Adult Educator Featured on Khan Academy!

Hello Colleagues, It would be great to see one of our own adult educators featured in a Khan Academy video. Please see the announcement below from Elizabeth at Khan Academy and consider applying!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

<<From May 18-June 21, we’re seeking video submissions from anyone and everyone with a passion for learning and a knack for making challenging concepts seem simple. If you love helping others understand the world, send us two of your videos!

Learn more about our talent search

Winners will be featured on the Khan Academy website and flown to California to collaborate with and learn from the Khan Academy and YouTube teams.

We like videos that demonstrate real passion for the material, cover the concepts deeply and rigorously, and feel conversational—as if your kind, insightful friend is clearly explaining a complicated concept to you at your kitchen table.

If that sounds like you, we’d love to check out two of your videos. If that sounds like someone else you know, share this with them on Facebook, or forward them this message.

Help us find the world’s greatest explainers. Together, we can amplify their voices and reach learners everywhere.


Elizabeth and the Khan Academy content team>>


The Khan Academy's motto is (no kidding) "Production before Perfection."    Marketing is their strength.  I've found pockets of things I like -- the explanation of areas of rectangles is reasonably well done, with drawings (albeit with very inconsistent scale) -- but then the exercises accompanying the video had questions about areas of triangles which hadn't even been mentioned.   Most of their "world class" videos are  chalk-and-talk: 0% concept 100% procedural 'explanations' that mix advanced and basic concepts and take incredible conceptual leaps in the middle.   

    As far as I know, there is no interest -- not even the lip service as there is for developing concepts -- in any quality control or attention to feedback from users.   It's all about their wonderful people sharing, which is nice, I guess, but I've just taken this awesome course about "open" learning, where the learner's voice is important. (They don't fix flat out mistakes, either, except for a few viral ones.) 

    The folks at places like StackOverflow and slashdot **love** that site, and those are the folks that are its target audience:   independent learners who need to grab a procedures for a specific process.  In my presentation about OER, I have a theme that OER are like bicycles, and while it's not included, if somebody were to ask me what I think of Khan Academy, I'd say that ... they're analogous to Wal-Mart bicycles.   Really popular, mass-produced, well marketed -- but unreliable, and it's unfortunate that people think that's what the OER experience is, when it can be so much more.   

   I can wish that they get some real talent in this campaign... but I wouldn't want to be associated with them.


Like you, I do not like the procedural math videos that Khan is famous for - but this might be an opportunity to create videos that show the conceptual side of teaching.  This might be a perfect opportunity to be a change agent in their academy - heck, they may watch my videos and think that what I am doing just doesn't make sense, too.  I mean, conceptually showing people how to multiply fractions with diagrams/pictures is a far cry from the procedural multiplication of fractions that I learned quite a while ago.

Thank you for your post, I am not sure yet if I will submit something but if I do - it will be an all conceptual video (call me a rebel)


Brooke and others,

I, too, think this could be a great opportunity for adult numeracy and math teachers to improve Khan Academy. Some adult numeracy and math teachers approach approach teaching and learning in far better ways than Khan Academy often does. They teach learners how to reason in the language of mathematics, not just master algorithms. I hope to see some of our colleagues create math teaching videos, and perhaps to also post links to their videos here. 

In my work with the Media Library of Teaching Skills, I am always looking for authentic, usually short, classroom-based adult numeracy and math videos to add to the library at This is a free, online, adult education focused professional development library of authentic adult education classroom and tutoring videos. In addition to the ones we have made in Massachusetts and Vermont,  we link to adult basic education professional development videos made by others in several other states: 

If you have made an authentic classroom video, send me the link, and perhaps we can include it in the MLoTS library.

David J. Rosen

David, thanks for your comments and for sharing the I certainly hope that it grows and grows. In fact, I have just posted one of your clips on authentic writing techniques in the Reading and Writing groups. Videos appeal to a large number of learners, and I hope that we can contribute to making changes in the quality of resource provided. Leecy

I viewed the video on Teacher Discussion of Food Vocabulary and Verb Tenses  - thanks for sharing this. The teachers had interesting comments about how they teach. It would also be good to see video of actual classroom instruction (rather than people talking about it). Does anyone know of any videos showing a reading/ writing class in action?

