Saturday, July 14, 2012

Creating Audiences

I've tried to stay out of the Khanversation, at least here. Occasionally, I'll throw a tweet or two out there, but no official statement. However, the latest Vi Hart video has me confused. So confused, in fact, that after my first view, I thought she had just called out Khan Academy.

Vi's video posits that true artists tend to break the previously held rules of maximizing one's known audience by clearly addressing them via existing channels. In essence, an artist creates her audience. I originally thought she was taking aim at Khan Academy with this video until it was pointed out to me that right around the 2:07 mark  she says,

"There's a reason that people prefer my videos which ramble through my thought process or Sal's Khan Academy videos which he makes in real time..." 

Vi actually aligns herself with Sal as if what they do are Khansubstantial.

I Khan't disagree more.

I don't think I have to argue that Vi Hart creates her own audience, but to say Khan Academy does the same thing is, well, just wrong.

Let's take these three points one at a time.

1. Know your audience and address yourself directly to it.
Sal's audience is every student who ever asked the question, "Can you show me how to do ?" This is a prevalent view of education. Give kids enough knowable things and they'll sort out which ones they'll need at a later date and which ones they can discard. Unfortunately, the real point that gets missed is that this approach actually robs students of the opportunity to learn how to discern between what's important and what's unnecessary noise within the actual learning process. There is no co-production between Sal and his audience (at least in the videos I've seen) as his audience is the consumer.

2. Know what you want to say and say it clearly and fully.
Though his videos may not be scripted, Sal knows exactly what he wants to say. The fact that he makes his videos in "real time" doesn't hide the fact that he's taking a message that's highly glossed and falsely making it seem rough around the edges. He's basically taking a belt sander to a new pair of jeans and telling us he's worn them for years. Taking an "aw, shucks" attitude into the videos is really no different than a politician putting on a hard hat with the good ol' boys down at the factory and saying, "see, I'm one of you."

The message is very clear: Here's what you need to know, now know it

3. Reach the maximum audience by utilizing existing channels.

I believe Vi when she says she's making videos for the only person she truly knows: herself. As a result, she's come to know and be known by many. Sal, on the other hand, is playing to an audience and adjusts to feedback.

As for the suggestion that those of us who criticize should make our own videos, here you go, I have an entire library of real time videos, many of which were recorded before a live studio audience group of students. These videos were inspired by their questions. They aren't anything special, but for the kids who asked the questions, they meant a lot.  For those of you who prefer to follow the textbook, I've got you covered.[1]

[1] Keep in mind that these videos were not intended to be initial instruction.  They were intended to be a resource for students who needed a reminder or an archive of past conversations.  


Sue VanHattum said...

You do understand that she works for Khan now, right?

David Cox said...

Yeah, I know.

Mr. Piccini said...

I understand why you made a footnote, but dangit that is the whole crux of this Khan Academy ridiculousness. Awesome post, as always David.

Mr. R. said...

Very nice post. Well thoght out, organized and.....amusing!