Khan Academy aims to provide a “free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” The cornerstone of this web-based tool is its collection of more than 5,500 videos and 100,000 practice problems covering K-12 math and select topics in science, history, business, art history and test preparation.
These materials are available for free at www.khanacademy.org. Students can view the lessons in tutorial form or they can be guided by Khan Academy’s personalized learning software which serves up the most appropriate content based on a student’s previous experience on the site. Teachers, coaches, parents and students can view progress on these modules through an extensive data dashboard.
Recently Khan Academy has rolled out three big developments. First, Khan Academy has rolled out Common Core aligned questions for all the math standards for grades 4-12 (K-3 will be done by August 2014). The questions were developed and reviewed by a group of 40 math educators in association with SmarterBalanced and Illustrative Mathematics to ensure that the questions are aligned to the upcoming assessments. Students embark on "missions" that provide recommendations based on your current understanding and mastery of the content. Students progress through content and practice problems and then take "Mastery Challenges." These mastery assessments can only be accessed every 48 hours and consist of questions from across the various topics that students have reviewed utilizing the concepts of both spacing and context switching. Students can complete up to three levels of mastery and earn badges based on the completion of these challenges. Teachers can view all of their student's completion rates and mastery levels of all the content and assessments, filtering by individual students, certain skills or percent completion.
Second, the most used content is now available in Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. There are volunteer organizations that have translated portions of the site into other languages, but students throughout the world can now access the key site content site in Spanish, or Brazilian Portuguese, apart from English.
Third, Khan Academy and the College Board have partnered to deliver full prep modules for the new SAT through Khan Academy. These modules will deliver content and assessments for both the math and verbal sections of the newly outlined SAT (here are more details about the partnership and offering).
As of May 2014, about 350,000 teachers have registered on the Khan Academy site, 450 million video lessons have been watched, and over two billion problems have been completed by students in approximately 200 countries. Its website is accessed by over ten million unique users per month.
How it's used:
When users first arrive at the Khan Academy website, they are bombarded with a plethora of options for watching videos or working through practice models. Anyone who visits the site may immediately begin the curriculum; however, any progress or form of recognition (such as a badge or streak) is lost if they fail to sign in. The sign-in process is managed through Google or Facebook accounts, something administrators should keep in mind in structured school environments.
After log-in, users have complete freedom to choose from videos and practice exercises of different levels of difficulty, with links to these options found in the menu bar and homepage. Users who elect to watch videos will be taken to an extensive list of topics, sorted alphabetically. These are a great resource for people of any age doing independent study, subject matter overview or filling in foundational knowledge gaps.
Users who elect to do practice exercises will be taken the Khan Knowledge Map which organizes exercises by prerequisite and provides a macro view of the foundational knowledge needed to tackle more advanced math topics.
One key distinction: While the videos cover a wide range of topics including math, humanities, and sciences, the practice modules only cover K-12 math.
Khan Academy provides some classroom implementation models and best practices. Many school pilots have opted for a “blended learning” model or “flipped” classroom approach for implementing Khan Academy curriculum in the classroom.
the blended or hybrid model (a mix of teacher-led instruction and
individual study) with Khan Academy, some teachers first require
students take a diagnostic test to determine where within the Knowledge
Map they should start. The Envision project that took place during the
summer of 2011 in Oakland opted to use the Elementary Algebra Diagnostic
Exam offered by the Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Program at the
University of California at Berkeley. It’s important to note that this
diagnostic was specifically for algebra instruction;
administrators/teachers should seek out diagnostics best suited for the
math topic they are teaching. The diagnostic is also integral in
creation of the lessons for teacher-led instruction.
Other teachers, including those at Eastside Prep in East Palo Alto, Calif., and Summit Public School in San Jose, are eschewing diagnostics and are reporting success with letting students work through the content at their own pace.
A slightly more nuanced version of the blended model is the “flipped” classroom. From the Khan perspective, “flipping” entails students working through videos and practice modules as homework (and outside schools hours), then using classroom time for 1:1 and small group intervention, or project-based learning.
In these models (and many in between), the key to implementation is effectively using the data dashboard which provides a question-by-question breakdown of time on-task and performance by topic and sub-topic.
