Get Them Going Quickly

Get Them Going Quickly

We learned something valuable today.  The best way to teach students how to use Khan Academy is to turn them loose.  After a day of intro to the experiment and a diagnostic test, the students had heard a lot about this revolutionary thing called Khan Academy, but they had not been able to use it.  The students were not even impressed by Bill Gates’ video on the site, “What is Microsoft, anyways?”  So pretty quickly we realized they just had to start using the site.  The teacher, Ruth, checked out the Chromebooks, and we pointed the students towards Khan.

Login went smoothly, in part because our students already used Google Apps for Education for their email.  But we figured (correctly) that many of them had forgotten their passwords — so last night our techs reset all the passwords to a default.  Once logged into Khan, the “Add a Coach” feature was easy for the students.  We decided to have them all start at the top of the “Knowledge Map” with single digit addition, as the Khan team recommends.  The students only needed a couple of minutes to get the hang of the site.  Once they started to get success, the energy points, badges, and streaks built into the site provided a nice feedback loop of instant success.  The first 10-15 minutes were just silent.  Then we stopped them to demo the teacher data screens.  The analytics are really pretty impressive on Khan, and even Ruth was taken by how much we could immediately see about the students progress and knowledge.

A student called out, “This is cool.  I wish I could do this at home.”  We told her that not only could she log in the same way at home, but that the teacher would actually see the progress she made at night and that it would be color coded as “out of school hours” so the teacher would know she was going above and beyond.

A couple of quick learnings from today.  Having a two extra adults in the room on day one really helped to ensure things went smoothly with technology.  Even with the advanced planning, some things came up like a student who did not have a proper email assigned, login issues, etc.  Secondly, we’re definitely watching for the saturation point where student motivation declines after twenty or thirty minutes on the site.  Our debrief today touched on what strategies Ruth is going to test out to vary the activities in class.  That said, it was pretty impressive at the end of the day to realize that students were doing math for almost all of the two-hour class, and that they stayed pretty engaged.  We are watching how long they spend on the more elementary math concepts and how quickly we can get them to the algebra content.  But it is clearly off to a promising start.

Written by Brian Greenberg

Brian Greenberg

Chief Executive Officer for the Silicon Schools Fund

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