My Khan Academy Pedagogy

I first wrote about how I was using Khan Academy with my students in late 2014 here. Then earlier this school year I wrote a response to another blogger’s post about why online Math practice tools aren’t good, here. Since that first 2014 post, Khan Academy has changed & improved quite a bit and so has how I use it with my students. So let me share a little of my Khan Academy pedagogy.

From here on out, KA = Khan Academy

Students and teachers can use KA anytime they like without having an account or without joining a teacher’s KA class. However, by making an account, the student’s progress gets tracked & saved in KA, allowing the site to better offer next steps of Math for them to work on. And by joining the teacher’s class, the teacher has the ability to assign practice problems & check student progress. I highly recommend using it as a class like this.
Screenshot 2018-01-30 at 11.32.58 AM

Step 1: Create a class

If you haven’t yet, make a KA account yourself. I often log in from my chromebook & so I love the simplicity of the red Google button that automatically logs me in using my school board Google account.
Then head to your “dashboard” https://www.khanacademy.org/coach/dashboard & click on “add new class” (on the right side). Enter information for your class – I like to name it by period & course code – or choose the “import from Google Classroom” option if you already have all your students connected to Google Classroom.

Screenshot 2018-01-30 at 10.46.07 AM

You will be prompted to tell KA what Math subjects your students are learning. I choose “World of Math”.

Step 2: Get students in your KA class

Two ways to do this:

  1. Invite students by email address (or by email but via Google Classroom). The advantage here is that you will see a list of invited students on your dashboard & KA tells you which students have not yet accepted the invitation; makes tracking the sign up process simple.
  2. Give students the Class Code. This can be found by starting from your dashboard choosing the class & then clicking on Roster. Top right you will see the Class Code. I used to write the code on the board in my classroom & students go to khanacademy.org/coaches to enter it & join the class.

Screenshot 2018-01-30 at 11.02.46 AMScreenshot 2018-01-30 at 11.16.44 AM

If at any time you’d like to change the name of your class or change which subjects you attributed to the class at the beginning, you can click on the class name in your dashboard & then choose Settings:Capture

Step 3: Find content & Assign it

So let’s say that today we did a 3 act math task or problem-based learning activity involving surface area & tomorrow I want my students to do some individual practice on surface area. I use the search bar at the top of KA to search for that topic. I click on “Exercises” to filter it so that I only see the practice sets:Screenshot 2018-01-30 at 11.27.59 AM.png

Once you click through to the exercise set, along the top you have the “assign” options. You can choose to assign the set to one or more of your classes. By default “All students” is chosen but you can click the drop down in order to assign to only some of your students if you like (useful for differentiation). Choose the due date & time (students can complete it after the due date still but it will notify them that it’s overdue. When ready, click Assign.Screenshot 2018-01-30 at 11.32.58 AM

Step 4: Students do the practice set

I provide class time to practice independently on KA after each activity we do in groups. What they can’t get finished in the provided class time becomes homework to complete at home.

Students log in to the website (khanacademy.org/login) or download the app & sign in there. The assigned work will be on their dashboard in a list of assignments to do. They click “Start” next to the assignment title. I have my students work on paper so that if they get stuck they have a trace of their thinking so far for me to help them find their error or sticking point. Once they have an answer, they choose the answer (if it’s multiple choice) or type it in (paying attention to how KA wants it submitted; rounded to the hundredth or as a precise fraction instead of a rounded answer). They click “Check” and KA either tells them they are correct, or incorrect & try again.

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If students are stuck they have the option near the bottom of the screen to watch a video or use a hint. The KA videos are pretty traditional teaching and often involve tricks like FOIL. But they are better than no help at all when a kid is at home & stuck on a problem. Hints are literally the next step in the problem given to them. They can keep pressing hint until the whole solution is shown & explained. But using any hint results in the student being allowed to finish the question, but not have it count as successful. I believe KA’s recent changes mean students need to get 70% of the problem set correct to be considered “practiced” on that skill.

Step 4: Checking their work

KA tells students immediately if they get a question right or wrong. Students cannot move to the next problem until they’ve entered the correct answer for the current one. So students get immediate basic feedback about right or wrong.

From the dashboard for a given class you can see the current assignments as well as past ones (whose due date is past). If you click on the number of students that have completed an exercise next to its title (ex. 3/15), you can see a list of students and their scores. You can sort by date, number of attempts, score, etc. This can also be downloaded as a CSV file (which opens as a spreadsheet in Google Sheets or Excel or similar programs).Screenshot 2018-01-30 at 11.56.55 AM

If you click on View Report next to the assignment title (not the one next to each student in the above image), you can see which questions the students had the most trouble with:Screenshot 2018-01-30 at 11.55.27 AM.png

Step 5: Assigning further homework & Differentiating

I have created a list of all the KA exercises that meet the curriculum needs for each course I teach, divided by overall expectation. You can see an example here:Capture

I list the practice from easiest to hardest (or in the order in which we will study it). When I am assigning the 2nd or 3rd practice set from that list to my students, I will use the “Progress” tab for each class & I will click on “Within mission” in the top gray bar & search for the list of practice sets for that expectation (you can see this screen below). Any student that is still in the “needs practice” or “struggling” column will be reassigned the first homework. Any student that is “practiced” or above on the first homework gets assigned the 2nd homework, and so on until each student has been assigned the next practice set for them to work on according to their completed work to that point. I find this helpful to not overwhelm students with a practice set they are not yet ready to tackle individually.

