Khan Academy’s New ‘Teacher Aid’ Tool Goes for a Test Drive in Southern California

Khan Academy’s New ‘Teacher Aid’ Tool Goes for a Test Drive in Southern California

Most people associate Khan Academy with online videos, and that’s largely what it has been since 2005 when founder and CEO Sal Khan began recording instructional clips from his closet to help his cousin better understand math. But that’s slowly starting to change.

The Mountain View-based nonprofit announced it will be partnering with five of the largest county offices of education in Southern California, plus one school district, to begin implementing its first tool that is fully directed at teachers and classrooms.

“This product is designed to offer ways to assign work from a large body of standards and content that is vetted, and provide new reporting for teachers,” Khan tells EdSurge.

Teachers have always been able to access Khan Academy’s free online tutoring materials. Instructors might send students to the Khan Academy website for additional practice, or have computer stations in class where students complete online quizzes.

Now, the founder explains, the organization is trying to make its offerings a core part of the classroom curriculum through a tool Khan is temporarily referring to as a “teacher aid.”

The product will enable teachers of all subject areas to create and share digital assignments that correlate to Khan Academy videos and other materials, including more than 60,000 Common Core-aligned lessons and interactive exercises.

Other elements include a data dashboard that shows teachers how students are interacting with Khan Academy lessons, how long they are taking to complete assignments, as well as where students struggle or succeed.

Teachers using Google for Education will also be able to integrate the Khan Academy platform with their G Suite for Education account. Specifically, teachers using Google Classroom will be able to quickly add their class roster to the Khan Academy platform, which will sync up both Khan Academy assignments and performance data. (Teachers will be able to use the Khan Academy classroom tool without Google, too.)

The point, says Khan, is to help teachers personalize learning for their students. “If a teacher assigns a set of problems and is able to spot learning gaps, they can leverage Khan Academy to help teachers slow down or speed up education around that,” he says. “Students will have the study resources and teachers get a clear read of where students are at so they can choose what to go over again in class.”

The tool is also a result of research the nonprofit conducted, which found that learners who work with teachers spend more than three times longer on the site than those who visit Khan Academy alone.

For its initial launch, Khan Academy will be working with the Long Beach Unified School District, the Orange County Department of Education, the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, the Riverside County Office of Education, the Imperial County Office of Education and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Altogether, the offices reach nearly 3 million students.

“For me, this is an opportunity for students who don't always have parents able to help with homework either because of a language barrier or maybe because it's too difficult to access,” Debra Duardo, superintendent for Los Angeles County Office of Education, tells EdSurge.

“We want to see more students, especially first generation and kids at the poverty level, get into into college,” adds Al Mijares, superintendent for Orange County Department of Education. “And Khan Academy works anywhere, anytime to close academic gaps.”

Long Beach Unified, which is the third largest school district in California at nearly 77,000 students, will be using Khan Academy across its grades and subjects, according to the organization’s spokesperson. The five county offices of education will be “endorsing” Khan Academy’s new tool for the classroom.

Under the partnership, Khan Academy will be providing the offices with on-the-ground and remote trainings for teachers, principals and administers. In return, the districts will share feedback on how the tool can be improved before it is made publicly available this fall.

The announcement comes without a plan, however. While Duardo says she is excited about the partnership, she also admits that details around how the product will be implemented—and how that will look in upcoming summer months—have yet to be parsed out.

Mijares, who initiated the partnership by first contacting Khan Academy, isn’t concerned about the timing. “Education now is a 24-7 thing. We never shut down, and summer is our peak time to do professional development.”

Khan also remains optimistic. “The more we think about where this can go we get more and more excited. We can add more subjects, practice modalities, lightweight quizzes and assessments, and also get data quicker.”

As for the changing landscape for his organization, Khan continues, “I expect more things like this to come in the future.”

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