World-Class or Just Global?

With my deadline for reports looming, I thought I’d just quickly take on Khan Academy.

At the opening session of TL21C Will Richardson presented this slide.



He briefly questioned what “world-class” actually meant. My immediate thought was “I’ll bet it means that it’s in English.” Now, this isn’t really a huge problem. One of the great things about online content is the possibility of media being automatically translated and there are benefactors paying to have Khan Academy’s content translated. However, for me it does highlight a more serious issue; what voices are under-represented or completely missing in the online world and what might the effects of this be?

There have always been Big Voices in education, but until now they have been restricted in their reach to regional, or maybe national levels. Occasionally there have been some Very Big Voices who have influenced educational practice internationally, but their influence has been at an organisational level. I don’t know (and there’s a lot I don’t know) of a voice so big in the past that it has influenced on an international level the minutiae of what is being taught at a classroom level, and how it is being taught.

Let me be clear; I think what Khan Academy is doing is excellent. I think the object of bringing education to the entire world is totally noble and I’m really glad that it is being done. I am in no way critical of Khan academy. What troubles me is this: I had a conversation with a maths teacher in which I offered to teach him to screencast some content. He basically said “No, there’s heaps of that stuff on Khan Academy”. This teacher was happy to outsource his teaching and focus on assessment. Again, I’m sure that he wasn’t proposing to outsource entirely, however the fact that he could only name one source of online content was troubling.

I drew this!
I drew this!

Our students deserve a diversity of voices. All our students deserve this. If we choose to outsource our teaching, and fail to effectively curate diverse content, then we are failing our students.



Moreover, effective learning should be a social endeavour, and the most important relationship our students should have is with us. If they are not hearing our voices, and we are not tailoring our teaching to work specifically for them, then we are also failing them.

Our students need to hear our voices in the classroom and online. If we want them to be learning anywhere at anytime, then we need to make our little voices available to them as well as guiding them to a diverse range of bigger voices.

I feel as though I’ve failed to really say everything I wanted to here. Globalising education, while noble, must have some long-term effects. Our own little voices must be present to provide diversity, and therefore we must develop the skills to make all our voices present.

I refuse to outsource my teaching, however, If Salman Khan wants to drop by and do my reports for me, he needs to get cracking. They’re due in 36 hours.


5 thoughts on “World-Class or Just Global?

  1. Great post Eric. I could not agree about the importance of having a breadth of voices. In many respects, I think that voices of the learner are what should be heard and often go silent. There are many reasons for this, but I am of the belief that in today’s day and age it doesn’t have to be this way. As I have written about before ( there are many ways to capture the voices in and out of the classroom. This is what Steve Brophy and I are presenting on at the DLTV Conference this year.
    Good luck with your reports, glad you found some time to reflect.

    1. Thanks, Aaron. I’ve just read your post, and look forward to the conference. Happy to say I’ve used and continue to use almost all of the strategies in your post, with some totally unacceptable results thanks to the anonymity of Padlet. Better than when I tried an online anonymous whiteboard, though. So easy to forget that it’s through dialogue that we achieve really deep understanding. Cheers.

      1. You can login to Padlet. However, yes the anonymity is counter productive at times. Lately I have taken to students turning in their assignments on Edmodo AS WELL AS Padlet. Therefore they are not only sharing with me, but with each other. I find that the biggest limitation with Padlet is that it has no means for dialogue, that is why I think something like Google Apps works so well, if there is the appropriate buy in by all those involved.

      2. Getting my students to engage in thoughtful, self-directed dialogue on Edmodo is a bit of a Holy Grail for me. Buy in is tough without forcing it. One day…

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