One of the more popular learning theories, especially for child learners, is called Constructivism. This means that children cannot just sit and watch a video and be enabled on their own. Learning for children is not just about solving a specific problem- which is what Khan Academy would teach them. It’s being able to use that learning to internalize the concepts and then formulate new problems. Children do not have a vision of the world yet. Their life experiences are typically very limited. This is why it is difficult, and near impossible for them to learn by viewing a video on their own and doing a simple activity by themselves. They need to go through the gambit of the entire learning process, starting with interactive exercises and overcoming hurdles to get to where they need and want to be. And who do they need to help with all of this? You guessed it: the teacher.
So I would argue that Khan needs the teachers to help motivate students (and not just use a dashboard to track progress). The videos can help reinforce concepts or be watched first, say in place of the textbook, but then a teacher can apply those problems and concepts to a bigger idea. This would give the students what they need to solve open-ended problems that will come their way in life. In addition, having other students learning at the same time in the same place will help with the social and collaborative aspect of learning.
And what about the adult learners? They can also benefit from that model. While adults have a vision of the world and life experience to draw on, they are also faced with technology that is constantly changing, and knowledge that is continuously expanding. Constructivist learning can help them bridge the gap between their experiences and the unknown. Online learning is a great example: it takes a student through the entire learning process, overcoming hurdles, learning to solve problems, and being able to come up with new problems and solutions. And here’s the twist: in this case, the student also becomes the teacher.
So, to come back to the original question: can technology replace teachers? The short answer: not quite. While the need may differ between adult and children learners, I think everyone can benefit from the right mix of teacher and technology. What that right mix is will differ for each individual student, depending upon their learning style.
Want to learn more about Qlik’s approach to online learning using Technology AND Teachers? Try the Qlik Continuous Classroom for free at http://qcc.qlik.com.