A frothy piece in the Utopianist* declares that a Khan Academy pilot to teach math to 5th and 7th grade students in the Los Altos School District of California is a “colossal success”.
Their test run has so far yielded nothing short of colossal success, with both students and teachers alike more engaged and fulfilled.
The problem is that the article presents nothing beyond abstract anecdotes of exaltation. It’s fine that students are engaged and fulfilled, but are they learning? Where’s the evidence? Where’s the data showing improved achievement levels? Instead, the basis for declaring success is stuff like this.
- It’s meaningful – Khan hopes to “humanize” education by providing students and teachers with the opportunity to spend some meaningful time together
- Kids teach each other, replacing expert teachers – students better at one subject can tutor their peers who are struggling with the same concept
- Remember, it’s meaningful –… meaningful classroom time will do more … than the ritual of silent students …
- Fun tools with cool names – the Academy has recently introduced badges … The badges have cool names like Sun and Black Hole.
- Students love it – Students are raving about the Khan Academy’s videos
- A famous billionaire approves – Bill Gates makes an appearance … applauding Khan’s program …
- As long as it’s fun – … will allow classrooms the time to finally spend on those fun educational projects …
- Teachers approve because kids have fun – Teachers also talk about how they love the program because their kids are having fun
The clincher is that they label daydreaming as a learning style, especially laughable given that the very concept of “learning styles” is a myth.
Students also love that the program supports individual learning styles – like daydreamers.
I am a big fan of Khan Academy, but give me data before you jump to hasty conclusions and promote the use of yet another unproven educational experiment on our public school children.