Friday, August 24, 2012

Why learners?


The following was originally posted on my other blog, the Learning Museum. But I noticed this week that I have not given that blog any attention in almost a year. So I considered shutting it down and moving some of the posts here. I was having a hard time deciding where to start though. An exchange on Twitter today provided me with an answer. The exchange got me thinking about why I try to use the term learner instead of student when talking about the people that I teach. Consequently, this post seemed to be a good one to move since it includes the video that first introduced me to the idea of teaching learners rather than students. 

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For those of you familiar with my TEDx Talk, it will come as no surprise that the first exhibit in the Learning Museum included the following video from the Council on 21st Century Learning (C21L). If we want to know what learning looks like, we need to identify some of its key characteristics. This Venn diagram might help us in identifying these characteristics as we consider what learners do compared to what students do in the video.
Here is the first in a series of three videos available from C21L that attempt to get at the differences between students and learners.


How are students and learners alike and how are they different? Here are some of the characteristic identified by teachers in training:

  • Both students and learners produce products;
  • Students seem extrinsically motivated (e.g. Grades); and
  • Learners seem intrinsically motivated.
What would you add to this list?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How did you teach it?

The idea of MTT2K began when a group of preservice teachers could not wait until the end of a Khan Academy video to voice their concerns about the quality of its content. (You can learn more here.) Once the movement to critique Khan Academy videos gathered some momentum, it was suggested that teachers do more than nitpick (although, as this post explains, nitpicking is important). Consequently, a group of bloggers set out to make 101 alternative lessons.

Nine alternatives were scheduled as of today - the day before the MTT2K prize deadline. While this is less than we hoped for, it is a start. The energy behind projects like the mathtwitterblogosphere demonstrates how we all benefit when teachers make their own lessons available for others to use and improve on.

The lesson I want to share comes from that same day when the preservice teachers watched the Khan Academy video. We were focusing on NCTM's Communication Standard that day, and I wanted to share examples of people communicating the ideas associated with integer multiplication and division. Many of the area schools use PowerPoints in their math classrooms, so I wanted to model how I might use this medium to communicate my thinking.

The think-aloud focused on my approach to trying to understand some integer rules I memorized years ago. I used "I language" to remind the learners that I am making my thinking visible, not telling them what to do. Afterward, we debriefed about what they saw and heard and how what I shared might support their ability to understand the concept for themselves. (The demonstration is split into two parts because Jing only allows for 5 minute recordings.)

Part One

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Part Two

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Having watched this demonstration, how would you respond to these points:
  • What did I do?
  • What did I say?
  • What did I think?
  • Develop a consolidated recount regarding multiplication and division of integers.
And how might you improve on this demonstration?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Who won?

Modified from 12/08/08 Time Magazine Cover (includes this article)
Near the beginning of the Olympics, Michelle Rhee introduced the first in a series of videos using the Games as an analogy for her view of the state of our educational system in the United States. On July 22nd, Ms. Rhee, the founder and CEO of Students First, shared the video below on Meet the Press (about 34 minutes in).


Since then, Ms. Rhee has written an opinion piece for USA Today and shared another video on CNN espousing her Olympic-Education analogy. All this attention has me wondering why Ms. Rhee has become the spokesperson for education reform. It also has me concerned that thanks to the attention that she gets from an often unquestioning news media we are focusing our efforts on the wrong things when it comes to improving schools (I wrote about it here). But no one seems to be listening. Well, the success of MTT2K in using satire to grab the media's attention got me thinking...

I am grateful that John Golden was once again willing to join me in what is probably another Quixotic endeavor. Amazingly, we were also able to get Nancy Flanagan to be a part of our amateur acting troupe. It is my hope that this short skit will highlight some of the issues we have with both Ms. Rhee's stance on educational reform and how some in the news media have embraced it.


  


If you are interested in the original script (which includes links supporting some of the points that we make), you can find it here. I want to thank John, Nancy, and Luann Lee for their writing contributions. In case you are interested in playing your own version of this game, you can get an apple piñata here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What does it take to be a full professor?

According to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at GVSU, it takes this. I am in the process of preparing my materials to be evaluated for promotion to full professor which includes the writing of an Integrative Statement. As I have done before, I would like to share my efforts with you in order to make my thinking visible and to get your feedback. It is a long statement (all of eight pages), so I understand if you want to skip this post.

