Thursday, May 30, 2013

Khan Academy can, but contemporary academia is still the key to new knowledge

Students find a eureka moment at the Masters programme at the University of Westminster

In case you missed this on Newsnight last night. At 37.34 item on the Kahn Academy - one of the emails from senior academic group  at my university.  

Khan, the uber educator, has done much to revive the debate in traditional versus new lines of education. It's much needed and it was interesting to hear him state that online will not replace the irrational fear held by some educators.

This is what I emailed back to our group.

Hi All
I didn't miss it.  Great piece in Wired Magazine some issues back.

Kahn's kudos is that he took the time to do it and its low cost, high penetration, means it works particularly well in educational systems where there are large volumes of students and no where near enough the lecturers to provide cover.

It works well too around fixed epistemologies  e.g. calculus, anatomy, A-z of  literature. As Khan said himself it's a supportive system.

In areas of education which are dialogical or indulge cognitive dissonance, this linearity of presentation is flawed. 

In the lecture room, assisting students to build rhetorical arguments is crucial, at least in theoretical and pragmatic journalism. It requires a live agent.

There are some institutions dong something interesting along this with live streaming and the ability for students to tweet, blog in questions. Not perfect when you have 1500 around the globe asking.

Perhaps, the next step is for intelligent algorithms to group live questions into clusters so you might have five supporting lectures answer questions.


Technology is part of the solution
Presenting a lecture at Apple, my job was to challenge current knowledge based on grounded theory and not supposition.

Technology has always been an enabler, but the idea it is a determinant eschews any notion that someone had to think first, or that society or social cause was agnostic in this equation. 

If the guys behind twitter hadn't thought of THE  idea to connect friends, they wouldn't have built the software. The social cause becomes what Winston calls the supervening necessity.

The use of video offers a supporting mechanism to the production of knowledge. In my lectures, once I have set up an understanding of what CSS or Java is, I encourage students to go to You Tube etc, because the incisive value, where I am key to the development, is hermeneutics.

Where the educator grounded in theory and pragmatics excels is in challenging structuralism, rewarding each studentas heteronomous individuals.

Why Khan's methodology has also caught the zeitgeist is the perceived, rightly or wrongly of academia becoming super markets for education, and I believe there is some validity in this. 

The solution lay in traditional mass establishment's of the 70s, getting that reboot, that yes will involve video and the new tools, but bridging them with grounded theories and embracing new thoughts.

At every branch of knowledge production is a counter argument, the purpose of being an educator is to teach that in interpretation, rather than, identifications, there are no absolutes.

Learn the rules, break them, develop your own by standing on the shoulders of your fore bearers and then re-create theory. Linear education can't do that!

p.s BTW I count myself as a major super geek. Graduated in Applied Chemistry, Got first computer ZX81 later 80s, Worked my first mac in South Africa 1992. Built my first website in 1997, first emall 1996 using compuserve. Used the first model Hi-camera 1000 in 94.  I luuuurvveeee technology, but it's not the only answer.  David designs at