Sal Khan, founder and executive director of Khan Academy, addressed the Los Altos Educational Foundation Leadership Circle at Loyola School last week to explain the unique contributions the academy can bring to district schools.
The not-for-profit organization proclaims its mission is to provide a world-class education to anyone, anywhere. The Khan Academy curriculum comprises more than 2,100 videos – available through the Internet to anyone free of charge – that cover content in math, science, finance and business, one concept at a time.
Concepts are arranged on a “Knowledge Map” that builds from the most basic ideas in the selected discipline to more complex theories reserved for high school level education. Each concept is presented in digestible 10- to 15-minute video segments accompanied by practice exercises and tutorials.
The Los Altos School District is collaborating with Khan to introduce and evaluate the program in selected classes at Santa Rita and Covington elementary and Egan Junior High schools.
Los Altos School District Superintendent Jeff Baier said that when district administrators learned about Khan Academy, they recognized the advantages the technique could bring to education.
“We saw this tool and realized it was one of the difference makers,” he said. “Initial feedback has been very positive.”
Khan explained that the academy is an enhancement to the curriculum, not a replacement for teachers or textbooks.
With the use of Khan Academy as a hybrid-learning model, students are able to work through new material at their own pace. Teachers can use the summary data generated via Khan Academy to group students according to their needs and provide targeted math instruction.
“Khan Academy is students working at their own pace,” Khan said. “The role of the teacher, in addition to getting great data, is to intervene when a student is stuck on a particular exercise.”
The Los Altos School District proved an ideal fit for Khan Academy implementation, according to Khan, because it focuses on individual students and their particular needs.
“We talked to some fairly forward-thinking schools, and they asked how to restrict or contain this type of learning,” he said. “Los Altos lets students learn at their own pace.”
Baier said the program has prompted many productive conversations between students and their teachers on goal planning and tailoring their math education.
“The teacher is looking at each student’s profile (and progress) and helping … set goals each week,” Khan said.
This type of learning works, according to Khan, because students lead the way in deciding what to learn next.
“If the students don’t feel forced, they aren’t resistant to learning,” he said.
For more information, visit www.khanacademy.org.