CCs look at self-paced, online tutorials

Self-paced, online courses backed by data analytics could help community colleges get remedial students up to speed, said Khan Academy founder Salman Khan in a keynote speech at the American Association of Community College convention.  Some community colleges are creating their own online tutorials, often geared to remedial students.


PRI: Flip the regulations

Students are learning more in “flipped” classes that use Khan Academy lessons, concludes a Pacific Research Institute report by Lance Izumi and Elliott Parisi. Furthermore, flipping could save tax dollars and extend the reach of excellent teachers. However, the free-market think tank sees bureaucratic obstacles to the spread of flipped and blended learning.

In a pilot in a Silicon Valley school district, some fifth- and seventh-grade math teachers used Khan’s instructional videos and student-tracking software. During class, students worked on problems and projects in small groups or directly with the teacher. Math scores rose, writes founder Salman Khan in The One World Schoolhouse. Twice as many seventh graders reached grade level. With each student working at his or her own pace, “we were seeing that students who were put in the ‘slower’ math classes could actually leapfrog ahead of their ‘non-slow’ peers,”  Khan writes.

Urban charter schools also piloted Khan math lessons. At an inner-city Oakland charter school, sixth graders who started with a third-grade mastery of math reached the  fifth- and sixth-grade level in six months, Khan writes.

Excellent teachers can work with more students in a flipped set-up, argues the report, citing education technology experts Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel.

. . . if one class out of four in a school’s 4th grade has an excellent teacher, and she spends half her instructional time on whole group instruction and half on more dynamic/personalized learning, then if Khan takes over the former whole-group instruction, two 4th grade classes could have that teacher just for personalized/dynamic learning.

A relatively low-cost aide can supervise computer labs where students view lessons, saving money. That’s the model at Rocketship charter elementary schools, which are posting very strong test scores.

To expand Khan Academy, Izumi and Parisi recommend awarding credit for mastering subject matter rather that “seat time,” changing state funding to follow students to online and blended-learning courses and expanding school choice.

Khan: Tech-powered teachers can do more

Khan Academy videos — and interactive exercises — will empower teachers, not replace them, writes Salman Khan in Education Week.

Khan Academy’s free videos now cover every subject from algebra to art history for grades K-12, he writes. In additions, students can practice math skills, move forward at their own pace and receive feedback while teachers monitor their students’ progress.

Teachers are struggling to meet students’ different “abilities, motivation levels, and incoming knowledge,” Khan writes.

Some are ready for grade-level content, while others have not fully mastered the prerequisites. Still others have already learned the grade-level material and are ready to move on to more advanced concepts. Ideally, teachers would like to meet all those needs simultaneously, but it is only humanly possible for them to teach one lesson at a time.

. . . when used appropriately, technology can enable teachers to lead differentiated and interactive classrooms. When teachers have real-time data and a clear understanding of every child’s needs, they can use their precious classroom time more effectively and flexibly. When students are learning at a pace and level appropriate to their individual needs, they are less likely to disengage or act up.

. . . Technology will give teachers valuable real-time data to diagnose students’ weak points and design appropriate interventions. It will enable teachers to more quickly gauge students’ comprehension of new topics so they can adjust their lesson plans on the spot.

Khan Academy’s latest platform teaches computer science as a “creative art,” he writes. He hopes to use the platform to “create interactive virtual labs with simulations of projectiles, pendulums, and the solar system.” In addition, a new feature lets users ask and answer each other’s questions, increasing the sense of online community.

Critics hit the math of Khan

Khan Academy’s free math videos teach procedures rather than concepts, according to critics, reports the San Jose Mercury News. A ”Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000″ video by two Michigan professors, David Coffey and John Golden, pokes fun at a Khan lesson on how to multiply and divide negative number. (Sal Khan responded by posting a revised lesson.) Dan Meyer, a Stanford University doctoral candidate in education, who blogs at dy/dan and Justin Reich, who blogs at EdTech Researcher, are offering $750 in prizes for the best online critique of Khan Academy videos. The deadline is Wednesday.

Some teachers are using Khan videos to “flip” their teaching. Instead of listening to a teacher’s explanation in class and doing problems as homework, students watch video explanations at home and work through problems in class with the teacher there to help.

But, Coffey said, that model sticks with the old-fashioned I-talk-you-listen mode of teaching.

. . . Math teacher Hye Lee Han, in San Jose’s Evergreen School District, this summer had her class of struggling students preparing for eighth-grade algebra skip the videos and just tackle the Khan questions. She was using Khan Academy for the first time, to supplement her lessons.