In short, the Khan Academy is an open, informal collection of knowledge available to all learners, that with proper planning and implementation, is proving effective in many classroom settings.
What material is presented?
As of February 2010, founder Salman Khan himself had made 2,800 (and counting) videos on subjects from addition to AP Calculus. His development team, meanwhile, has made more than 300 practice modules. Khan is particularly strong in math and science. In October 2011, Khan Academy formed a partnership with SmartHistory. They had already created 300 videos on art and history that are now part of the Khan curriculum. They had already planned to expand content creation in other areas of humanities as well.
In his videos, Khan tends to teach topics in broad, simple strokes that are a welcome departure from traditional classroom instruction so motivated learners typically love his straightforward, casual teaching style.
In the blended trial conducted at Envision during the summer of 2011, students were especially focused on completing a streak (answering a series of questions correctly) for each practice module. The “pleasantly frustrating” feature plays well to students' competitive streaks.
How it assesses students
Khan Academy offers a variety of tools to help teachers and students track progress. Teachers get real-time summaries of class performance and know which students are struggling. They can drill down to get details about each student. Students get at-a-glance details about what they’ve learned and whether they are hitting their goals.
Since progress reports are all in real time and are constantly being updated, Khan Academy has opted not to make them downloadable. “The data would become obsolete immediately,” explains spokesperson Elizabeth Slavitt.
What does it cost?
Free minus the cost of computer and Internet connection.
Ands, Buts, Ors
The Khan Academy has legions of fans. (Even the news media is charmed. Here's a NYTimes article from November 2011). That enthusiasm has raised expectations about what Khan material can do for students--and triggered backlash.Critics say that Khan's material amounts to traditional lectures with high-tech packaging. (See this FastCompany article.)
“They’re using technology is a traditional way,” says one charter school curriculum director. “A lot of their development is on the badges and motivation system and not necessarily [on] improving the quality of their material and exercises.”
The Khan program is still very much in evolution. It does not provide a diagnostic for determining where within the Knowledge Map a student should begin and company
executives concede the map is unwieldy. “When we had 80 exercises, the
map made sense. We are undergoing a big project to reorganize all the
content video and exercises into topics,” said Elizabeth Slavitt of
Khan’s school implementation team in February 2012.
As of early 2012, teachers, admins, or parents have to determine each student's starting point with Khan using their own methods. Similarly, there is no scope and sequence aligning video content and practice modules to state or national standards.
Teachers may need to set arbitrary time limits or create personalized grading rubrics to ensure that appropriate content is covered during a semester or a year. In a flipped classroom, Khan video and practice modules present more than enough work for homework assignments.
Blended learning trials at Los Altos and Envision report students not using the videos as much as expected. (See report below). This may be due to length of video, format of class instruction, or misalignment of teaching styles between teacher and Salman Khan.
With videos hosted on YouTube, some schools still have firewall issues. Similarly, sign-up is only available through Facebook or Google accounts. Schools using Khan Academy should look into Google Apps for Education, which enables schools to get accounts for students under age 13.
Even so, literally millions of people worldwide have found Khan videos--and increasingly the exercises that accompany them--to be clear, engaging and effective ways to learn concepts.
The most extensive evaluation of Khan so far has been the work in Oakland at Envision, a five-week study conducted during the summer of 2011. Two groups of high school students (both at Envision) participated in the study.
The study found that those who used the Khan Academy software improved slightly. The program managers published this report: Blend My Learning: Lessons Learned From a Summer Blended Learning Pilot.
In the Los Gatos (Calif.) Unified School District, two seventh-grade classrooms who used Khan Academy curriculum during 2010-11 showed significant improvement: The number of “Advanced” or “Proficient: students increased dramatically, from 23 to 41 percent. You can read more about the pilot on the Huffington Post.
In December 2011, the program managers published this report: Blend My Learning: Lessons Learned from a Summer Blended Learning Pilot. In addition, research firm SRI International is reportedly working on an evaluation of the software in the classroom.
Are you a teacher or administrator who has used this product? Be the first to share your experiences with others by writing a Case Study: