#BlendedLearning with #KhanAcademy not as easy as you think #EdTech #K12


This post is a follow up to a previous post in which I examined the experimental design of a blended learning pilot at the Envision Academy in Oakland.  A team of technologists and researchers are examining the impact of a blended learning implementation with Khan Academy videos and curriculum.  The experiment is taking place in a summer school algebra class for repeaters.  Their progress is being documented on this insightful blog.  As I write this post, the team is entering their fourth and final week of the experiment.

In my last post on this experiment, I shared one of the Blend My Learning team’s identified successes – that the experimental group (those with new Chromebooks who are using the Khan Academy to learn algebra) has zero classroom management issues.  A thoughtful commenter on my post noted that kids plugged into headphones, listening to music, might not be making any noise or distracting anyone else, but this is not necessarily good classroom management.  It is often the cacophony of the classroom that is the real symphony of learning.

It seems that in the third week, the Blend My Learning team is finding that not even headphones and music can keep kids focussed and on task for three weeks of algebra.

Darri Stephens, Blend My Learning Blog author, notes..

When I first checked on “FOCUS” (how long the students had been working on Kahn), there was quite a range: from 0 minutes to 16 minutes.  Might there be a way to analyze a subgroup of students’ data as needed?  At the beginning of Week 4, I was worried that students had hit that proverbial wall.

For example, one student hadn’t earned a proficient level for any topic since the previous Tuesday (4+ days).

Stephens goes on..

When looking at the totals since Week 1, the class has spent 544 minutes on exercises and only 19 minutes in all watching videos.  As an average, that means that the kids have been working on Khan for about forty minutes/day.  Give or take some time for the “Do Nows” and the directed mini-lesson, and that still leaves about half of the time unaccounted for… what are those implications?

The real data (improvement on the MDRT for algebra) is not yet out, but I might suggest that the implication of this lack of focus is that Khan Videos may be a good resource for review of material that a student has nearly mastered, but straight forward lecture, whether in person or through the box, is the least effective way for students to learn.  The kids are bored, and no amount of virtual badges will motivate high school kids to do any better than they would for the teacher who, in the control class, is more directly engaged in structuring their learning.

I hope that I am wrong.  And I will eat crow right here on this blog if I am.  Blended Learning has real potential to change the education game.  The flipped classroom movement that I have recently blogged about, is blending technology in a dynamic way, and showing some initial results that are quite promising.  Have a look at my post about Barb and Brad Newitt from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  As I identify in that post, the box is the least significant aspect of the instructional process.  However, in the flipped environment, direct instruction through the box offers a teacher the freedom she needs to structure her class with a greater focus on student interactivity and direct teacher engagement with individual students.

I applaud Envision Academy and the Blend My Learning Team for their inventiveness, curiosity, and open dialog.  I am curious what they now think the Khan FOCUS metric tells them about student learning.

5 thoughts on “#BlendedLearning with #KhanAcademy not as easy as you think #EdTech #K12

  1. Jack, I want to echo your statement that straight forward lecture, whether in person or video, has consistently proven itself to be the least effective way to both teach and learn. We must be very careful as we take our first steps into this edtech world to not simply redo traditional education in online version but reinvent the paradigm where needed, i.e. Flipped Classroom.

  2. I really doubt you will be eating crow. I have never understood the attention that has been given to Khan. The videos are the same as “traditional” instruction, only with a pause button and a mute function that blocks the student from asking or being asked questions. This lack of questioning holds students back from reasoning and building concepts. Instead of learning from discourse, the videos can only teach students to duplicate a monologue. That may work when students solve problems EXACTLY like those presented, but that’s a severe limitation.

    • Thanks for commenting, Shari.

      Khan is a great resource because it is free. Several students have told me that they like to use Khan as review before an exam. The pause button and the scrubber allow students to digest the information at their own pace. I think there are few among us that learn much if didactic lecture is our only engagement with the material, but even if all Khan does for my students is give them peace of mind when entering an exam, it is worthwhile.

      I think what teachers need for the classroom is the ability to easily produce video for themselves without the high production time of an iMovie or a Camtasia. Stay tuned for this. A possible game-changer is brewing in the Imaginek12 incubator here in the Silicon Valley.

  3. This is an interesting twist on Khan – students creating their own educational videos for their peers: http://mindshift.kqed.org/2011/08/move-over-sal-khan-sixth-graders-create-their-own-math-videos/ . Now the homework isn’t a bunch of math problems, but creating an engaging lesson yourself, teaching the concepts. To this day I believe that the subjects I learned best are the ones I tutored. Imagine how rewarding it would be for a kid to have her video viewed by 3,000 others, versus a 9/10 on her homework.

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