Only six years old and currently used by a handful of elementary schools in California, Khan Academy, a free online tutoring site, is being called a model for the future of U.S. education. As seen on "60 Minutes" this month, utilizing 3,000 free videos and software that provides digital lessons and simple exercises, Khan Academy "flips the classroom" where students watch Khan videos at home to understand a concept then at school do problem sets called modules to make sure they understand. Teachers are more mentors rather than lecturers, with software keeping track of each student's progress. Students learn at their own pace and teachers can be more effective using their time helping those in need and encouraging others. Bill Gates has praised the concept and is funding it. As a member of the school board, under what conditions would you be supportive of bringing Khan Academy to Belmont?
I hadn't heard about this organization until you raised the question. It is a great concept, but what about students who don't have computers at home and families who can't afford one? During these tough economic times and with many people out of work some families struggle to pay their bills. A computer would be a luxury. Will Bill Gates fund computers for these students?
While this sounds like a excellent idea, I'd like to point out that nothing can replace teachers in the classroom. A good teacher connects with all students whether they struggle, are advanced, or are an average student. We are fortunate in Belmont to have first-class educators.
If elected, and this was funded by Bill Gates or some other philanthropist, I would be supportive of it. No child should be left behind.
First, I must disclose that I am a huge fan of Khan Academy!
Salman Khan is one of my personal heroes for his paradigm-shifting contribution to education. I recently used Khan Academy to refresh my understanding of quadratic equations in preparation for taking the GRE for my application to Harvard Graduate School of Education. I enjoy virtual Art History lessons in the Louvre on khan academy.org, and I am incorporating it in my curriculum when I teach ninth-grade biology at Punahou School this summer.
Khan Academy is free, it’s fun, and it works. This innovative approach to delivering content speaks totoday’s generation of students: Youtube-like videos that students can pause and repeat as many times as they need. I highly recommend for all readers to check it out personally. Take a lesson or two. Watch the TED lecture by Khan. If you have a child who is struggling with a math concept, you can use it now as an at-home homework aid. If you have a child who is hungering for more challenge in math (or biology, art history, economics, chemistry, SAT prep, and the list goes on…), Khan Academy is an excellent resource for you to use at home.
I support incorporating it into our schools, but we must carefully discern how to introduce it – likely with a high school pilot program across one grade level. Khan Academy has been piloted in other schools by using a flipped classroom approach, which switches lesson learning (school-time) and lesson practice(homework). In this new approach, students first learn the lessons at home, and then come to school and engage with the material in the classroom, either through practice sets, collaboration with other students,or with personalized tutoring help from the teacher.
One benefit of Khan Academy is students can go attheir own pace – they are liberated to go at the speed they need to master the material. A child who excels in math can watch 20 videos a night if s/he wants, and a child who stumbles over a spot in the lesson can pause and repeat the lesson until the content is fully understood. Additionally, teachers get feedback about where students get stuck, so they can quickly address the issues.
Past budget cuts eliminated funding for substitute teachers at the high school level, which leaves students without class when a teacher is sick or absent. Piloting Khan Academy with flipped classrooms keeps students in class and engaged with the material, even if one teacher is not present. Since the on-line system completely monitors what students are working on, the absent teacher has a report of students’ on-task behavior in their absence, which is an instant accountability. This concept may raise fear in some that the program is a replacement for teachers: NO, teachers are still a critical part of evaluating and coaching each student, but in the dearth of funded substitute teaching, flipping the classroom with Khan Academy leverages technology to cover this gap.
“A free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” "The game changer for education.” "The future of education.”
The first quote is how the Kahn Academy program promotes itself; the latter two are media blurbs. Better than sliced bread? I’m not sure.
The digital lessons provided on-line by Khan Academy are certainly an excellent learning tool. As described in the preface to this week’s question, it enables the student to learn lessons at his own pace and enables the classroom teacher to provide one-on-one instruction to an individual student or to small groups of students.
It can be exciting to think about students learning at their own pace – those who grasp concepts more quickly can forge ahead and stay engaged and those who require more time to grasp concepts are allowed the time needed and avoid being left behind. It can be exciting to envision teachers being able to work more closely with an individual students or small groups of students.
Before getting carried away with excitement, it is important to remember that school-based learning involves much more than the delivery of content. The classroom is where students learn to get along with each other, where they hear different ideas, and where they learn to explore and articulate their own ideas. The process of collaborative learning is as important as the process of individual learning. Delivering content is only one of many roles of an educator. A good teacher is someone who models behavior, who inspires and motivates students. A good teacher is someone who encourages, mentors, and influences many facets of a student’s developmental growth. Teachers are given the charge of teaching many of life’s skills.
What impact will utilization of the Kahn Academy program have on some of these non-content elements of public education? With more than 20 schools in California currently using the Kahn Academy math program, it will be interesting to learn what more time will tell. But with only a cursory knowledge of the program at this point in time, it is difficult to make a recommendation on its use in Belmont.
The Kahn Academy program is a very exciting teaching tool, yet for every notion of its use, I’m left with open-ended questions: If we pilot it for one subject, at one grade level, can we be certain home computers are available to all students? If we pilot it at the high school for a group of fewer than 20 accelerated learners, can we devote the teaching capacity to it? Does the process address all types of learning: those students who learn by doing; those who learn by hearing; those who learn by reading? With adequate review and planning, these questions may be answered. We should always be open to innovation to achieve the objective of preparing students to excel at lifelong learning.