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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Geographer Looks at EdTech - Part 6 - Khan Academy

--- This post is the sixth in a ten part series examining top 2011 trends in education technology in the context of GIS and geography education. ---

The sixth theme Audrey Watters identified in her top ten list of ed tech for 2011 is the rise and popularity of Khan Academy. She details the non-profit's beginnings and details its free repository of math and science videos. She goes on to note its growth to include exercises, rock star tech and education hires, more funding and all the buzz its had in the media.

Part of the buzz around Khan Academy is about how videos might be used as homework. The vision of the "flipped classroom"(IE post) involves students watching videos (or being introduced to new material in other ways) at home and then doing what used to called "homework" at school with peer and teacher support. Khan didn't invent that vision, but helped market it.

I love the ideas behind Khan Academy but am not so naive to think they will solve all our education challenges in math or other areas. I like these aspects of the Khan vision:
  • Bite-sized, homey videos that can be watched again and again
  • Open model means videos are under a Creative Commons license and Khan-used tools are open source
  • Real educators are building out an arts and history curricula
  • The flipped classroom means student have help at hand in "the doing" part of learning, not he passive part (aka the lecture)
  • Non-profit status can help limit too rapid growth and hopefully mis-use of government funding
So how do the ideas of Khan Academy relate to geography and GIS education? That was a jumping off point of my keynote at the NEARC Edu event (IE post) this year. I imagined a flipped GIS course that had no lectures. Instead, students watch videos, read tutorials, etc. at "home" and do "labs" during class. Those labs, I'd imagine would be noisy raucous places where students work together and interact, unlike the deathly quiet ones I've seen. Is the geography community ready to build its library of videos for such a vision? Do they already exist?