Using Khan Academy in my Class
So I’ve been using the Khan Academy website in my class… but I don’t think it’s in the way the math education world wants (or doesn’t want) Khan to be used in the classroom. I haven’t flipped my classroom.
First you need to know my schedule: I’m working at a school which is making significant structural and philosophical changes to improve achievement of our students. One of the strategies is building in a pyramid of interventions. One way this is implemented is that on certain days, some of classes have an extra 25 minutes that I am to use for remediation, one-on-one attention, or student conferences. The way the schedule is set up is such that on Monday, my 1st and 2nd periods are longer while the others are a typical 50 minutes; on Tuesday, my 3rd and 4th are longer; and on Thursday, my 5th and 6th are longer. All 6 classes still meet every day. This is not a block schedule – I can’t plan a ‘block’ lesson because of the way the periods are staggered – I’d only be teaching the lesson for 2 classes on any particular day. The reality is that I don’t have the structure yet to implement this as well as I could – for a long time, I just ended up extending the lesson / having students work on homework for that extra time. Then I had an idea.
Khan Academy has a feature where they will generate practice problems for students to work on and ‘work through the material at their own pace’. There are even achievements. You can add a ‘coach’ – someone who can monitor progress. You move to the next stage by answering 10 questions correctly in a row – it’s all based in a mastery philosophy.
How I’m spending my extra 25 minutes for every class: I created a generic Google account for every class and have set up rules and structure within my class where we move through the Khan Academy practice dashboard and try to get as far as we can. The class that gets the farthest gets a pizza party at the end of the semester. I pick students names out of a hat, anyone in their group can answer the question, we keep going until we’ve answered enough to move to the next level. Each account is tied to my personal gmail account (I’m their coach) so I can monitor their progress.
Results: The game aspect and pizza party incentive really motivates my students – they want to play this ‘game’ whenever they can. It also helps that the first few sections are easy – Addition, Multiplication, etc – it boosts their egos. But then you hit some tricky conceptual problems – Number Line, Word Problems, etc – and they still want to power through it – to be the first class to finish that category. Some have asked me about creating accounts of their own outside of class.
Why I like it: My kids have massive gaping holes all over the place that I am still uncovering. They also need lots and lots of dirty practice and drill and skill. They just need it – too many sloppy mistakes. I’m glad that they’re getting this practice and the motivation to perform well and accurately has been taken out of my hands – it’s mostly student motivated. I also like that the students will naturally hit things they’re unsure about – soon they’ll get to decimals and fractions, negative numbers, etc. Maybe even things they’ve never seen before, which gives me an opportunity to teach it to them. The discussions we had about the Number Line were illuminating to some students. I was able to throw in some mental math tricks (“Do you guys ever see a subtraction problem and instead of subtracting, ask yourself ‘what number do I need to add in order to get the other number?'”) and have students elaborate on their answers. I also can’t underestimate how much I appreciate the fact that my students are essentially doing the middle school drill & skill problems that they desperately need but in a way that doesn’t feel like busy work. I’m also looking forward to when they hit something that they either never learned before or completely forgot, giving me a natural opportunity to teach it (note that in these moments it’s me – the teacher – teaching, not us watching a video).
So… there’s that.