Sunday, November 09, 2014

Are You Doing Your Khan Academy Minutes?

The more I use Khan Academy to inform my teaching and provide practice for my students, the more I like it. Yet, getting used to the platform takes time.

For example, this morning as I looked at students' reports. I noticed that some had completed or exceeded the 30 minutes a day practice expectation, and some fell short.

I wrote to a few families asking for a bit more encouragement and support with regard to their child's efforts. I also asked them to let me know if I could help in any way or if there was something hindering the child's practice. I subscribe to differentiated homework expectations, expectations that families, students, and teachers work on together, and I'm more than willing to differentiate expectations dependent on a child's overall goals in learning and life.

To get started with Khan Academy, my students are starting with Early Math or Grade 3. I find that starting at a level that's not overly challenging gives students a chance to learn the program's tools and activities well as well as giving every student a chance to strengthen their vocabulary and math skill/concept foundation. After students finish grade 3, they'll finish grade 4 and then 5. After that, I have a number of other tools, some related to Khan Academy and others that I'll offer to students for practice and learning.

Khan Academy offers so much more than the typical paper/pencil homework. The attributes I see as wonderful include the following:
  • Video support
  • Helpful hints
  • Practice that includes updated standards, vocabulary, and multiple practice opportunities.
  • Reports that track students' minutes, strengths, and challenges.
  • An opportunity to look deeply at a child's performance and use that data to inform, in part, teaching decisions.
The challenge of Khan is that it's a new way of thinking about learning which requires modeling, practice, and coaching. In many cases, I need to sit next to a child repeatedly to coach them as to how to use the tool in beneficial ways. Also, it can be a bit dry for students, but I still think it's worth the trade-off for the great practice, teaching, and learning that's available. 

At times I'm too quick to change from platform and routine for homework which doesn't allow for enough time to troubleshoot or build in good routines. So for now, I'll stick to Khan Academy for homework for the next few months. I'll carefully use the reports to inform classroom study and coaching work. During the class time I'll incorporate multimodal learning experiences including lots of teamwork, problem solving, and share. For enrichment, I'll add creative choices such as the current place value movie contest, a creative learning opportunity open to all. Similarly we'll use many creative choices for review such as our current Team Measurement Review Projects.

Choosing the best tools for learning is a big part of education today. Khan Academy's dynamic platform provides the kind of support that children in the past looked for with regard to home study--support such as quick feedback, language/concept support, and multiple trial opportunities. 

I plan do to my Khan Academy minutes in the weeks ahead to learn the curriculum well and teach with personalization in depth. I plan to coach my students towards completing their minutes as well, minutes that will help them develop a strong foundation for later math learning, growth, and application. Let me know if you have thoughts or ideas in this regard as I look forward to growing this effort to teach all children well.