LASD shares best practices using Khan Academy and blended learning

Photo Traci Newell/Town Crier

A Santa Rita sixth-grader reviews her Khan Academy practice modules while using the online tool during math instruction last week.

The Los Altos School District last week hosted “Innovations in Education,” a demonstration of its use of Khan Academy tools to improve students’ math skills within the regular mathematics curriculum.

The invited observers, including representatives from other California school districts, interested technology officials and educators from as far away as Brazil, learned how the district has incorporated Khan Academy into its math curriculum and how students use it in the classroom.

After evaluating the pilot program that tested the online math enrichment tool in select classes last year, the district has introduced Khan Academy in all fifth- and sixth-grade and some seventh-grade math classes this year.

The Khan Academy program enables teachers to individualize students’ math learning through instructional videos, assessment exercises and dashboards that post progress. Students have an opportunity to learn independently at their own pace.

Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, discussed the program and explained how it can enrich math education both in and out of the classroom.

“Technology is not an end in itself, but (it) is a means to make classrooms more interactive, engage students, liberate time so students can work on more creative projects and better inform teachers,” he said.

Courtney Cadwell, district math coach, demonstrated how with Khan Academy she is able to log in at any time of day and inject real-time decisions into her lesson based on her students’ understanding of the exercise. The program allows her to track students’ progress by topic and gauge what each individual in the class understands and where a student may need extra instruction.

“Our goal is to use these tools to individualize learning so that we are meeting all the students’ needs – whether they need remediation or to be challenged,” she said.

Cadwell said another benefit of Khan Academy is that the program has allowed her to make math learning a collaborative effort. Some days she will group students who are proficient or advanced in a topic with those who are struggling, so together they can master the subject. Other days, Cadwell divides students with similar capabilities into small groups.

“I try to make my class look different every day,” she said. “I like to change it up. It is great to keep my kids guessing. I’m giving my 21st-century learners the opportunity to collaborate and have conversations – they aren’t just sitting at the computer all the time.”

After the presentation, the guests observed the two sixth-grade classrooms using the Khan Academy program. Many interacted with students, who shared the ins and outs of using the Academy’s aids.

Sixth-grader Francesca Fallow said Khan Academy is her favorite part of math classes.

“It is just different in a way that it is not everyone doing the same thing at the same time,” she said. “It moves in a way you are comfortable with.”

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