Khan Academy Team Visit
It was great to have the Khan Academy team and Shantanu Sinha, President of Khan Academy, come to visit Envision Academy on Friday to see the Blend My Learning experiment in action. We were impressed by their long-term vision of what Khan could become. It’s really interesting to know how much their vision for education involves Project Based Learning. So many people think of Sal’s work as being “drill and kill”. Quite the contrary, the team is interested in giving students and teachers the tools to learn the core content in a more individualized manner with the hope of freeing the teacher to do much more innovative application and project work during class time. If the technology can help with direct instruction and ensuring that students know the content, the teacher’s role can be much more expansive.
Through our conversations we landed on an important distinction that I think a lot of people are missing. The game changer in Blended Learning is not the technology, it’s the individualization that technology allows. The real potential lies in letting students go at different speeds and learn different content. In theory, we as educators have always known this (i.e. differentiation). But in a traditional classroom, the teacher does not have the necessary tools for real differentiation. It may not be perfect yet, but with just one week on Khan, our teacher, Ruth, has a lot of data about what students do and do not know. She can monitor who is really working, and she has the tools at her fingertips to effectively pull students for small group instruction, one on one intervention, or even whole class lecture. She can deliver content based on clear data that shows what students know. It’s also a game changer to have a really good learning option for the students who are not working with the teacher. We can say, “go jump on Khan” and know that the students working independently are learning real math. One result is that the class feels way more student-focused to the kids. We are seeing zero classroom management issues in the Khan class which is not the case in the traditional pedagogy class that happens on the same day with the same teacher. We don’t have it figured out yet, but this has been a fascinating first week of the experiment.