Khan Academy and 21st Learning Framework

As I looked through Khan Academy (I looked at primary material), I connected a few different learning theories to their methods. The two that first came to mind were behaviorism and cognitive learning theory. Khan Academy uses the behaviorist learning theory in the approach it takes with encouraging students. It suggests offering small extrinsic rewards for accomplishments, such as rewarding students with a badge or providing time to create a game on Khan Academy. This concept of rewarding desired behavior is tightly connected to this learning theory. Another feature of behavioral learning theory that I noticed when watching some of the videos on their website was that when a student missed a question or became stuck, they had the option to watch a video that would take them step by step through the way to complete the problem. I believe they said something along the lines of “we will present the material how we would want them to think about it.”  I believe this same concept could be argued to fall into the cognitive learning theory under the idea of scaffolding as well. The material had already been taught, but the student wasn’t quite ready to do it on their own so they are being guided through it again so they can master the material with assistant. Cognitive learning theory supports the idea that mistakes are good and provide opportunities for learning. There are certain aspects that I feel link to the constructivist learning theory. Khan Academy provides printable that allow students to connect their learning to the world around them such as counting things around their house.

The P21 framework consists of three  Keys subjects and themes. These included: Learning & innovation skills, information, media &Technology skills, and Life & career skills. I really did a lot of digging around to determine the connections between Khan Academy and the P21 frame work.  While wading around through the treasure trove of information and classes on Khan academy, I wouldn’t say that they specifically are looking to meet the subjects of the P21 framework, however I did notice that there were some strong alignments. It does appear to be engaging and I can see that the primary kids who I work with would enjoy that. Some of the features in the framework took some time to connect such as accountability and self-direction. Then I explored further and there was a section that talked about involving students in the goal setting process. One thing that is obviously lacking in the Khan Academy platform is the ability of student to interact with one another. This would have to be supplemented in an alternative method, which if used in the classroom or a blended learning situation would be accomplished in that setting. If being used in a remote learning situation a teacher would have to incorporate another method to meet that need.

One thing I have noticed with the push to go online in the K-12 environment is the idea to make it easy on everyone. I have heard everything from “students should only have to go to one place to it’s better for the teachers because they only need to post and grade.”  What’s easy isn’t always what’s the best.  We can meet their needs and it doesn’t have to be complicated. It might feel that way at times, but more people need to recognize that everything cannot be accomplished using one method. It is the blending of approaches that allows us to continue to meet the needs of our students. Everyone must approach teaching and learning online with an open mind.  

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