I watched a Ted Talk by Sal Khan, the creator of Khan Academy. I also read his book called The One World Schoolhouse. I just wanted to take a few moments to talk about what I thought about that.
Some of you might be aware of who Sal Khan is especially if you have ever used the online program Khan Academy which deals mostly with math but has added other subjects. The book talks about how Khan created Khan Academy and why. Khan started by tutoring one of his cousins from a different part of the country via the phone or online.
He realized as he was tutoring his cousin, that there were times she didn't get the concept as well as he thought she should. As he thought of a better way to tutor her, he started recording their sessions so that she could go back and repeat as much as she needed. This started to help better than their phone sessions.
Khan decided to create more lessons on video and problems in which students could apply the knowledge from the videos. Khan believes that the old way of completing 60-100 math problems every night is a big waste of time. Instead if a student is able to complete 10 problems correctly in a row than they have the ability to move to the next skill level. The quicker you move up after you have mastered the skill the easier it is to realize that skills are related and should be taught together.
Showing relationships between subjects
But Khan also said there are many related skills in other subjects that we are not teaching together and therefore students are missing out on the relationships between topics and skills. If we miss the relationship between topics and skills, we lose out on the deeper meaning and understanding of said topic.
Currently the education system is set up so that there are different subjects taught at different times by different teachers. All students are at the same grade level and sometimes grouped according to ability. These grouped students sometimes never move to the next level.
Khan's Approach to Education
Khan has a different approach to education. He says that the teachers should group students together as mixed groups with all grade levels in one room. He also says that there should be more than 1 teacher in the room as well. So let's say there are enough students in the room for 4 regular sized classrooms, according to Khan there should be at least four teachers in the room as well.
Why does he say that?
Children who are older have the ability to show responsibility to those who are younger. The students who are mastering skills faster can then take the time to help tutor the students who are struggling. Research says that if you are teaching a topic you are learning it better because you have to be able to break down the skill into understandable steps. according to Khan students should be learning at their own level to master the skills at their pace instead of being rushed to finish a curriculum in a year.
With the technology of today, do we really need our children to take three months off in the summer to help with farming and gardening at home? During the summer if a student isn't doing some form of reading, math, history, science to enrich what they learned during the school year, they will lose a lot of information hurting their ability to master higher level skills.
Now don't get me wrong: there are times when farmers do need the help of the children with the farming chores. According to Khan, those students should then be able to take the time off from school to help.
My Struggle With Teaching
As a former special education, I have to say I agree with what he is saying. Today's education I feel that we are pushing too much information too fast on students not mentally ready to grasp increasing our children with special needs. However, if students were able to learn at their own pace and follow their passions by applying the new skills, why not let them.
For example, in 3rd grade the students are required to write a research paper about an American Symbol. This is supposed to teach history, research skills, and writing skills. I had a student that if I told him he was supposed to write about the Lincoln Memorial, he would have refused and thrown chairs at me. However, if I told him to pick his American Symbol and write a research paper, he wrote about a famous skateboarding legend. He did the research, scripted what he wanted to write, and learned something about someone new. The only I did was type the paper. The paper was three pages long typed. So tell me, did he meet the standard?
Khan's School Experiment
Khan has tried to implement Khan Academy in schools in which the students are able to learn the material from the videos given, apply knowledge to problems given, and increase faster than ever before. This frees up the teacher to help those that are struggling. Khan has a tracking system in which teachers can easily see who is achieving and who is not. The students who were struggling before have surpassed teachers and administrators expectations by leaps and bounds!!!!
So what do you think about all of this? Should we change the way education is today?
My name is Stena Schmitt.