SRI Khan Academy study: “the teacher’s role is still central”

Previous blog posts (post one, post two, and post three) have discussed the recently released SRI study of Khan Academy. Here we conclude with a final post that summarizes the findings of the report, because it is well worth repeating verbatim: Our learnings in this study made it clear that the teacher’s role is still central even in the wake of the adoption of new technologies. The achievable classroom benefits of using new technologies can include building stronger connections with students, and developing a clearer and deeper understanding of what students actually know. At their best, the new technology tools can enable teachers to do what they find most fulfilling: interacting with students to have a positive impact on their learning experience.

With this in mind, our study shows that teachers still need support in integrating online instructional resources into the curriculum; they need digital content that is curated and aligned with grade level standards, and models of use that demonstrate the resource’s value with students like theirs. As we move toward greater classroom use of self-paced instructional resources, students will also need additional support to navigate this transition, which may vary depending on the fit between the individual student and the online environment. To understand the supports needed so that all students can excel in self-directed online learning environments, research should be pursued to understand the roles that non-cognitive student characteristics—motivation, persistence, resourcefulness—play in student success in these environments. Finally, experimental studies of the impacts of different Khan Academy implementation models and other digital learning tools like Khan are needed to determine effects not only on math achievement but also on students’ attitudes toward mathematics and their capacity for self-directed learning.

To repeat: “the teacher’s role is still central even in the wake of the adoption of new technologies.”

There is a fear in K-12 education that technology will replace teachers. While technology certainly exists that could replace some teaching roles, it is not sophisticated enough to replace the interpersonal relationship between the teacher and student that is seen as a hallmark of high performing classrooms. As we note in the Teaching portion of the Planning for Quality section that has been included in Keeping Pace each of the last three years (here is the 2013 section), teachers are a critical component of a high-quality online learning program. While there is certainly a percentage of students who will thrive in a self-paced, student-driven environment, most students are not prepared for an educational change that radical.