kitchen table math, the sequel: revenge of the nerds, part 2

Friday, October 5, 2012

revenge of the nerds, part 2

This is for all you parents out there who have tried to forced your teenage kids to watch Khan videos to figure out their homework.


Catherine Johnson said...

Again, you have to watch all the way through!

There's a punchline, which doesn't sound rehearsed (though of course it may have been...)

SteveH said...

Bad videos are bad videos.

Why is he a rock star? You were at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning. Was it the promise of flipping the classroom? Was it the promise of differentiated instruction? What, specifically, were they excited about? Is it just that the people who attend these conferences are easily excitable? I assume that there is sort of a feeding frenzy at these conferences. Everyone wants to be where the action is. The question is what do they think two months later?

Catherine Johnson said...

Boy, I would love to know why he was given the greeting he was given. I'm serious when I say "rock star." I'm serious when I say they posted guards outside his workshop to keep the hoards out.

btw, I've never seen a feeding frenzy at an academic conference, and I haven't heard of such things at professional conferences in general....

Catherine Johnson said...

Actually, I was and am very intrigued by Khan's reception at the 'Celebration.'

Part of me thinks that teachers may have felt they were being thrown a lifeline. They're under so much pressure to raise achievement, and they have to do it with "differentiation" and group projects and 'engagement' and NO WORKSHEETS EVER and on and on and on....and Sal Khan spent a great deal of time talking about how well students in the California demonstration project were doing --- including the students who **had** been doing badly. He stressed stories about the worst student in the class becoming the best student in the class (or on par with the best students) after being able to learn content at his or her level.

That was a big theme: the laggards become the best students.

Anyway, the data part of his presentation -- data and the idea of extra instruction & practice being assigned **easily** and immediately as a result of data....

I think that in and of itself may be sufficient to explain the hero's welcome.

I would kill for a system like that myself.

Catherine Johnson said...

He also spent some time talking about why he made the videos in the first place, and the story there was different from the one you normally read (although I recall reading the same narrative somewhere ...)

He said that the reason he started making videos was that when his cousin did better in math and other relatives started asking him to tutor their kids he found that scheduling tutoring sessions was a PITA. I ***think*** he said that kids didn't necessarily show up when they said they were going to show up (but I could be misremembering).

At some point, he decided just to video his lectures so the kid could watch when he got to it.

BUT....he also said that teaching the same material over and over again became boring. He was pretty clear on this point. He said that the fun part of teaching is exploring interesting questions with kids and discovering answers, etc. His goal, he said, was to put the tedious part of teaching, which is explaining and teaching the fundamentals, on video.

Then teachers will be free to do the intellectually stimulating part of teaching.

I object to that motive strongly --- AND I disagree with it strongly.

Maybe I'll change my mind, but I personally find teaching the fundamentals exciting and stimulating, and I think that if teachers are ***not*** feeling that way about the content they teach, then that's a problem (and it's not a problem I 'blame' on teachers per se. If teaching the fundamentals is unpleasant that may well be due to curriculum or class composition or other factors ---- )

allison said...


i love teaching, not tutoring. i'm uninspired one-on-one. it is so difficult to create the engagement without at least a small group. but it's also hard to teach the fundamentals---much easier to pace a class at a board, talking, walking, than at a table. much easier to teach the necessary material, then do examples slowly.

i never find teaching the "same material" boring, because I haven't done it 100 times yet perfectly. i cannot fathom a teacher finding his lectures boring, because the kids are always different. it would take 25 of the same lecture to hear the same questions all again.

SteveH said...

"Then teachers will be free to do the intellectually stimulating part of teaching."

This isn't flipping the classroom. This is just assigning more homework, assuming that they still have regular problem sets to do. Flipping implies that they watch a lecture at home and do homework in class. If class work is some sort of engaging, discovery group work, then this is changing the definition of homework.

Flipping might work if regular problem sets are done in class under teacher supervision, but there is nothing intellectually stimulating about this - for the teacher. It's just a pragmatic approach to the fact that some students don't do homework. I doubt that these students would even watch a video.

It seems to me that some teachers are more concerned about liking their job rather than how much the students are learning. I find it interesting that my son's K-8 teachers seemed to abhor lecturing, but his high school teachers all love it. His AP classes would never resort to group discovery work. It's not necessary and it would never get the job done.

In theory, videos can open up all sorts of doors that didn't exist before, but many of them are stinking awful. I can also imagine computer programs that would better combine lecture and practice. Watch a video (no more than 5 minutes) and then practice the concept. The program won't let you go on until the practice is done. If students are getting stuck after a particular video, then they know that the video has to be fixed.

If K-8 schools continue to increase full inclusion and will never separate students by ability, then they have to provide some sort of tools that allow students to separate themselves. Mixed ability group differentiated instruction doesn't work, and they don't want to differentiate by group (tracking), so they need something that will allow differentiation to be done on an individual basis. Then again, many still won't allow for true acceleration. They just want methods that allow the poorest performers to get back up to speed, because, of course, it's not something the school is doing that caused the problem.