|A wrathful Khan, yes. |
But, not the Khan I'm writing about.
If you don't know the story, Sal Khan is a highly educated, non-educator who was once a hedge fund analyst. However, his life took an unexpected turn when the video-based math tutorials he made for his nieces became increasingly popular on YouTube. This unexpected response inspired him to create an online "academy" where anyone can learn any topic for free.
The idea (and execution) of the Khan Academy is awesome. Check out this TED talk to get a sense of the applications and implications of this type of learning system. Watching this gave me goose-bumps of the "I've glimpsed the future" variety. But, I also had one criticism; not of Khan Academy per se, but that most educational strategies fail to acknowledge the essential cognitive skills that kids need to succeed both in the Khan Academy and in the regular academies around the world.
At Khan Academy, kids can progressively watch videos on topics of increasing complexity and can also take quizzes to measure understanding. However, even with an incredible resource like Khan Academy, kids must possess a few cognitive skills to fully benefit. For example, without focus or diligence, kids will not return to the site again and again to reap the full benefit. Without resilience, kids may quit after a period of failure before the inevitable breakthrough can be made.
While merging education with technology is a fantastic thing, and is sure to improve education for millions, we must not ignore the fact that essential, metacognitive skills must be in place for our children, and us, to reach full potential. How technology can be brought to bear on this challenge remains a major hurdle. Until then, teachers in the trenches and parents at home are the only people who can ensure our kids develop these essential characteristics.