Education circles are atwitter about KhanAcademy.com lessons because they enable anyone to get clearly explained lessons, for example, in algebra. But they're boring. For the most part, they consist of a voice explaining the numbers and formulas shown on a blackboard. And they're isolated lessons, not a full course.
A far better approach is what I call, Dream-Team-Taught Courses. They would give every student, rich and poor, from Harlem to Beverly Hills, access to world-class courses.
Instead of high school students being taught by a random teacher, each student in the class, on an iPad or similar device would receive lecturettes delivered by a dream-team of the nation's most transformational instructors, supplemented by first-rate visuals, immersive simulations, and assessments. Each concept would be taught at three paces: fast, medium, and slow.
The lecturettes would be subtitled and/or translated into other languages, especially Spanish.
A live teacher would be in each classroom to help each student select the right pace, to provide supplementation, and to answer questions.
How would the Dream Team of teachers be recruited?
Invitations would be issued to state and national Teachers of the Year. Also, Internet-posted videos would be reviewed to identify teachers that seem to have "the magic." And queries to education leaders would be made requesting a referral to a teacher who meets these criteria:
- excellent at explaining concepts.
- able to teach those concepts differently but equally well to fast learners and slower learners.
- able to make kids fond of the subject, even kids who heretofore disliked it.
- his/her classes' scores on standardized tests consistently significantly exceed the expected score. Each applicant would have to provide evidence that her or his students' scores did so. Applicants would also submit a video of him or her teaching the relevant subject. Finalists would be asked to submit an outline for the portion of the course s/he would teach, and give permission for us to contact their students, parents, and administrators for references.
How Would Dream-Team-Taught Courses Work in Practice?
Because some teachers would resist having someone other than themselves deliver the lecturettes, the live teachers could elect to themselves deliver some or even all of the lecturettes, and use the iPad-based Dream-Team-Teacher's lecturettes and the supplementary material only as desired.
As a concomitant benefit, teachers watching those Dream-Team-Taught lecturettes is a just-in-time form of professional development.
Note that the Dream-Team Course paradigm has been designed with teachers unions in mind. Teachers' unions are concerned about adding workload to teachers and about any potential loss of teaching jobs. Dream-Team Courses make it easier for teachers to provide high-quality differentiated instruction, and are better implemented with a teacher than by a paraprofessional.
I am directing development of a mini-version of a Dream-Team-Taught Algebra 1 course. The pilot study will begin in Napa County's American Canyon High School this August.