December 12, 2011

Every Kid a Khan Student? From EdTechResearcher

EdTechTeacher Summer Workshops 2012“I have a been working recently with several schools and organizations in thinking about the Flipped Classroom (we even have a summer workshop coming up at Harvard this summer).” Writes EdTechTeacher’s Co-Director, Justin Reich.

I’ll probably write more about Flipped in a future post, but the idea is that you reorganize instructional time so that the most cognitively demanding tasks occur in the classroom. Content delivery should happen through online video outside of classtime, and the in-class time should be devoted to projects, processing, etc.

One of the leading tools out there for flipping the classroom are the series of videos produced by Salman Khan at Khan Academy. Most descriptions of the Flipped Classroom suggest that teachers need to produce their own online content. But flipping a classroom doesn’t require extensive video production–teachers can use existing media. This is especially true in math, where there are already zillions of videos online.

Khan Academy also has a built in set of practice problems organized into a logical sequence of topics. So you can watch the video, do the practice problems, get feedback for wrong answers, review videos that would be helpful. For students who log in, they can receive badges and awards for progress and teachers can receive updates and data visualizations about their students progress. So any individual student can on their own use Khan Academy as an entire mathematics curriculum, or a teacher can use it for their entire set of students. It’s a very compelling attempt at creating a truly personalized math curriculum, where every student can, in theory, progress at their own pace, experience choice in the progression of topics, and so forth.

I think there are some very good reasons to consider using Khan in the classroom, the main one being that our seat-time based math curriculum is for our convenience, not for the students. It doesn’t make sense to have every student spend 55 minutes on a topic, if some students require 25 minutes and others 75 minutes. That’s for our organization benefit, not for kids.

But more importantly, I can’t think of any reason why every child in America, from second grade up, shouldn’t be enrolled in Khan Academy. It would take maybe 30 minutes to show kids how to use it, and then I think most students would find the tool very intuitive. Even for teachers who can’t or don’t want to use it in their own classroom, it’s a powerful set of tools for students to review, race ahead, and get extra help. There are lots of good reasons why math classes should include things other than Khan Academy, but I can’t think of any reason why not to enroll every kid in the country as soon as they start learning arithmetic. Even if one 1 in 10 or 1 in 100 students uses it to develop math skills on their own time and at their own pace, isn’t that worth the 30 or so minutes it would take to show everyone?

What do you think? Any reason not to get everyone logged on?

To learn more about Justin’s work, visit EdTechResearcher or EdTechTeacher.