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The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) values a balanced and flexible academic life that includes teaching, scholarship/creative activity, and service.
Preface of CLAS Standards & Criteria for Personnel Evaluation
Introduction: My View of Academic Life
Before Joint Appointment

I am grateful to work in a college that recognizes the value of “a balanced and flexible academic life.” In order to find that balance, I envision my teaching, scholarship, and service using a Venn diagram. With teaching being my primary focus, I see it as representing the largest portion of my efforts. Because the nature of our work tends to pull us in different directions, I try to concentrate the rest of my academic efforts in the areas that overlap.

After Joint Appointment
Maintaining balance was especially important these past three years as I shared time between the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and the College of Education (COE). My joint appointment resulted in new courses to teach, more scholarship opportunities, and extra service expectations. As I became comfortable in this appointment, I saw how the experience provided an opportunity to expand each of these areas. Consequently, the overlapping areas that represent my balanced academic life also expanded.

In this integrative statement, I intend to share several stories of the work I have engaged in that demonstrate my attempts to lead a balanced academic life while meeting the CLAS expectations of promotion to full professor. Since my joint appointment has been central to my recent growth as an academic, many stories will come from that experience. These experiences do not represent the complete picture, however. I will also share how my efforts to improve my teaching of courses in the Department of Mathematics lead to greater opportunities for scholarship and service. This integrative statement concludes with an overview of future plans for my academic life. In order to put this information into context, I begin by providing an overview of my efforts in each of the academic areas.

(If you are reading this document electronically and have access to the Internet, hyperlinks have been included that will take you to online content offering further information regarding my academic efforts.)

Overview: Teaching, Scholarship, and Service
The CLAS considers effective teaching as the primary responsibility of its faculty. This emphasis is one of the reasons I joined GVSU, and data from peers and students recognize that I am dedicated to enhancing learning. Colleagues’ comments from classroom visitations acknowledge my efforts to create an environment where students take a central role in their learning. Furthermore, the average response to question #15 (“I have benefited by having this instructor.”) on student evaluations is usually between 1 and 2 indicating strong agreement or agreement with this statement (see Appendix A). The stories shared in the remainder of this document include specific examples of other ways I have demonstrated a commitment to teaching effectiveness. In order to make the rationale supporting my promotion to full professor clear, the CLAS criteria for effective teaching are coded in blue and precede the narrative. (Teaching artifacts are found in Appendix B.)

In the area of scholarship, I have a consistent record of contributing to the areas of education and mathematics education. This includes research papers, articles for practitioner journals, the sharing of resources through social media, and presentations to local, state, national, and international audiences. My 2010 TEDx Talk and 2011 keynote at a mathematics conference in Canada represent my recent efforts to continually expand my contributions to my discipline (see Appendix C). Again, throughout the remainder of this statement, the CLAS criteria for scholarship introduce the narrative rationale; this time the criteria are coded in red.

Since my last promotion, service is probably the area of my greatest growth. The joint appointment played a prominent role in that growth and contributed significantly to my meeting of the CLAS expectations for promotion to full professor. One of the major goals of the Appointment was to foster greater collaboration between the CLAS and the COE. As a result, I was added to the Professional Teacher Education Advisory Council (PTEAC), assigned to guide a new CLAS major with an education focus through the university’s governance system, included as the co-principle investigator on a state grant for teacher improvement, asked to help redesign the COE’s teacher assisting seminar, and drafted to be one of the CLAS representatives on a project to develop an experimental teacher preparation program (see Appendix D). In many cases, these experiences overlapped with my efforts in teaching and scholarship, but where they specifically address the CLAS criteria for service the points are coded in green

The remainder of this integrative statement highlights the ways that I have met or exceeded the CLAS expectations for promotion to full professor. Because I tend to focus on where the areas of teaching, scholarship, and service overlap, these highlights are organized by story and not by area. In each case, color-coded expectations precede the related evidence. My integrative statement concludes with a discussion of how my past experiences and accomplishments will frame future efforts in teaching, scholarship, and service.