Hi Dolores, and others,

The authentic (edited) adult ESOL/ESL classroom video that was the basis for the discussion you looked at will be found at

There are other free, authentic classroom videos, designed as "video windows on adult basic skills teachers' classrooms" in the Media Library of Teaching Skills (MLoTS)  at We also link to many more adult education professional development videos, made by others, at .  My colleague and I try to make MLoTS the "go to" site for adult basic education teachers' professional development videos; if you know of other adult basic education (including ESOL/ESL) professional development videos that you think we should link to, please send me the web address(es) and I'll take a look.

David J. Rosen

Thanks for these links, David. I didn't immediately find the footage but after looking around, I finally did. I was interested in the discussion the teacher had with the students about "significance" - significant life events and significance to communities - in the Adult Fluency footage. It can be difficult to draw student out but obviously it's worth the effort! It would be great to have a lot more examples of instruction in reading and writing, especially when overtly connected to standards being used in programs.

I think it would be great for them to get some videos that weren't dronefests :-)    

    Movies are pretty easy now -- screen-cast-o-matic and powerpoint make neat things possible, and Camtasia costs some money for even more options. 

   A telling point is that they're looking for "the great explainers."  There's just no evidence that I can find that they're not firm believers that Learning Is Getting SOmething Told To You.   Now, I think he does less outright trashing of teaching and educators than Sal Khan did when he was getting started -- but I have a sinking feeling that's just because he learns quickly what talk will sell his ideas.   

    And... I'm enough of a rebel to not want to have to submit my things for approval to Khan Academy just because they've got the money and marketing. I want the fifth column :)    

    No, I dont' have "authentic classroom" videos.   I don't have a classroom :)   Students come to me for help on their homework, etc.   I do have a few videos up at -- but they're "ancient" now :)   I'm going to get off the INternet now and work on my OER presentation and do some work on Camtasia.   is one I made last week so that when my students confront a Certain Horribly Hard ALEKS Problem Set, I can point them there ... 

Susan, best wishes with your presentation on OER. You will be awesome, I know, and the more OER we can promote, the better! Let us know how Camtasia works for you and how your presentation went. I'm on the edge of buying Camtasia myself.

Re your comments on the Kahn Academy, I would hope that they would be open to more than just  "the great explainers." In fact, I believe that if the producers make a point of discussing the need for more conceptual approaches to math instruction,  we might just plant a seed that spreads nicely in the field. Heaven knows that we need to move more in that direction. Leecy

The producers *say* all kinds of things about how important understanding is.  The videos are *all* procedural and Sal Khan states in several of them that the way you learn to understand math is to do a lot of problems and just keep doing them.  Really. The bottom line is: 

They aren't teachers.  In early interviews, Sal Khan pretty much said that his videos were better than what teachers could do because he hadn't had to waste his time learning about education.  I'm afraid I heard a real    "I'm Ivy League and they're ... education majors..." message more than once.

 Again, their stated motto is "Production before perfection," and there is *nothing* in the process about evaluating the effectiveness of their materials.  If it sells and gets a lot of hits, *that* is what matters.  A few months ago they had a push to hire developers and I scoped out their recruiting pages (yes, thinking of applying and trying to shift things).  If I'm going to create things, I want the time to make something that's really going to help, and to improve it once it's been tried out.   They're looking for, in their own words, "magic." 

This is just my opinion and I would love to change it with evidence, and I hope that I can!   I think trying to create good educational materials in the context of Khan Academy would be like trying to start a commuter bicycling advocacy group at a country club.   There are fundamental cultural conflicts.  

As a former Social Worker, Electronics Repair Tech, and systems change specialist who has studied Education Psychology, Andragogy, Human Learning processes, and Human behavior and motivation, it's hard for me to ignore Khan's method. 

