I’m sure most people know about Khan Academy or at least heard of it before. I fall under having heard about it but had not started using it until 3 years ago, when a colleague provided me a more in depth explanation of its advantages and how it really helped to benefit the students. At this point in time I use Khan Academy for primarily two things, Math and Grammar; however, it covers all subjects areas. Being an American resource much of its content is geared towards American curriculum. Even if you are not from the United States, do not let that deter you from using Khan Academy, especially its Math or Grammar programming as they can work almost for any country.
This site, which could easily require a paid membership, is 100% free and runs by charitable donations. Once you have started using Khan Academy you will begin to realize just how powerful a tool it really is. So as mentioned before even if you are not from the United states there is no risk using this fantastic resource and more than likely you will be able to find a way to apply this powerful tool into your classroom one way or another.
Before I begin as to why why even just trying out this program would be invaluable in your classroom let me first start of why your students will love it, maybe even more than you. First of all Khan Academy allows your students to work at their own pace and doesn’t require you to do any formal class lessons, and the instructions and help are built into each question that students are able to access before asking you for help, more on that later. However, what I have found my students really love are the “energy points” that they acquire for answering questions, even if they get it wrong, watching tutorial videos and mastering topics. These energy points can then be used on leveling up their avatars that they choose once they have first logged in. Students finds this to be quiet motivational and get really excited as the earn more energy points. Students also get different types of awards for their accomplishments which is another encouraging factor for them while they are learning.
Since I started using Khan Academy it continues to grow and expand. What Khan Academy has really become known for is the math lessons and programming it has to offer. However, it really goes beyond that. In fact from the time I have started using Khan Academy specifically for math, they have added a grammar section and a coding section. I started using the grammar last year and have continued using it this year. My next step is to begin using the coding section. In addition what makes this resource even more valuable is that it is a very active and innovative place that can really enhance your students learning experience inside and outside of the classroom. The key point here is what I find particularly valuable is that this resource can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, if you want to assign bonus work students can go home login and do the work you’ve assigned, you can use it as a simple way to assign homework as well, as long as they have the resources at home to access the internet, something which should be taken into consideration. Also, it can be used for the whole class if you have a computer lab, or laptops available. Lastly, one way I have liked using it is for those early finishers in my classroom.
Currently I use the math program once a week in the computer lab with my students. What I particularly like about using Khan academy is that students are able to do a lot of learning on their own through the tutorial videos that have been created for each specific lesson and topic. Also there is are “hints” that students can click on for each question too that will them understand it better too. For me students becoming independent and self-sufficient is important, and Khan Academy allows students to develop this by working on questions and problems on their own, whether it is Math or Grammar. As such, I not only use this program for its academic purposes but also to teach life skills. Often times students want to come to the teacher who can easily provide the answer for help, however this videos are very detailed that even if the student had never learned a concept or topic in class yet they have the ability to learn it on their own. I have found this to be successful as students become more familiar with how the program works and as they gain the skill their confidence increases, as they realize they can do it on their own for the most part. Obviously, I will help them when I know for sure they are working on something beyond their skill level or are just having typical difficulties, especially understanding key words and terms.
A particular key feature is that you are able to control what is assigned to the students specifically, from grade level of math, to specific topics you want them to focus on from your “coaches dashboard”. For example, I start my students at at what is called “Early Math”. This covers kindergarten, parts of grade 1 and 2, ad well as the subject area called arithmetic. I do this on purpose so that what what the students are working on are below their grade level and this helps build up early success and confidence. As well, as we are all too familiar with no class ever has students who are starting off at the same skill level and ability. As a result, students with lower abilities this might be an excellent place for them start and students who are more advanced they will also build up their confidence. As a result, you can truly personalize the learning experience for all your students individually as you begin to understand their weaknesses and strengths and for those where who have a more natural affinity towards mathematics you can in a sense let them fly through the programming and become independent in their work, better problem solvers and learn to know when they ask for help.
The most central feature to Khan Academy in my opinion is the progress tracking of each student and its depth. The reason why I find this to be valuable is that it is actually usable data that can be used in order to support the student in a multitude of ways, especially in terms of understanding weakness and difficulties a student maybe be having. Furthermore, the data tracking can be used when talking to parents about a students progress. For example, the Math program tracks the exact usage in minutes of how much work the student was doing that class. So if you’re class is 40 minutes but you’re only seeing 10 minutes of activity, this can be used in a discussion to help support that that particular student is not using their time effectively, or is goofing off. Further it also tracks the days they have logged in. So for example, if you have students chronically absent. or late this is another great piece to use to support yourself as a teacher, as it will show that the student had not used the program that day. Furthermore, the program also shows the exact times the student was logged on for, for how long and what was exactly worked on. Therefore a student just couldn’t simply log on and say I was at school or I was on time. It’s a hard pill to swallow at times, but as teachers, the more pieces of evidence we can have especially data that we cannot “change or manipulate” really does help to protect us as professionals, especially from certain parents who may want to challenge our skills and competence as a professional. As a result, the data/progress tracking comes with the benefit of the teaching helping to support the student and at the same time, it also produces data that helps supports the teacher with legitimate data that can be used in a variety of ways, especially with parents, administration or the students themselves.
Overall I have been very impressed since I started using this site. Signing up an entire class only takes minutes and the all the steps on how to do it it are very clear and simple. In addition if the students teacher next year is using Khan Academy you can simply transfer that particular students profile into their next years teachers created class and there is no need to create a whole new profile all over again. I would say at the very least this site is worth a try within your classroom, even if it is for something as simple as an early finisher. This way it gives you a bit of exposure to what Khan Academy is all about without commitment and investing too much time if it turns out to be something that is not for you.
Site Break Down:
- no membership
- data/progress tracking
- learn at own pace
- no prep
- high student engagement
- students can work on it at home
- requires access to technology
- implementation in class can be tricky
- curriculum is American Based
Easy to Navigate: 5/5
- site has essentially remained the same
- well organized/layed out
Site usefulness: 5/5
- can be used for all grade and subjects
Prep needed for Materials: 5/5
- no prep needed: requires proper technological resources
Active Webpage: 5/5
- adds content and programs slowly but is high quailty
- lots of updates and communcation
Overall: 5/ 5