Evidence of Meeting Criteria for Promotion to Full Professor
Applying the Research in Literacy Instruction to Mathematics
Because it is a rich but often under utilized resource for enhancing mathematics education, I am exploring ways to apply research-based literacy models to the teaching and learning of mathematics. Books and conferences on literacy instruction have provided a wealth of ideas that I have tried in my mathematics education courses. I have used learning centers, the workshop model, and the gradual release of responsibility and written about the experiences on my blog (see hyperlinks).
  • Continual course development to enhance learning
In 2007, I began using learning centers in MTH 221. This involved developing activities that had several different stations situated around the classroom. Each station had a different activity related to a central theme, like polygons. Because so many preservice elementary teachers take this course, I wanted to model how an approach used widely in literacy instruction could be modified for teaching math.
  • Dedication to students, including treating students respectfully and being available to them outside of class
The workshop model has been used in my courses since 2008. It is an instructional approach that includes four parts: schema activation, focus, activity, and reflection. Its goal is to provide learners with a familiar framework in which they can explore unfamiliar ideas. Workshops assigned outside of class respects students as self-directed learners while offering a variety of resources that provide structured support. This support includes the use of instructional technology (such as email, BlackBoard, and Twitter) that increases my availability beyond office hours.
  • Timely, fair and instructive evaluation of student work
  •  Clear communication with students
Another framework that I have applied from literacy instruction is the gradual release of responsibility. Through formative assessment, I evaluate what students can do and where they struggle and try to offer support that moves them forward. Sometimes what they need is a demonstration. Other times it is group practice, or maybe they need time to practice on their own. Ultimately, the goal is for students to learn to be able to ask for the level of support they need in order to be successful.
Students’ written evaluations that suggest I be less vague indicate that some of them expect greater support than I have provided. Being explicit about the level of support I am offering has helped me to address some of the issues students have with vague expectations, but clearly I must be even more intentional about outlining the students’ responsibility in the process. I plan to include more reflective papers that ask them to identify their struggles and the appropriate support they need.
  • Scholarly or creative activity that is subject to discipline-appropriate peer review and distributed outside of Grand Valley State University
  • Work-in-Progress
I have worked with colleagues in the Department of Mathematics to share how we apply literacy ideas to mathematics with a larger audience. I have presented sessions on the literacy-mathematics connection at local, state, national, and international conferences. In 2008, Dr. Billings and I wrote an article for Teaching Children Mathematics describing how reading strategies were used in a course for preservice elementary teachers.  Recently, a group of us submitted a paper to Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School on how the workshop model supports the teaching of the Mathematical Practices from Common Core State Standards.

