Slate’s summary of a recent debate sparked by two teachers satirising a Khan Academy lecture, in a series of “Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000″ videos:
In their low-tech, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style video (below), Golden and Coffey spend roughly 11 minutes commenting on a Khan Academy video about multiplying and dividing positive and negative integers. It’s not smash entertainment, but the teachers solidly critique small missteps that Khan makes during his tutorial: putting a positive (“+”) sign in front of some positive numbers but not others, for example, or not citing his sources.
(Original video embedded in the article.)
Sal Khan followed up by posting an updated version of the video being critiqued. However, the discussion seems to be growing, thanks to a follow-up critique on Wired, which Khan Academy’s Facebook page linked to, and posted a surprisingly defensive-sounding call for support. There are also quite a few interesting commentaries being posted on the #mtt2k hashtag on Twitter.
A recurring theme among Khan’s defenders is that the critics (MTT2K and Wired) should, like Khan, be out there doing something good for education, instead of tearing down others’ work. (“Where were were you scumbag teachers when I needed help at math? Well? Khan is there! 24/7 how about you?”, laments one Saul Souza on Facebook.) I’d argue, however, that these folks have sparked a much-needed debate about pedagogy in online education. That’s a good thing, as long as everyone involved remembers they’re doing this to improve education.
Anyway, it’s early days yet. I’d be far more worried if teachers don’t feel the need to point out how others could teach better, and if Khan doesn’t take pedagogical criticisms seriously. A light-hearted comment from Hacker News sums this up best for me:
“This video is perfect as a Khan Academy parody—they just throw some shit together, and maybe it isn’t very good, but it’s better than nothing.”