“[Khan Academy] can be used to allow the core skills develop at a student’s pace and only during a fraction of class time. This liberates the rest of class time for peer tutoring, higher level interactions between teachers and students, and truly creative projects … I want to be clear how deeply rooted this is in our core philosophy … The Khan Academy videos and software … freed me from lecturing or administering problem sets and allowed me to dive deep into the students’ projects (including their misconceptions on the core material).”
Khan makes a simple distinction: use personalized technology for skill acquisition during just a fraction of the total instructional time, then focus the rest of time on inquiry and project-based learning. Like Vision 3, this method does not necessarily save schools money, and like Vision 2, it requires a demanding and flexible set of skills from teachers — namely, to monitor personalized student progress and to design and implement high-quality projects. Unlike Vision 2 and Vision 3, it does not require students to have internet-ready devices all of the time. It is also more discipline-agnostic that Vision 2; while designed with math and science in mind, it is sufficiently general to apply to subjects like social studies and even art.
My first experience as a full-time teacher was at a school in Brazil that very crudely implemented Khan’s model. The first half of the day was traditional, rote instruction, and the second half of the day was much less structured, and often included expert adults (they were called “masters”) from the community who came to lead projects and activities. I had plenty of recommendations about how this particular school could have implemented the model more effectively, but I also really appreciated the balance between “convergent” thinking in the morning and “divergent” thinking in the afternoon. Some kids thrived more in the morning, and some more in the afternoon, but they almost all benefited from a regular dosage of both.
So to me, Khan’s vision of technology as merely an enabler of higher-order work is worth seriously considering. It is a vision that is sufficiently general to accommodate multiple subject areas and various interpretations, but more specific than Fiona O’Carroll’s “connecting peers to peers, peers with teachers with mentors, in a social learning collaborative experience, and also facilitating the learner to become the producer as well as the consumer.” Given my experience in Brazil, I think Khan’s vision is one that other teachers would generally support. And it would still create space for significant technology innovation, above and beyond the level of basic access. In short, it’s a vision that has potential of uniting a broad swath of stakeholders in education technology and reform.
And that concludes my look at competing visions of education technology. In my next and final post, I’ll try to wrap things up and leave readers with a few parting thoughts on this big and fascinating topic.