Social Media
Over the past year, I began exploring how technology might be applied to education. As the role social media is playing in the lives of our students continues to grow, it seems important to find ways to leverage this medium. I decided to pay particular attention to the areas of Twitter and blogging.
  • Clear communication with students
Two summers ago, Dr. Golden and I brainstormed ways to use Twitter with our teacher assistants. We thought it might be a way to stay connected with them while they were in their placements. It also offered the opportunity for us to make our thinking visible to our students. As we tweeted seminar ideas back and forth, the teacher assistants could “listen” in. Dr. Golden piloted the project the Fall of 2010, and we soon found that there was a worldwide network of teachers that we could connect with through this platform. One of our graduates even got support from a Canadian educator as she planned a lesson for a job interview. She got the job.
  • Tangible contributions to the local, regional, national and/or global community
Several people had encouraged me to keep a blog on education as a way to record ideas shared in class for students to access later.  It also made the ideas available to the larger education community. Thus far, I have written over 120 posts viewed by more than 15,000 unique users from over 140 different countries.
  • Scholarly or creative activity that is subject to discipline-appropriate peer review and distributed outside of Grand Valley State University
The combination of using Twitter and blogging also resulted in an invitation to give a keynote at the 2011 Mathematics Council of the Alberta Teachers’ Association Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. One of the organizers follows me on Twitter. He read my blog, watched my TEDxGrandValley talk, and contacted me about speaking. Whenever someone questions my use of social media, I recount this story. Needless to say, I remain a proponent of its use in education and have done several local and state conference presentations with Dr. Golden on its ability to connect with the larger education community.
Comprehensive Science and Arts for Teaching Major
The Comprehensive Science and Arts for Teaching (CSAT) Major was developed to replace the special education certification that the State of Michigan was no longer going to recognize. 
  • A record of active participation in appointed committees, task forces, and duties linked to special assignments
  • Contributions of service linked to achieving the goals of the strategic plans of the unit, college and/or university
My first assignment during my joint appointment was to guide the CSAT Major through Grand Valley’s governance process. There was a deadline for the change and I was charged with working to ensure that we made the transition before it passed. A final plan had been co-written by faculty from the CLAS and the COE but I was responsible for negotiating changes and amending the document.
  • Thoughtful and effective development of curriculum
Once the CSAT Major was approved, I was assigned to be its coordinator. This entailed working with other unit heads to ensure that necessary courses would be available for students in the major and finding faculty to staff the major’s capstone course. A draft syllabus for the capstone, developed by Dr. Jann Joseph and myself, stressed an integrative approach to teaching content in the elementary classroom. Dr. Kasmer agreed to teach the course and did the majority of the work that enabled the capstone to be both a Supplemental Writing Skills and a hybrid course.
  • Effective academic and professional advising
I also worked with the CLAS Academic Advising Center to help set up advising for students transitioning into the new major. We used a group advising approach so that the advisors would be able to support one another while helping to guide students through the change. Advising is one of the most important things I do but because it is not something I do routinely it helps to have other knowledgeable advisors available if there are questions. The group advising proved effective and it is still used, although I am no longer the CSAT Coordinator.
The CSAT Major needed a long-term coordinator, but my joint appointment was designed to be only three years. Also, there was another collaborative project between the CLAS and the COE in development. Therefore, I turned my attention to the joint effort to develop an experimental teacher preparation program.
W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship Program
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation seeks to prepare individuals with experience in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to teach in high-needs secondary schools. In 2010, a group of faculty from the CLAS, the COE, and local districts came together to create an experimental program for preparing up to fifteen fellows for success in teaching secondary science or math.
  • A record of active participation in volunteer committees and/or task forces
  • Self-critique and personal pedagogical development
Together, we developed a program that went beyond the typical teacher education curriculum. This included activities that would build positive relationships among the Fellows and a residency program based on those found in medical education. I was also part of a sub-committee that designed a course for the new program, an adaptation of the COE’s current classroom management course. I had taught this class to undergraduates and I was excited to use my experience of what had and had not worked to improve the course. First, we shifted the focus from managing classrooms to facilitating learning environments. The course would be split over two semesters to reflect the fact that the Fellows’ understandings of engagement would grow with experience. I taught the course and between the summer and fall semester I adjusted the content to better meet the needs of the fellows. Because they were being immersed in the classroom culture in high-needs schools, the Fellows required more concrete support than we had originally planned.
  • Scholarly or creative activity that is subject to discipline-appropriate peer review and distributed outside of Grand Valley State University
My experience with this project also provided opportunities to present invited and peer-reviewed talks at national conventions. During the summer of 2011, I was asked to give two talks at the Convening of Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows in Indianapolis, Indiana. Also, a proposal written by several members of the program development team was accepted for the Association for Teacher Educator’s 2012 Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Unfortunately, another project involving the observation of math student teachers and my role as a supervisor for Fellows’ student teaching precluded me from attending this event.
  • A record of participation in student-centered events such as student recruitment, scholarship interviews, and student registration
While I am not scheduled to teach any more courses in this program, I continue to support it. Each year I have helped in reviewing Fellows’ applications. This is a natural extension of my work on the Graduate Committee for the Department of Mathematics. In this role, I look over the materials of prospective teachers to see whether or not they have the necessary mathematics courses to ensure their success in teaching in the secondary mathematics classroom.
Educators’ Mathematics Content Collaborative
The joint appointment also provided opportunities to further develop my relationships with area teachers through professional development projects. The Educators’ Mathematics Content Collaborative (EMCC) brought faculty together from the COE and the Department of Mathematics to work with local teachers.
  • Preparing and submitting grant proposals
  •  Receiving competitive grants for scholarly or creative activity
I was the co-principle investigator of EMCC with Ellen Schiller from the COE. This was a Michigan Department of Education Title II grant for almost $200,000. The grant supported middle school mathematics and special education teachers in improving their mathematical content knowledge and instructional methods.
  • Active use of one’s scholarly/creative endeavor in the classroom
  • Engaging in scholarly work that is student-centered, actively engages students, and provides a high-impact learning experience
The mathematical content portion of the grant was my primary responsibility. This entailed working with my colleagues in supporting the development of monthly workshops during the school year and two multiday summer institutes. During the Winter 2011 semester, the only time available for many of the inservice teachers to meet conflicted with the teaching schedules of nearly all the GVSU faculty, including mine. I saw this as a chance to bring the practicing teachers and my preservice teachers together to discuss the topics of assessment and evaluation. On two occasions these two groups met for an hour. The preservice teachers benefited from the inservice teachers’ experience and the inservice teachers appreciated our students’ content expertise and creativity. I am using this model to plan a joint 329-629 course during the Fall 2012 semester.
  • Scholarly or creative activity that is subject to discipline-appropriate peer review and distributed outside of Grand Valley State University
The Educators’ Mathematics Content Collaborative included attendance at the 2010 Chicago Lesson Study Conference and 2011 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. A small group of us also presented at the NCTM Conference on what we had learned about trying to design and implement a job-embedded professional development project.
Lesson Study
This was the second time I had attended the Chicago Lesson Study Conference.
  • Active, vigorous engagement with students in the classroom and other learning environments
  • Continued growth and productivity within one’s scholarly or creative activity
  • Participation in the larger community of that scholar’s discipline
The first time was in 2009 with three mathematics majors. These students were in our teacher assisting seminar, which uses The Teaching Gap as a text. This book describes how Japan uses Lesson Study to improve teaching and these students were excited to learn more about this approach. With the support of the CLAS and the COE, I traveled with the students to this national conference. The following Fall, the students presented what they learned to the COE at one of their assemblies. 
  • Evidence of assessment, evaluation and/or development of curriculum
  • Remaining current in the areas of teaching responsibility and revising coursework to reflect changes that emerge in those areas
  • Careful course design, clearly articulated goals, and diligent class preparation
This was my first semester in the COE as a part of my joint appointment. One of the courses I was assigned to teach was the COE’s side of the teacher assisting seminar. I received a great deal of support that semester from Mr. Schultz, the seminar coordinator. At the end of the semester, he asked to meet with me about my thoughts on the seminar. He had read The Teaching Gap because of our presentation and was interested in brainstorming ways to implement a version of Lesson Study in teacher assisting. Over the winter break, we met with some of the other seminar instructors and rewrote the curriculum to focus on development, implementation, and analysis of lessons by the teacher assistants. This curriculum has now been in place for five semesters and is viewed as an effective way to support our teacher-candidates in becoming reflective practitioners.
  • Scholarly or creative activity that is subject to discipline-appropriate peer review and distributed outside of Grand Valley State University.
This episode also contributed to a presentation proposal that was accepted for the 2011 American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Conference in San Diego, California. I presented with the COE Associate Dean, Dr. Caryn King, on the success of the joint appointment in fostering improved communication and collaboration. The story of how three mathematics majors aided in the evolution of the COE’s teacher assisting seminar held a prominent place in the presentation.

