This is Sal here. I wanted to respond directly on the author's page, but they seem to be having a problem taking comments.
The reason why I make history videos is that many people I know (many of whom are quite educated) don't even have a basic scaffold of world events in their minds (or the potential causality between events). Most American high school and college students would find it difficult to give even a summary of the Vietnam War or the Cuban Missile Crisis. Many of these people have sat through years of traditional history classes (taught through state-mandated books by "experts"). Even more worrying is many experts who have taken one side or another of a historical issue and view their viewpoints as facts (this is the tone of most history books).
If the author really watched my videos, he would see that I start most of them telling the listener to be skeptical of anything I tell them or anyone tells them; that no matter how footnoted something is, in the end it is dependent on people's accounts--the people who weren't killed--which are subject to bias (no matter how well-intentioned). Very few history books or professors do this. If anything, they create a false sense of certainty.
As for the "one voice" issue, I don't see how a guy making digestible videos that inform and encourage skepticism (on YouTube where anyone else can do the same) are more dangerous than state-mandated text books. I don't see how lectures that are open for the world to scrutinize (and comment about on YouTube and our site) are more dangerous than a lone teacher or professor who can say whatever they like to their classrooms with no one there to correct or dispute them.
Finally, there is nothing I would like to see more than other teachers/professors/experts adding their voice to the mix. Rather than wasting energy commenting on other people's work with pseudo-intellectual babble, why don't they produce their own videos and post them on YouTube? If someone can produce 20 videos that seem decent and want to do more as part of the Khan Academy, we'll point our audience at them. If our students respond, we'll figure out a way that they can potentially make it a career.
I don't need all the facts, but I do need an understanding of why certain historical events (or any other topic) are important. Having that latticework in my mind allows me to kickstart learning the details, and synthesizing all that information.
Criticism of various learning models will always be around. Its important to listen to it, but at the same time, these ideas are coming straight out of people's heads - about what they "think" is a better approach. On the other hand, Khan Academy's success is a direct function of its wide-spread adoption. If it didn't work as well as, if not better than, what people learn in a classroom, people simply wouldn't watch. Not only that, I'm sure feedback (positive and negative) from actual users is much more useful than from someone ingrained in the old model (and most likely views himself as teacher only, and not a learner).
I'm an avid user of the site and I see this all the time:
Sal- "In the last video, I seemed to have confused people about so and so.. let me clarify that now." The videos and site are developing iteratively, and they have data to understand what people need/having trouble with.
Please continue to teach in this manner. Anyone who grew into, and succeeded in an academic environment (as virtually all professors have) will not see how transformative KA is for people who do not learn that way.
Precisely! One of the things that appeals to me about your education model is its democracy. Anyone who wants to learn and commit the time for it is free and welcome to it.
The Education Profession has managed to create a number of gates and gatekeepers in an apparent attempt to control access to education and to control whom learns what. That model was somewhat shaken when the printing press was invented and then a little more with digital media and the internet. It maintains control through the accreditation business and the granting of degrees.
My kids have taken some online college courses and it appears that few traditional universities really understand how the make the most of online media, because those courses were so poorly conceived and executed. The Khan Academy is a stark and shining contrast to those.
A college degree remains, as the equivalent of yesteryear's high school diploma, the ticket to getting employed in many of the better jobs. It is my hope that someday there will be an open, free (or extremely low cost), accredited college degree program available to everyone who has access to internet!
I think it is awesome that a guy like Sal is the "rock star" of the future.
I have a Ba in history and agree with the criticism raised in the article, however I also think it is a problem that many people dont even have a basic scaffold of world events.
History is about making choices, what to say and what not to say, and the way to say it, it is not merely about being familiar with major world events. What is a major world event? Lets go with WW2 , then when you dig into WW2, what would you say is a major event? Fall of France, D-Day, Fall of Yugoslavia, or Stalingrad? Whatever you choose you exclude another event, your choices influences the further storytelling. You have to make choices.
The solution for this problem is very difficult, since you have to begin somewhere in your story-telling, and even when choosing where to begin you take a side. And that side is with you for the rest of the story telling.
