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Khan Academy Kids
Pros: The variety of learning topics and the creative approach to activities offer breadth and depth without it feeling overwhelming.
Cons: Animations could use more captioning; written instruction and language options.
Bottom Line: This early-learning standout offers scaffolded, creative learning of foundational skills.
Khan Academy Kids is a comprehensive early learning resource that can be used to help students get individual practice with important foundational learning material. It's pretty easy to get started: Just let students follow their automatic learning path, and check in on a regular basis to see how they're doing. Or, pick and choose activities from the library (all available from the beginning) to assign to particular students. The progress feedback is basic, but does give a glimpse into what students have done and whether or not they've mastered the concept. Use that feedback to help target problem areas for individual students or the whole class. Khan Academy Kids could easily be used as a learning station, homework, or computer lab activity. Teachers may even show the videos, songs, or books to the whole class. Then, bring the learning off the screen by singing the songs from the videos, diving deeper into some of the topics of interest, or continuing the learning themes with complementary off-screen activities.
If going with a more individual instructional approach, teachers will want to help students (and parents, if the app is going home) understand the difference between the guided learning path activities (the big play button in the center of the screen) and the library (the book icon in the top right), where students can choose what they want to do. This isn't very apparent at first. Be aware that if students are meant to do a specific activity, or stick to their learning path, some students can stray off task by venturing into the library. This is one of the joys of the app, however, so it might be smart to mix up assigned or path-based activities and free exploration in the library.
Khan Academy Kids is a free app for early learning from the Duck Duck Moose and Khan Academy team in partnership with the Stanford Graduate School of Education. It features a huge database of activities that address learning themes from Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework and Common Core State Standards. Content includes activities in math, ELA, executive function, social-emotional learning, and creative expression. After teachers provide and confirm an email address, they can create a separate user account with name, age, and avatar for each student. Students then sign in with a unique class code to meet and play with friendly animal guides. Then activities are automatically presented according to age and past performance.
Topics rotate among math, ELA, logic, and SEL in the form of games, videos, and books, with opportunities for exploration and creative expression as well. After completing activities, students choose a prize to add to their animal friends' collections; they can even visit each animal's house and dress up their animals. Students and teachers can browse and choose activities by topic or type as well as choose the difficulty from four levels. Teachers can also search for activities by Common Core or Head Start standard, and assign individual activities. There's some limited feedback for teachers that shows which topics students have completed and which ones they're still working on.
Khan Academy Kids goes beyond your typical, stale ABC 123 early-learning app -- perhaps the single most populated genre in edtech. Among this crowded field, Khan Academy Kids is a refreshing collection of early-learning videos, songs, and activities that cover a lot of ground without feeling cookie-cutter or old-school. This is thanks to the help of varied creative activities, nicely organized and paced learning, and tons of charm and style. The sweet, friendly animal guides and the huge library of varied things to do make it easy for young kids to jump in and immerse themselves in learning. Books, videos, songs, and games are high quality, mixing core content like math with essential skills like executive function while putting touchscreens to good use.
What's especially rare among competitors -- but is baked in to Khan Academy Kids -- is a balance between more restricted, multiple-choice activities that help aid recall and more engaging and skills-building activities where kids experiment, explore, and express themselves. For instance, a logic game asks kids to follow directions for putting hats on some animal friends, but between trials, kids are encouraged to play around by putting the hats on the animals in whatever way they like. Or, if kids get tired of responding to learning games, they can draw and then narrate a story as they move objects around the screen, read a book, or listen to a song. Teacher tools are clean and easy to use, with the ability to search, preview, and assign activities. There's also progress tracking, but it's limited. That could, however, be a plus for teachers who find overly complicated dashboards to be overwhelming. Truly, a free, quality resource like Khan Academy Kids is a boon to teachers of pre-K–2.