October 23, 2011
Khan Academy is the free online "for dummies" resource for learning
Would you recommend any of these books to someone taking a physics class?
If someone was taking a physics class and told you they were using one of those books as a supplement, would you tell them not to?
I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to either one of those questions, but I do have my own opinions. :-)
I think, in general, the condensed review-guide style or "for dummies" type books are not particularly great resources for students in my classes to turn to. I would not recommend them, if asked by a student, but if a student said they had picked one up and was trying to use it to help study, I wouldn't necessarily discourage that, either. I would encourage that student (and ALL my students) to focus on the material and concepts we are engaged with in class, but if another books helps facilitate that, maybe that is okay.
The warning that I would give my students is that I cannot possibly review all the material out there to know the quality of that particular book. I wouldn't know if it has any errors or misconceptions presented in it. I also have a bit of trouble knowing whether or not to trust the author without reading the book and evaluating it myself. From the four books shown above, I've only ever heard of one of the co-authors: Eugene Hecht, who has written an optics textbook that I have used in teaching. Finding and verifying the credentials of the other authors is difficult or impossible in many cases.
I go to bookstores frequently, and I have no doubt that any of these books are going away anytime soon. A few new ones trickle out every year or so and eventually old ones go out of print.
If someone was to decide to write a new physics study guide, that wouldn't be a big deal. But what if that person decided to give it away for free on the internet. Would that be a big deal? Would you point your students to that resource? (Maybe you would. Maybe you wouldn't. Again, there is no wrong answer to that question.)
Of course, you can find study guides or collections of notes all over the web. Some are great, some are not so great.
It should be no big deal if someone posts a new resource online. Yet, there is no denying that the Khan Academy has got the attention of teachers, administrators, school boards, foundations and policy makers who are all concerned with the future of education.
My question is WHY are so many people excited about the Khan Academy when the quality of the product is no better than the "for dummies" series of books, and in some cases, isn't even as good as those?
Posted by Andrew at 5:28 PM