experiment with the "flipped" classroom model. 
  4. The Khan Academy model intrigued many educators because of its potential to transform the way school systems select and deliver curricula.
  5. In an interview with Education Week, Salman Khan discussed the evolution of Khan Academy and its potential for changing K-12 education through "customized" learning.
  6. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology picked up on the idea by Khan Academy and began releasing its own science and engineering videos for K-12 students and teachers.
  7. In June, Dave Coffey and John Golden, associate professors from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., created a video that critiqued the pedagogy in a Khan Academy video, poked fun at the Khan Academy in general, and pointed out areas where pedagogy could be improved. The video went viral.
  8. Here is the video created by Dave Coffey and John Golden:

  9. The Khan Academy responded by pulling the math video in question and posting two separate videos implementing the changes suggested by Coffey and Golden.
  10. Education Week opinion blogger Justin Reich and educator Dan Meyer launched a contest inviting others to create critiques of Khan Academy videos and post them to YouTube.
  11. An article on the controversy in the Chronicle of Higher Education prompted further back-and-forth on math pedagogy between Khan and Meyer.
  12. Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss also highlighted viewpoints, including Khan's, on the instructional value of the videos. 
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