Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What is it with the Kahn Academy?

Kahn Academy In theory, I should love the Kahn Academy, and in some ways I do. At least, I admire it. But I also loathe, fear and worry about it.

Fantastically popular with students, word of mouth has made the Kahn Academy a runaway success. So what's my problem? My problem it that the oversimplistic explanations give students a monolithic view of a topic from which they find it very hard to move on to a deeper understanding. Compare with Wikipedia. Do you see any links out from the Kahn Academy? No. It is in some ways a walled garden. And that worries me.


  1. Khan Academy is MIT OCW done the wrong way

  2. I'm a HS physics teacher. I'm still on the fence about flipped classrooms in the form of "watch lecture at home first, practice in class second." It reinforces the notion that school is about digesting someone else's knowledge, rather than constructing your own.

    Instead of relying on lectures and textbooks, the Modeling Instruction paradigm emphasizes active student construction of conceptual and mathematical models in an interactive learning community. Students are engaged with simple scenarios to learn to model the physical world. You can watch one Modeling class in action here:

    In comparison to traditional instruction, under expert modeling instruction high school students average more than two standard deviations higher on a standard instrument for assessing conceptual understanding of physics:

    More discussion about the ineffectiveness of lectures here:

    And even more discussion about the ineffectiveness of Khan-like videos for learning science here:

    I also find it troublesome that the Khan Academy team is not spending time and energy on the pedagogy of teaching math and science, but rather on refining the gaming mechanics of KA:

    The "gamification" of learning in KA has had disastrous consequences:

    While I agree that Khan Academy may be a supplement for students, it shouldn't replace solving complex, real-world problems. My take on that here:

    Also, if you haven't seen these, please check out this four-part series on Khan Academy:

    Khan Academy and the Mythical Math Cure

    Khan Academy – Algorithms and Autonomy

    “Don’t we need balance?” and other questions about Khan Academy


    They do a great job of summarizing my thinking.