“I love it,” she said about Khan. What she really likes is the color-coded, real-time spreadsheet showing each student’s progress, including the number of attempts at solving each problem. “I can keep track of them, who’s mastered it, who’s struggling,” she said.

Khan’s virtual rewards are popular with students.

An SRI study of Khan Academy’s effectiveness in the classroom will be released this fall.

Khan tries hands-on ‘Discovery Lab’

Known for online videos, Salman Khan is experimenting with face-to-face, hands-on learning this summer, reports the New York Times. At Khan Academy‘s two-week summer camp in Palo Alto, middle schoolers “take apart household electronics, build robots and learn about probability by making bets in a make-believe casino.”

“It helps us learn what education can be and where our virtual stuff fits,” Mr. Khan said of the camp. “It gets us closer to how to run our own school.”

The Khan Academy’s online lectures are sometimes criticized for duplicating old-fashioned rote learning on a computer screen, and some critics question the way he teaches certain concepts. Mr. Khan says that view misunderstands what he is trying to do. He wants students to absorb basic skills online and be able to put them to use offline. And yes, he wants to build a school. It has been a glint in his eye for years. The summer camp, which he calls Discovery Lab, is an incubator of sorts. There is little to no time spent in front of the screen.

“We try out interactive projects, labs, explorations,” he said. “The ideal academic environment has a very physical component to it. For my own children, I want them to go to a physical school. I want them to have an immersive experience like these summer camps.”

Unlike Khan Academy videos, the camp is not free. Parents pay $1,000 for the two-week experience.

Khan isn’t a good teacher, argue a middle-school math teacher and two math professors on Answer Sheet. Khan responds here.

Khan in the classroom

Can Khan Move the Bell Curve to the Right? asks June Kronholz on Education Next. She visits “affluent, tech-savvy” Los Altos, which is using Khan Academy math for all fifth and sixth graders and seventh graders with average or below-average proficiency.

While teacher Rich Julia met individually with fifth graders to refine their learning goals, everyone else logged on to the Khan web site to work on the math concept they were learning.

Some watched short video lectures embedded in the module; others worked their way through sets of practice problems. I noticed that one youngster had completed 23 modules five weeks into the school year, one had finished 30, and another was working on his 45th.

As youngsters completed one lesson, an online “knowledge map” helped them plot their next step: finish the module on adding decimals, for example, and the map suggests moving next to place values, or to rounding whole numbers, or to any of four other options.

Julian, meanwhile, tracked everyone’s progress on a computer dashboard that offers him mounds of data and alerts him when someone needs his attention. He showed me, for example, the data for a child who had been working that day on multiplying decimals. The child had watched the Khan video before answering the 1st practice problem correctly, needed a “hint” from the program on the 3rd question, got the 7th wrong after struggling with it for 350 seconds—the problem was 69.0 x 0.524—and got the 18th correct in under a minute.

. . . The classroom buzzed with activity, and amazingly, all the buzz was about math.

At Oakland’s Envision Academy of Arts and Technology, an inner-city charter, Ruth Negash uses Khan in her ninth-grade algebra class. While some students are learning geometry, “other students struggled with addition and subtraction, and one quarter don’t know their multiplication tables.”

Khan Academy developers want students to learn basic skills, then move forward, but Gia Truong, superintendent of Envision Schools, worries that students are too far behind. “If you do that, you might never get to the algebra standards” that California students must pass in order to graduate.

If you don’t know how to multiply, you’re not going to learn algebra.



Hess: Top 10 edu-stories of 2012

Why wait for 2012, when Rick Hess has the top Ten Edu-Stories We’ll Be Reading in the new year?

Among his headlines of the future: “GOP presidential nominee abandons primary season attacks on Department of Education; talks up education reform in push for moderates.” Meanwhile, Republicans will feud over Common Core standards, he predicts.

Despite doubts about Race to the Top’s implementation, ”Obama campaign makes Race to the Top, push on college affordability a centerpiece in effort to woo suburban swing voters.”

Hess also foresees a backlash against aggressive anti-bullying campaigns after elementary school boys are suspended for tussling and name-calling. (Think zero tolerance.)

Rewriting No Child Left Behind will be left till 2013, he predicts.

Finally: “Mixed results for the Khan Academy‘s ‘flipped’ classroom lead some educators and policymakers to worry that the model doesn’t work for kids who don’t do the requisite work at home. One expert notes, ‘The kids who didn’t do their reading or homework before are the same kids who aren’t viewing their lessons and lectures now.’”