Future Plans
The previous pages highlight my professional efforts and detail how these efforts address the CLAS expectations for promotion to full professor. This is not an exhaustive list, merely representative of my best, most recent work in teaching, scholarship, and service. There is more I could share (please see my Curriculum Vita in Appendix A) but space is limited and I wanted to focus on providing a complete picture of these highlights. I also wanted to leave room to describe where I see myself growing professionally in the future.
Teaching
In working with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship Program, I was introduced to a variation on the coaching model we currently use in teacher assisting and student teaching. One of the districts uses Cognitive Coaching, which mentors people using a metacognitive process; this helps teachers to be more aware of their thinking around their practice. The model we use is a bit more restrictive because of its focus on the act of teaching.
I am interested in learning more about Cognitive Coaching and possibility enrolling in the training course. My wife, a certified elementary teacher with an Educational Specialist degree, took the training and has found it beneficial to her teaching practice.  It is my hope that this metacognitive approach to mentoring will enhance my current efforts to help college students to be self-sufficient, lifelong learners.
Scholarship
My experience presenting at a TEDx event and keynoting in Canada has reinforced my desire to disseminate the work we are doing in the Department of Mathematics at GVSU even more broadly. Consequently, I find myself writing more conference proposals for a wider variety of audiences. As a result, my wife and I are presenting a paper on different coaching approaches at the Mentoring Conference this fall.
I would also like to formalize some of the writing that I have been doing on my blog. Several posts focus on the Teaching-Learning Cycle, a framework we find useful in helping our preservice teachers to understand the complex nature of what it means to be an educator. My wife is also interested in this topic and we have contacted a publisher who has encouraged us to begin writing a manuscript.
Service
Recently, I have come to understand more clearly the need for a united effort between K-12 schools and universities to improve public education. In these difficult economic times, universities can offer resources in the form of expertise and possible apprentices (preservice teachers). At a recent PTEAC meeting, a local administrator told us that universities need to do a better job of marketing themselves to school districts, and that one of the best ways to do that is through Intermediate School Districts (ISD). Therefore, I intend to develop professional relationships with the Muskegon, Kent, and Ottawa ISD. My goal is to connect with local districts and offer my support and the support of the future teachers with which I work. I see this having the potential to being beneficial for all involved.
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If you made it all the way through, I am impressed. I would appreciate any feedback in the comments before I share it with my department on August 20th. Thank you in advance.