Consider excellent athletic achievement. How does one become "that good?" Practice, Practice, Practice, ....!   What is the difference between Khan's "Production" and our encouraging students, and our own children to "just try?" And then there is the progression (Think learning to drive a car.) one goes through four stages, from  Unconscious incompetence  = We don't know that we don't know how to drive a car, to Conscious incompetence  = we begin learning to drive, and have to be conscious and still make some mistakes,  to Conscious competence = we know and have practiced enough to become competent enough until we have gotten so good that - as long as we keep our attention on driving - we rarely, if ever make a mistake, and, finally, we become Unconsciously COMPETENT = we can get from home to school, or work, or ... and not remember how we did it! 

Wonder if Khan had something like this in mind?


What Khan had in mind was getting his niece through her math class. 

When it comes to math, the simple, real fact is that just providing practice embeds serious misconceptions.   

Khan's videos don't ever *address* misconceptions. In his exponents lesson, he says five or six times (oh, he does tend to repeat himself repeat himself) *don't*just multiply the numbers. *Don't* just multiply the numbers.   He never actually performs the operation on his example -- the only answer he gives is the wrong one.   He never gives any examples of what exponents mean or when they are used or what "exponential" means.   Algebra lesson is similar -- his only explanation of "average" is that the average student would like to get out of class early (so he doesn't even use the word right then -- that would be 'typical,' not 'average'). 

  He has been "unconsciously competent" pretty much all his life (he was years ahead of his peers in math).   His videos tend to include the "trick questions"  *from the start* because he finds them interesting.   THis is fundamentaly bad pedagogy.   However, he has vocal disdain for pedagogy -- that's the stuff people waste their time on, and he is glad he didn't do that.  He just tells you how to get it done. And, again, the important thing is how many hits his movies and exercises get -- not whether math was learned. Good teachers evaluate what they've done and refine it.   Enterpreneurs work on their marketing. 



We use the site in my adult literacy program to good effect.  I find that they actually due a fabulous job of integrating concepts and procedures.  The "curriculum" as a whole is very segmented and procedure-focused, but individual videos for the arithmetic-level stuff at least seem to do a great job of including the "why" with the "how" and connecting new procedures with related operations and procedures.  I often see the proverbial light bulb go on when a video explains why a certain process works the way it does.  My students don't see a "dronefest".  They see clean, distraction-free production and color-coding to aid conceptual understanding.  It is also incredibly valuable that their practice exercises include the option to get multiple layers of "hints".  This gets the biggest positive reaction from learners.  Additionally, instead of offering problem sets, the practice is set up to encourage learners to pay attention to their own level of mastery by aiming for a streak of correct answers rather than simply to complete the assigned work. 

I wasn't aware of any of the behind the scenes business about their motto, their attitudes towards educators, or their lack of responsiveness to feedback.  Especially as a supplement to in-class instruction though, my students love the Khan Academy Math stuff. If there are other sites out there that offer better for my students, I'd be happy to hear about them.  To me, their perspective is the one that matters. 

No one educational tool fills every need.  In my experience Khan is very useful for teaching procedural knowledge and the videos do a good job of helping my learners, who usually have very little number sense when they start, to begin starting to think about the concepts behind these procedures.  I second the suggestion that this is an excellent opportunity for our community to maybe help broaden what's available on what is a very powerful web platform.



You're right, it's fine as a supplement.  Lots of the people I'm working with are trying to prep for our assessment and so aren't in a class, and they tell me the videos are confusing.  And I like the exercises a lot ,  Imagine how much good this stuff could do if it were based *directly* on good conceptual pedagogy!   It gladdens my heart that students who are getting that (from folks like you) can make connections.   

Some sites that I like better  are ( which has a similar format with three movies for each topic), (lots of really good interactive flash exercises),  (which has excellent visuals and lots of 'the math behind the formula' -- my students  *love* his explanation of the circles and area) ,, ,, ... *these* guys should be getting funded.