Creative — and troublesome — students

Teachers don’t like creative students, who tend to be stubborn, critical non-conformists, writes Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution. He cites  Creativity: Asset or Burden in the Classroom? (pdf), a 1995 review of the research.

. . . although teachers say that they like creative students, teachers also say creative students are “sincere, responsible, good-natured and reliable.” In other words, the teachers don’t know what creative students are actually like.  (FYI, the research design would have been stronger if the researchers had actually tested the students for creativity.)  As a result, schooling has a negative effect on creativity.

Creative students are hard to handle in a classroom with 20 to 30 kids, Tabarrok writes. They tend to be rule breakers with little regard for social conventions.

Would you really want a little Picasso in your class? asks Jonah Lehrer.

How about a baby Gertrude Stein? Or a teenage Eminem? The point is that the classroom isn’t designed for impulsive expression – that’s called talking out of turn. Instead, it’s all about obeying group dynamics and exerting focused attention. Those are important life skills, of course, but decades of psychological research suggest that such skills have little to do with creativity.

Tabarrok hopes creative kids will thrive — without disrupting others — through personalized learning, such as the Khan Academy.

What’s really cool about Khan

Video lessons are the public face of Khan Academy, but the brains of the enterprise is the software that analyzes students’ learning, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Khan Academy’s explicit goal is to teach people fundamental concepts. But in the process, it hopes to break new ground by changing how educators think about teaching, how psychologists think about learning, how employers think about credentialing, and how everybody thinks about the price of a good education.

Registered users watch the videos, which provide short lessons, and solve problems. The exercise platform tracks their efforts.

 “If [a user is] logged in, then we have the entire history of every problem they’ve done, and how long it took them, and how they did,” says Ben Kamens, the lead developer at Khan Academy. “So whenever anybody does a problem, we see whether they got it right or wrong, how many tries it took them, what their guess was, what the problem was, how many hints they used, and how long they took between each hint.”

The Khan engineers are also working to tweak the exercise platform so it does not confuse genuine mastery with “pattern matching” — a method of problem-solving wherein a student mechanically rehashes the steps necessary to solve that type of problem without necessarily grasping, conceptually, what those steps represent.

The goal is to get students to remember how to solve the problem days, weeks and years later. Khan’s team is working on a plan to question students on old problems to analyze how well they “retain their command of different concepts, which in turn would enable them to look back at their original interactions with the concepts and try to spot variables that correlate with long-term retention.”

Sal Khan, who left finance to start his nonprofit, is a critic of buffet-style higher education. A college degree doesn’t guarantee the graduate has mastered his field, Khan said at the Future of State Universities conference in October.

College degrees are “issued by the same institution that is in charge of setting, and enforcing, the standards of that credential,” Khan later complained to Inside Higher Ed, comparing it to investment banks rating their own securities. Credential-granting institutions should be decoupled from teaching institutions, he argued.

In Khan’s ideal world, this would mean an independent third party that tests specific competencies and awards credentials corresponding to knowledge areas in which a student can demonstrate mastery — like the MCAT or standardized tests like a bar exam for calculus, physics, or computer science. “It would be much more useful, speaking as employer, if they show they’re just at the top of the charts on a certain skill set that we really want,” he said.

Reliable, respected certification would be great for independent learners, who may take a few classes on campus, take more classes online, read up on a subject and add on-the-job learning. If they’ve mastered the knowledge and skills, it doesn’t matter how they did it or how long it took.

Khan Academy goes to school

Salman Khan’s free math and science videos have moved from YouTube to classrooms, reports the New York Times, which looks at a San Jose charter school that’s using Khan’s lessons — and student-tracking software to teach ninth-grade math to students at very different levels.

(Teacher Jesse Roe) can see that a girl sitting against the wall is zipping through geometry exercises; that a boy with long curls over his eyes is stuck on a lesson on long equations; and that another boy in the front row is getting a handle on probability.

Each student’s math journey shows up instantly on the laptop Mr. Roe carries as he wanders the room. He stops at each desk, cajoles, offers tips, reassures.

The Khan-enabled classroom makes it possible to target instruction to each student’s level, while mapping each student’s math comprehension for the teacher. While some see Khan’s mini-lectures as too “sage on the stage,” the net effect is to turn the teacher into a “guide on the side.”

Diane Tavenner, chief of the Summit chain of four charter schools, turned to Khan to teach the fundamentals after small-group problem-solving proved  slow and unreliable.

Khan Academy remains free, thanks to foundation support.