Disintermediating Educational Content

If Bill Gates says to you, “Good work. Here’s $1.5 million dollars to keep doing what you’re doing. I’ve got my eye on you,” then there’s a chance you might be on to something. Then Google throws a further $2 million in the pot and you’re up and running.

There’s often a ‘rough and ready’ way that new ideas evolve on the internet that is perhaps one of the reasons why so many children have found their way to www.khanacademy.com , the accidental brainchild of Sal Khan. Back in April I had the privilege of meeting Sal in his office in Silicon Valley during my US educational tour. Incredibly unassuming, even self-effacing, Sal is really on to something in my view.

In some ways, what he is doing is an extension from the MIT decision a few years ago to put all of their course material available online. The following article from Wired also mentions a number of other projects going on that further contribute to a ‘help yourself’ environment with regard to ‘content’, i.e. knowledge. I frequently find great, high quality free downloadables (such as the 300 page e-book on the ‘Good Work’ project, edited by Howard Gardner that I’m reading right now). This will escalate even more when the Google Books project really gets going, bringing millions of rare books freely in to the public domain.

Wired. Com article on Khan Academy

In the process of setting out to “build stuff that’s useful”, I believe the impact of work like the Khan Academy on the classroom is going to be seismic, even without intending to be. When you interact with the vast majority of teachers today they define themselves and their status as educators by the body of knowledge they have mastered – the material that they have mastered themselves, placing them in the position of passing on that body of knowledge to learners.

So, what happens if the knowledge, the ‘stuff’ is freely and copiously available to all? What will be the role of the teacher in the ‘flipped classroom of the future? In my view these developments hold out the promise that instead of focusing on content, teachers will switch their energies to process mastery (not the process of teaching, but the process of enabling learning). This could dramatically change the entire learning experience for each and every child as the differentiation of learner experiences would be at the core of those processes.

I sometimes marvel at the rarity of teachers studying books and other material on how the mind works, how the learning process works etc. But then, I am reminded that this is because educators are still, too often, defining themselves by their mastery of a body of ‘content’. These changes are going to require bravery and a great deal of unlearning for many teachers. However, for those who really care about their learners I believe they will be open to changing and learning. I also happen to believe that this will herald truly learner-centric classrooms and a far richer, more rewarding and fulfilling experience for teachers. Ultimately, there will be far more stimulation in facilitating the learning of individual children than in dishing out the same body of knowledge year after year.

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4 Responses

  1. As I prepare to welcome our educators back to school, I find myself seeking to inspire others to learn new ways to nurture and develop even as we prepare for a future that is unclear. More than ever, its not about picking the raised hand, but inspiring the learner to raise it…

    • Hi Tim,
      Let me know when your blog is up and running, with the URL. I can put a reciprocal link on mine.

      Recently read a very good book; Change Leadership: A Practical Guide to Transforming our Schools, by Tony Wagner, Robert Kegan and others.

      Have a great year.
      Mark

  2. Interesting insight into the emerging role of teachers. It is not only paramount that teachers invest energy into understanding the process of learning, they should go a step further and communicate it to the students as well.

  3. […] Disintermediating Educational Content The Khan Academy […]

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