I was a little shocked. To me, as a relatively new teacher, the idea was novel. Worth exploring. Why not? My friend is a teacher and was at the time studying for her MEd. What I didn't understand was the aggressive, dismissive "no" behind her public statement. My first thought was: "What did I miss?" Maybe there was something essentially lacking from Salman Khan's project. As I reviewed his work, however, I felt his project was simple yet innovative. Its effects were possibly far reaching and positive: clear and visual explanations of math concepts designed to build upon each other. Open and free for use by anyone at anytime. Khan seemed open to constructive criticism, especially from teachers. Willing to make changes and adapt to needs as they arise. While criticism is a part of growth and learning, the negativity seemed unwarranted.
Further investigation into the debate made me realize that opinions around Salman Khan's venture are polarized: some love him and others do not. Those in the negative camp seem to feel threatened and do not like his ideas out of fear for their own role as all-knowing teacher. My Facebook friend expressed her own fear: “How can you take the teacher out of the learning equation?”
As I understand it, Salman Khan does not intend to take the teacher out of the learning equation. Using the Khan Academy tools, the teacher can personalize learning and design lessons using KA as a tool. This tweet by Michael Schneider (referenced by Will Richardson) has been used to raise the alarm bells around KA: "Anyone can teach. Who needs a degree? Just need to know how to make a video."
The problem with the argument is that it doesn't address the complexity of teaching as an art and science. The balance is exquisite and requires all parties' involvement: teachers, learners, learning tool developers - in essence: a community.
The TPACK model of teaching and learning suggests that effective and transformational teaching and learning occur when technology, pedagogy and content knowledge intersect. Khan Academy represents the technology and content knowledge piece of the equation. This is not the whole picture and therefore the argument that "anyone capable of producing a video becomes a teacher" is invalid. Good teaching requires effective, inspiring teaching methods; technology to support these methods and inspire learners in creative ways; and a deep understanding of the content knowledge.
Online learning tools, such as the Khan Academy, operate as effective learning tools in collaboration with inspiring teachers employing innovative pedagogy with a clear yet flexible understanding of the content s/he teaches.