History is not merely about events it is also about connecting dots, you can begin by choosing any event and really digging into it until you begin to see the wider picture. Going the other way around is far more difficult, when you attempt to give an overview of the wider picture. You get exactly what you would if you picked 2m wide brushes to draw on a wall.
My suggestion instead is to pick really small pencils and draw thinner lines, introduce the students to any event in world history and work out from there. Only then the students could enjoy seeing (and make themselves) the wider connections.
A teacher in a classroom faces the same problems as you (and more, imagine 20 teenagers), so dont worry about it. :)
Its interesting to see your reaction to the criticism, especially that of being defensive (understandable first reaction). But if you look at the article objectively there are a lot of opportunities it creates for Khan Academy to be even more impactful than what it is today.
You are certainly a great teacher, orator and have the understanding of math and finance. However, one person cannot be good at grasping, understanding and teaching ALL subjects. Thats where you have an opportunity to enlist the best the the brightest teachers from US to create videos for you on subjects they are most passionate about. Why not create a video contest to identify in a democratic way who are these top teachers??
Also, just to answer your point about a teacher's ability to put 20 video online rather than writing criticism. The thing is that you have already gained a lot of fame and respect for your work and its a very difficult thing to do. Its unreasonable to expect a teacher to gain the same level of viewership now like you have. Thats why I say that take the interest that you have developed around you to uplift other teachers to bring up education as a 'whole'.
Otherwise, Kahn Academy will remain a closet work... Just my two cents...
Thanks for doing what you do. I think you're exploring what will become a incredibly valuable piece of the puzzle, especially for those without the advantages of a western public school system.
I'm amazed at the breadth of subjects that you cover in your videos. Do you have to undertake a lot of research before covering a subject, particularly in math and science? Thanks for helping me get through Linear Algebra.
Thank you for all your hard work, we all appreciate it.
The real issue I come out with from that article is not the content of your courses but the danger of potentially having one uniform history curriculum for the whole world. You can still be the most unbiased and thorough teacher and this will still remain a real issue. The more subjective a subject, the more different ways it must be taught.
Unfortunately, time and attention are scarce. The best you can do is to impart the understanding that all historical accounts are biased, and balance that bias by encouraging your students to research opposite points of view on their own time.
I was taught both Haitian History from Haiti and from France almost at the same time when I was in school (I was in a French distance learning program in Haiti). The Haitian account was glorifying its heroes and the French account was attenuating the magnitude of the first successful Black revolution. I really appreciated your account of the Haitian revolution since your personal bias was much less impregnated in your video.
Don't stop doing what you are passionate about.
Of course I hope for the best, and expanding seems reasonable at this time.
Thank you for emphasizing this. It seems that some have forgotten that history is written by the victors.
I have many more than 20 videos made - but I find my students use them more frequently when they are created to coach them through specific problems. They use them as often as they visit me in office hours. I've also just completed a series of 35 videos for a textbook publisher that walk first year college students through very difficult chemistry problems that use multiple concepts. These are not short single topic videos so we will see how useful they are in practice. They are meant to help a chemistry student learn to think like a chemist and the jury is out as to whether that can be taught by video.
I would be happy to talk about helping with your effort in science, specifically in chemistry. I am sure there is much to be done and surprisingly, not that many working to create more content using this medium. A mix that can also provide real-time Q & A is particularly interesting. I can be reached at fletcher at uidaho dot edu. Here is an example of the kind of vid that students use to help them solve a specific problem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49k88Alfh88
The only thing novel about Khan Academy is accessibility. Its the same old teacher-centered lectures we've endured for the past hundred years, with a somewhat more charismatic instructor.
Most of the criticism I've seen of your work isn't "pseudo-intellectual babble," its merely pointing out what I've stated above, and that it isn't in line with what research tells us about how students learn. Your challenge for your critics to produce their own videos misses the point entirely.
I happen to think your videos are fine overall, and while I find some specific science content oversimplified and focus too much on mechanics rather than conceptual understanding, it serves very well for student review. For learning new content, however, I happen to believe that there is a better way.
Please view the video below:
Effectiveness of Science Videos
While you're there, consider his videos a part of your final challenge.
I am very interested in your thoughts about his approach to instructional videos.
