Blaser: Are videos a gateway to learning?
The latest news from the College Board showing that more than half of America’s high school students who took the Scholastic Aptitude Test are not prepared for college work is a lesson for educators.
Of the 1.6 million Class of 2013 seniors who took the test, 57 percent of them are not ready for college. This is distressing news on many fronts.
For years now, educators have complained about how they are forced “to teach to the test” because of the reforms of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and the focus on student performance on the state report card.
Yet we have these dismal results from students who have been taught to the test for the bulk of their academic lives.
If teachers have been teaching to the test, then one can deduce from these results that teachers stink at it.
Or perhaps today’s high school students are just plain dumb.
Or maybe, just maybe, the way we’ve set up the whole education system in this country just doesn’t work anymore.
I’m inclined to go with the third option.
Consider this: The way teachers taught my mother in the 1940s and 1950s is pretty much the way they taught me in the 1960s and 1970s, and that’s not much different from how they taught my children in the 1990s and now, and how my daughter is teaching today.
Maybe that Industrial Revolution model, where the school is akin to a mini-factory with bells ringing to indicate when it is time to change shifts, er, subjects, just doesn’t work anymore. Maybe we need to overhaul the whole thing.
Enter “60 Minutes,” Salman Khan and Bill Gates.
One Sunday evening, I tuned my car radio to the local CBS affiliate to catch “60 Minutes.” I was just in time to hear about Salman Khan and the Khan Academy.
Salman Khan is a graduate of MIT and Harvard. When his young cousin was having trouble with math in 2004, he created some tutorials for her. She improved so much in school that other relatives wanted Khan’s help. He decided that creating YouTube videos would be an efficient way to distribute the material. The training became so popular he decided to quit his job and focus on making the videos.
Bill Gates soon found out about it, and he thinks this is the future of education. And being Bill Gates, he put his money behind it.
Khan now has a website called Khan Academy, and for you parents out there with students struggling in math or science, you might want to check it out.
Think about school this way: Instead of learning the topic with 30 other kids and one teacher, then practicing the concepts in so-called homework, you watch a Khan Academy video at home at your own pace, repeatedly, until you’ve got it. That’s the homework.
At school, you practice your new skills with your classmates and teacher.
It’s kind of how the school sports teams do it. The football coach doesn’t give a lecture on the playbook and then send the team home to practice blocking and tackling. They practice blocking right there, and keep doing it until they are good at it.
If Gates thinks it will work, then I’m on board.