Ok, now that I’ve got that out of my system, down to business: reviewing Khan Academy, an online learning platform for teachers and students.
Over the past two weeks, our learning community has started to delve into open education. The viewings and readings definitely led to a pretty strong emotional and personal reaction. I certainly wasn’t alone. Peers, like Kelsie Lenihan, wrote about their reactions to the perceived injustice of industries making big money in education while so many remain without real access.
This week marks an introduction for me to one specific open education resource:
After browsing through a few resources, this one piqued my curiosity for a few reasons:
- Their motto: “You can learn anything. For free. For everyone. Forever.”
- Wonderful! They are a non-profit that are seemingly concerned with one thing: delivering quality education to everyone.
- My Practice: This is something that is immediately relevant to my own practice. This can actually fill a void left by:
- Mathletics: For some years, I have had access to mathletics, an engaging, interactive online platform for math instruction and engaging practice. Fantastic, except for one thing: $$$ Mathletics is definitely not free, and we have actually decided that this is an expense we can no longer afford in the face of cuts to spending.
And so, I am drawn to Khan Academy. A free resource. For me, free resources being available is not really new. But the difference in quality has often been prohibitive, especially when compared to paid versions.
So how does Khan Academy stack up? Firstly, Khan Academy is a general learning platform. It is not limiting itself (or specializing) to any specific subject. It penetrates all across the curriculum and grade levels, and this is certainly enticing to me.
How does it work? Check out MY FIRST EVER SCREENCAST to help yourself get going with signing up, adding a class, adding students and, finally, adding assignments:
Overall Quality + Usability
Ok, so the visual effects aren’t going to blow anybody away. As far as educational quality, there is something to be said for the simplicity and succinctness of the learning modules. This seems geared for not taking a lot of time, for teachers, to plan and set up. It also seems designed with student independence in mind, as the instructional videos and lessons are short and, I feel, easy to follow. Here is an example of a short tutorial preceding a game on subtracting 1 vs subtracting 10.
At two minutes and thirty seconds, it is not too taxing on a child’s attention span for listening, and the basic visuals make it fun enough to follow along. As a teacher, you can follow along your student’s progress. There are also incentives for students to move along through assigned lessons and activities with awards and badges.
Khan Academy certainly fits the bill as far as being open. It is free. I believe it can fill a void, for me, left by our school not being able to afford mathletics any longer. But as I earlier mentioned as being my experience with free resources, this does not feel like a second rate alternative. From my perspective, the quality of the lessons serve their purpose well.
Honestly, the only thing that would inhibit usage is access to technology, and this is an open question mark in our schools. We continue to function in an environment of computer carts, with over five hundred students having to continually share a very small number of computers. But this, I suppose, is more of a conversation around access to technology.