Friday, August 3, 2012

What's worse than two guys sarcastically watching a video?

Soon after we first posted Mystery Teacher Theater 2000 Episode 1 and it started getting attention, John and I began to consider, "Now what?" As we so often do, we tried to make this thinking visible by sharing it on Twitter.
In retrospect, I regret using "snarking" and "snark" in this discussion because, as I have written before, the original videos (yes videos, another one came out recently) were meant to be satire. Still, hopefully these tweets demonstrate that John and I try to take a meta perspective when it comes to education. 

Well, that's enough background. We hope the message of this version speaks for itself. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Meta Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000.


I hope you stuck around after the credits, there is a surprise waiting for those who persevered through the entire video.





Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Is it worth it?

The second episode of Mystery Teacher Theater 2000 came out last week.
My partner in MTT2K, John Golden, did an excellent summary of his perspective on Khan Academy here. In this post, I want to give a bit of background on how we came to use this video and expand on John's point that "at some level this is two guys goofing around to make a point about good use of resources."

I first saw Khan Academy's videoIntroduction to matrices, while doing an observation of a student teacher. As a part of the lesson, the student teacher decided to show this nearly twelve minute presentation to a class of precalculus students. Throughout the video, the students paid very little attention to the screen and the student teacher ended up going over the basics again.

The idea of having over 3,000 videos on a variety of subjects available to anyone with an internet connection is appealing to me. If the quality of the videos is suspect, it is less attractive but it really is none of my business. When those videos are assigned to K-12 students to watch either in class or after class, then it is part of my responsibility as a teacher educator to question their use. In this case my question would be, "Is this video worth showing in class or could the time be better used?"

In other words, how is this video better than:
  • the teacher providing this information through a more interactive lecture;
  • the students reading the textbook section on matrices; or
  • the class working on an "archeology project" where they try to discover the  basics of matrices using artifacts strategically "found" by the teacher?
Grant Wiggins talks about the juice needing to be worth the squeeze when it comes to assessments. I would say the same could be applied to other instructional decisions like the use of Khan Academy videos as a part of a school's curriculum. In the case of the student teacher, I would say it was definitely not worth the time it took to watch the video and get the students focused back on the lesson.

Perhaps the problem is that the videos were not intended for whole group instruction. A recent post from a Teach for America staff member explains how he used Khan Academy to help differentiate his instruction.
I could point my most advanced students towards videos instructing them on multiple application of a particular theory while I simultaneously walked students struggling with the same notion through a lesson explaining its fundamental premises. It helped me to be a better teacher who reached more of my students more effectively.
Several promotional videos from Khan Academy offer the same testimonial. Teachers assign Mr. Khan's videos to students to watch while the teachers work with smaller groups. Here are two teachers from Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, California talking about using Khan Academy in their classrooms.

If Khan Academy helped these middle school teachers to break out of the mindset of simply giving notes to students, then I really do owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Khan. However, because valuable school time is being used to watch these videos I must push these teachers to think about what comes next. Repackaging the lecture as a video is not a re-imagining of education nor is it true differentiation of learning.

The way they are using the videos sounds more like addressing a classroom management issue than truly facilitating learning. If these teachers are looking for something productive for other students to do while they work with small groups, then I would encourage them to talk to their colleagues who teach reading and writing and manage small groups regularly without assigning videos. I can think of at least a half-a-dozen things that are more worthwhile to do in class than watching a video like the one I sat through during that precalculus lesson. 

I will write another post about alternative activities (if there's any interest) but this post is getting long and I want to give those teachers who assign Khan Academy videos to their classes a chance to respond to the question, "Is it worth it?" Please post your comments below with the understanding that any off-topic comments will be deleted - I would not want you to waste your time.

TEDxGrandValley