Just out of curiosity I looked up the word “revolution” on Dictionary.com today. Here are the top three definitions:
[rev-uh-loo-shuhn] ; noun
1. an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.
2. Sociology. a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure, especially one made suddenly and often accompanied by violence. Compare social evolution.
3. a sudden, complete or marked change in something: e.g., the present revolution in church architecture.
Now, I’m as interested in a good revolution as the next guy. But I think sometimes in education we use the term “revolution” and later on it turns out we should have used the term “fad.” Remember left-right brain strategies? How about learning styles? Multisensory education? Discovery learning? Inventive spelling? The infamous whole language?
It seems that there are times when perhaps we should have waited for the evidence to declare a revolution.
And I would suggest that the same holds true for the latest education “revolution,” Khan Academy. I expect this opinion to be controversial. I have had so many personal conversations with teachers, colleagues, friends about Khan, especially after the 60 Minutes piece aired. It seems a very divisive topic, indeed. Many seem to love Khan or hate it….few seem to have a neutral opinion…or at least few with neutral opinions are expressing them. One teacher acquaintance told me that she doesn’t have “time” to see whether or not it works. She’s just going to start using it because it’s really cool and seems like a great resource. On the flip side, a principal friend of mine told me, “Grrr…the Khan Academy! MAYBE that is indeed the future of education, but I need to see some actual evidence!”
I’m happy to take a wait-and-see approach to Khan and other innovators in the education space. We need new ideas and Sal Khan seems to be a pretty smart guy. And I think there is real potential in his solution if it is improved to the point where it can produce demonstrable change in student performance. But I start to worry a heck of a lot when I see everyone jumping on the bandwagon, making their decisions based only on opinions, enthusiasm and a piece on 60 Minutes! Remember ‘Exercise in a Bottle’? I think we all know what happened to THAT!
So tell me, what do YOU think? What are some of your favorite educational fads to hate? And what advice would you give to Sal Khan, if you had a minute to bend his ear, about what YOU need to see to be sold on his solution?
- Khan Academy: Creating A More Likeable Education (likeable.com)
- Khan Academy: The future of education? (adafruit.com)
- Transforming the Way We Learn (michaelcecil.wordpress.com)
- Basic Addition | Addition and subtraction | Khan Academy (underhillschool.com)
- Education of the Future – Role of Teacher and Technology (4b2012.wordpress.com)