As a school administrator, I was excited about Khan Academy when I first saw the site with videos. When I saw the diagnostic practices with help videos posted, I was thrilled. I couldn't wait to try it out on my middle school students and went straight to my own kiddos. I created accounts for my 7 year old (not pictured) and my five year old (in green). They were soon fighting over who got to use the site. They both zoomed through the first two lessons, but got stuck when they were asked to add double-digit numbers. I reminded them about the video for help and my seven-year-old expressed dread at getting talked to. My first thought: this is not going to work. I finally goaded them and turned on one of the suggested videos. The lesson started with single digit addition and he groaned and tried to run away. This was OLD information and he was SICK of hearing it. I quickly jumped ahead to the double-digit addition and he stopped and tuned in. Suddenly, there was silence. He finished the video and went straight back to the exercises...guess what? He got them all right. A believer was born! When he finished the third lesson a screen popped up telling him he had received a meteorite badge. I thought he would dismiss that, but he was pumped - especially about the idea of earning a black hole or galaxy or whatever else comes next.
This evening my seven-year-old was out of the house, but my five-year-old asked to "do the math game." I was cleaning up from dinner, but decided to give him a shot. I logged him in and suggested that he start with the addition again even though he had passed the first three lessons. Little did I realize how ridiculously insulting this would be. He saw that he was ready for multiplication and demanded that exercise. I set him up and went to washing dishes. Soon I heard some frustrated grunts coming from the living room. "Why don't you watch a video?" I suggested. "No! I don't want to miss one!" he replied. Once I convinced him he wouldn't be "docked" for watching the lesson he went for it. You can see the result below. Not only did he sit mesmerized throughout the lesson, but my two year old climbed up next to him, declared that "I'm gon do sum mat," and sat through the video.
Once the video was complete he yelled out, "Daddy I need a pencil and some paper!" I brought him some and he started doing what you see below.
I intentionally acted as a spectator and didn't get involved. I saw that he was drawing and organizing groups and then counting them. He then launched straight back into the exercises.
Guess what? He got the next 20 correct. He took a long time, and asked me for clarification a few times, but he was excited about being in control of his own learning. It was something HE wanted to do for HIMSELF. Plus, he was super-psyched because he earned two more badges...who knew?
As a Generation X parent who wants things individualized I am thrilled about this technology. It focuses in on my kid's needs with laser-like intensity and gives him the tools he needs to learn. Could he have accomplished all of this without a teacher nearby? No way. He needed me there as a resource and guide, but this technology tool made me a much more powerful teacher because it made him a more powerful learner. The learning taking place was all about HIM and I was just another resource.
As an administrator, I am excited to get a class of kids trying this out. Remediation is almost a dirty word for how difficult it is to find time to fit it into the school day. Khan Academy would allow learning and remediation to occur instantly and effectively with the student in control.
I am obviously very "pie in the sky" about Khan right now, and I am sure there will be kinks, but for now I am giddy with the possibilities for any learning program that makes a kid of any age say, "I'm gon do sum mat."