Appy Hour Rewind: Khan Academy’s Video-Based Instruction

September 03, 2014
Kelly Mendoza Director of Professional Development
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES Technology Integration, Tools

Khan Academy is a widely used instructional tool that provides thousands of free, self-paced academic videos for guided, adaptive instruction. With a strong focus on math, the site also offers video tutorials on a variety of topics in science, economics, the arts, and computing, as well as prep for tests like the SAT. During this week's Appy Hour, we hear from two math teachers who are using Khan Academy with their students.

The first presenter is Suney Park, a sixth-grade math teacher at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, California, and a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The second presenter is Peter McIntosh, a math teacher at Oakland Unity High School in Oakland, California, who's the author of The Character Gap, which describes how his school changed its math program to boost student performance.

Suney Park explains how she uses Khan Academy with her sixth-grade students. “I really feel that Khan Academy is about half of our math curriculum,” says Suney, describing how her students first watch the Khan Academy videos to master skills, like arithmetic operations. They then move on to the Kahn “Missions.” Suney explains that, with this strategy, she can determine whether students are struggling with a certain skill. If so, she does whole-class instruction, or personalized instruction with the struggling students. Suney doesn't assign the videos as homework, since not all her students have computers and Internet access at home. Instead, she has students watch the videos during school time or after school. Overall, she finds that Khan Academy “really gives students the ability to take control of their learning” and that it “has transformed my whole classroom.”

Next, Peter McIntosh describes how Khan Academy transformed his school’s math scores from the bottom 20th percentile to the 99th percentile for the California Standards Test. “We are not a technology program, we are a responsibility program,” Peter says. Khan Academy is the right tool for his school, he points out, because every student has access to laptops at the school. Teachers there don’t assign the videos as homework, but rather assign “Khan work” during school hours. Students are given a page of exercises to complete each week and are graded weekly. Teachers act as guides to help students who struggle with certain skills or concepts. Rather than emphasize to students the importance of knowing the material, teachers emphasize students' responsibility to learn the material. By encouraging students to take responsibility for their own learning, Peter's school has had great results, with more students participating in advanced courses, such as AP calculus.

To hear more about how Suney and Peter are using Khan Academy in their classrooms, watch the Appy Hour video below.

Note: This video refers to Graphite, the former name of this website.

See our review for Khan Academy by Common Sense Education, or submit a Field Note sharing how you’re using it with students!