When Khan Academy launched a few years ago, I read a lot of blogs that were not very positive. The main contention seemed to be that the best way for students to learn was not through disembodied videos but through constructive, social engagement in the classroom. At the time I looked at some of the videos but, given that the curriculum didn’t exactly map to the UK one, I didn’t give it much attention.
Sarah Montague finished a three part series on Radio 4 this week entitled, ‘My Teacher is an App’. Having listened to the first episode of that, I returned to Khan academy and realised there was plenty to do without necessarily having to engage with the videos. While I try to work out how to make technology a force for good in my classroom I thought it would be silly not to give this a go – it’s free after all. I made the decision to trial this with my Year 7 and Year 10 classes. I am also trying something different with my Year 8s which I’ll blog about later.
To be able to set up your class, you have to create your own account. I did this, invited my classes, had a lesson in a computer room to launch it and then asked each student to spend a minimum of 45 minutes working on Khan over the course of a week.
All my Year 7s have managed that – some of them have spent upwards of 4 hours practising Maths outside of lessons. Those in my Year 10 class who have done it, have all spent more time on it than I asked. But, the strange thing is, I seem to be spending time on there every day – I check on how my students have been doing and then end up doing some of the challenges myself.
What is it that gets me to complete the work? I think it is because it feels like a computer game – it is compulsive. For students, each year group is being presented with work on and below where they are at but this helps them demonstrate and practice knowledge that they may not have seen in class for a while. The progress map on the side spurs a student on – they want to get it all dark blue (or at least I do!). They want the points so they can update their avatar. As far as I can see, the gamification has worked.
With my students, the videos haven’t yet been watched, but the questions have been engaged with. I’m not getting many skills that students are struggling with in the coach menu but that could because they are self-selecting the topics they can answer. As they spend longer working on the site, I reckon that could begin to increase.
I’m enjoying this experiment with Khan and I think my students are too.
Oh, it’s time to do another mastery challenge – I’m off!