Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dis'en the Khan Academy

If you're following some of the online discussion about the Khan Academy you might feel there's a battle going on about it's effectiveness. Some strong words are being said about how great it is and how horrible it is. Since I used it almost exclusively during my last trimester and plan to use it for a good portion of my classes next year, I worry that maybe I'm moving in the wrong direction.

I follow several blogs that have mentioned KA recently. Dan Myers' blog is one. I'm going to summarize what I think he was saying in his post and about the comments made about the post. My apologies if I didn't get this right.

Dan and others feel that KA is just the same old, same old delivered in a different way. That the videos still just cover the material the same way texts or teachers might in the classroom. That the deeper questions that need to be used to "really" understand math are not there. I agree, they are not.

But I do like the fact that I can have my students watch the KA videos and ones that I make myself, outside the classroom and that I can use my classroom time with the students to help them work on the concepts. For this, the KA works great and I can tell you that my students are a lot more enthusiastic and energized during class then they were when I was lecturing during class.

I think it would be great if I could take the time to delve deeply into a math concept and really get my students thinking and questioning what was being discussed. Unfortunately, in my "real world," I cannot do this because, whether I like it or not (and I don't), I am judged, my school is judged and my students are judged on how well they do on the state tests.

Math instruction and instruction in general needs to be totally overhauled. I think many of us agree with this. But until this happens we are still limited by having to prepare our students for the standardized tests. Until, they change the test or how they evaluate, I need to spend a significant amount of time during the school year teaching to the test.

Next year I hope to still use KA, but add some project-based learning for part of the week's work. I hope I can find a balance.

Note: I'm new to blogging so be nice. Your comments are welcome, but please be constructive. Thanks

Thursday, June 2, 2011

End Of The Year Reflection

I started using Khan Academy in mid-March of this year (2011). This was just about the beginning of our last trimester. As I described in a previous post, I was not real sure how best to use it, so I just dove right in.

I based 90% of the student's grade for the last trimester on their progress in Khan. I assigned about 25 concepts for each class to successfully complete. The students had only the deadline of May 27th to complete the assignments. However, if I saw a student lagging behind and not working on Khan, then we had a discussion. I also monitored how much time students that were lagging spent on KA outside of class and "encouraged" them to put more time in.

Having this discussion and reminding students that their learning is their responsibility worked pretty well. Most put in more time and/or caught up with the rest of the class.

I did not assign any videos to watch, but rather just told the students to use the videos when they got stuck or wanted help. During class I walked around and helped students. Often, students helped each other as well.  My classes this year, because of how I graded them, had higher averages than in most years.

Even though most students were able to get their streak of 10 on most assignments I question how well they learned the material. I believe most did learn the material, but I know others really didn't get it. So, next year I want to assess their learning better.

I think first I'll actually assign the videos related to the exercises. They will be assigned these to watch outside of class. I might create a short form in Google Docs for students to complete to summarize what they watched. I may require them to watch the video and complete the form before they are allowed to start an exercise.

I would also like to have some type of assessment for after they complete an exercise or exercises. Over the summer I want to correlate my curriculum with KA so I can have the the KA exercises paced for the school year.

Lastly, I'll have my 7th grade state scores back to see how my students did. This might help me decide exactly how I'll use KA next year.

Next year, I want to work with KA and design some project-based assignments to work on.  We'll see how the summer goes.