You're entitled to your opinions. Our #1 priority is the millions of students who use our content and testify that it is measurably helping them. And to be clear, they aren't deluding themselves--read our comments and you'll see student after student using our content to rock any assessment thrown at them. The data we're seeing in pilot classrooms is showing students performing several grade levels ahead. We're seeing remedial students using Khan Academy software leap frogging non-remedial students. Very savvy school districts (with super demanding parents) that understand results are rolling us out on a district-wide basis.
As for conceptual understanding, this is what the Khan Academy is all about. We have multiple videos on proofs and conceptual understanding that are never touched on in most classrooms. I won't make a lesson unless I can explain the why and/or why it is intuitive.
As for your "research", what is it tangibly doing for students? Rather than talk, we think we should build, learn and iterate.
I simply ask you to watch the video, and respond to it. I think it makes valid points, and it agrees with the research I've read on how students learn (Available for free here: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10126).
If you truly want to build, and learn (which I certainly want to), don't flippantly dismiss critiques. Just because all forms of effective teaching don't go viral on YouTube doesn't mean that they're invalid.
I think all this criticism just further reiterates how amazing Khan Academy is. Truth is that their will never be an educational system that everyone thinks is perfect. We are all too unique and absorb information in different ways. The fact that people are talking about Khan Academy at this global scale is amazing and only further amplifies it's importance, last time I checked open source education doesn't generate too much press. So instead of seeking perfection, which is unattainable, we should focus more on actually doing the littles things to make knowledge more widespread.
To that end Khan Academy has no comparable peers. Critics can talk all they want about learning theory and this and that, but fact is that Khan Academy is really helpful to a lot of people.
If you think you see a flaw in Sal's approach and can do better, than just do it and we'll see if people like it. You're into education theory, great. Keep reading and writing about education. Sal Khan is into doing, into helping people learn so that they can improve their own lives. Kindly get out of his way.
The biggest flaw in the "Effectiveness of Science" (EoS) video is that it criticizes khanacademy videos by showing that vastly inferior videos don't work. Khan videos are good because they make it easy to think: there are no distractions, just a blackboard and an intelligent voice "in your head" guiding you through the problem domain. In the EoS video, the failing videos try to teach physics by featuring the face of a talking girl with a guy juggling in the background. He might as well give his subjects a physics book and turn them loose in a sports bar to study while following NCAA basketball. Neither method is a good one for learning physics. What's sad is that the maker of the EoS video is not just some crank on the internet, but apparently a newly minted PhD in education who will likely end up teaching teachers or running a school system and it's obvious that despite his vast "education" this guy has no clue how to recognize good teaching.
I have seen some of Khan's physics videos. I can tell you from years in the classroom, students exposed to those videos as an initial learning experience will change absolutely none of their misconceptions. None. Not one, no learning, just a warm feeling of thinking that they agree with what's been said (even though they don't agree with it at all).
Now can a student who has already addressed her misconceptions (in a classroom, by doing experiments, then discussing, arguing, trying to predict new situations and then trying those situations) gain some advantage by using the videos as review? Perhaps so, and I wouldn't fault a student for making this part of her review. It's more likely my students would end up gleefully eviscerating the video.
We created ShowMeApp.com exactly for this reason - so that any teacher can easily create these kinds of videos through the iPad and share them online.
Here's a guy who's done a ton of awesome Chemistry lessons: http://www.showmeapp.com/jr_orinion
We're huge fans what Sal is doing and would love to see more teachers embrace his approach.
We're still in beta, but I'd love to hear any feedback on the site and the app.
I think this problem can be generalized. There's a predisposition for lopsided development across intelligence domains. Like the cliche nerd that has the social intelligence of a rock and viceversa. Modern society re-enforces this tendency by rewarding people to specialize into increasingly narrower intelligence domains. This sort of tunnel vision bias just isn't sustainable in a modern democracy.
Using number of site visits to denote good teaching is very problematic. You might consider catching up on the work of the late Neil Postman for more on this.
That is a broad assertion on your part and one that I have yet to find true; esp. after meeting many former high schoolers in my college History classes.
You're absolutely right. Unfortunately, many other people do have a scaffold, a derelict one at best, provided to them through their politically tainted education and validated by their social systems.
I respect that at least you're making an attempt to enable people to stimulate their interests and seek out a more detailed education on those topics.