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Step 6: Mastery

When students are done all of their assigned practice early, they have three options:

  1. They can redo old practice sets to increase their score on them if they weren’t happy with how they did. They can find these under their “completed assignments” list in their account or by searching the title of that practice set.
  2. They can do KA’s “mastery” quiz which gives them a mix of 5 or 6 problems from topics they’ve been practicing. The mastery serves to check if students retain their abilities over time; can they still find surface area 2 weeks later?Capture.PNG
  3. They can work ahead on practice sets that we have not yet assigned by choosing from the list on our Google site.

Step 7: Using the spreadsheet of data

There are two main things I do with the data that KA provides for me; communicate with parents & guardians as to their child’s progress on KA skills and use it as backup evidence at the end of a semester when I am determining whether or not a student has shown sufficient achievement of an overall expectation for the course.

On the “settings” tab of each class, you can download the student data as a CSV file:Capture.PNG

I save that CSV file to my Google Drive & open it in Google Sheets. I move & hide columns to meet my needs. I use the IFERROR formula to compute their best score yet (not the score at the due date) for each practice set & display “incomplete” if there’s no score. I sort by student and copy & paste their table of data into an email to them & their parents.
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I try to do this every few weeks. I download a new .CSV file each time so I have their up to date best score to honour when they go back & try again or do mastery to level up. This is purely for feedback to them & their parents at this point.

At the end of the semester I do a final spreadsheet where I do one extra step: I sort the exercises by curricular expectation, for each student. When determining a final grade or whether or not to grant the credit, this can serve as backup evidence of their skills in the case where they have difficulty with the more complicated problem solving on our formal evaluations.

PHEW! I think that’s about it.

Have you used Khan Academy? How do you use it with your classes? Let us know in the comments below!

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

 

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Khan Academy … everyone loves to hate it

This popped up in my feed today:

Since I’ve been using Khan Academy, an online math practice website, with my students for a few years now, I was intrigued & promptly read the blog post.

I had so many thoughts as I was reading through it that I decided to respond to each of David’s points from his post in a comment on his blog that I’ll post here now:

Feedback is terrible or nonexistent

Agreed. No worse than a textbook w/ an answer key in the back to check (KA tells you if right or wrong). Better than a worksheet w/ no answer key to check.
Obviously worse than a teacher working beside you.

Impossible to see patterns

Agreed

Blocked practice

I have my students use the blocked practice to practice a skill the first time. Later I encourage them to do KA’s “mastery” quizzes which interleaves concepts they’ve practiced over time to help with retention.
So some of these offer both blocked & interleaved options.

Too easy or too hard

I use the progress tab on KA to look at a series of practice sets. Students that still haven’t mastered the first on the topic from back in September practice that again. Students that have shown competence with more skills will be assigned the next in the progression for their needs. I can do this student-by-student on the KA dashboard so that they each get what they need to practice next.Screenshot 2017-11-28 at 3.45.27 PM

Inappropriate medium

No worse than a textbook. My students solve the KA problems on paper with pencil and then input their answer to see if their right … same as they used to do w/ textbook practice.

It obscures information from teachers

Yes – it doesn’t show me the student’s work like when I used to pick up paper copies. But I also no longer spend hours checking/correcting homework. Instead I use that time to better prepare the in class activities we do where I am able to offer in the moment feedback while they work on problem solving.

It isn’t really mathematics

Again, no worse than a textbook.
Obviously worse than the problem-solving activities I run in class …

…. But here’s the thing: Khan Academy [or insert other online practice medium] is not meant to replace a teacher or a math class. I use it as a tool to allow my students independent practice like they used to do w/ a textbook. I think practice is useful to my students, and sometimes they do need to practice skills one at a time in addition to the problem-solving we do in small groups all the time in my class.

I’m not a fan of these blanket statements that these online tools are totally horrible and can’t be used in helpful ways. Is Khan Academy perfect? Far from it – but nor was the textbook my school used to offer us to use. Here are the things I like about it:

  • The report it generates is a useful tool to communicate home about students that aren’t practicing (b/c I believe that independent practice is still important)
  • That I can differentiate who gets assigned which exercise set.
  • That students can work ahead & KA can even predict what the next skill in their progression might be
  • That students don’t lug home a textbook each night
  • That it has videos (even if I don’t always love his strategies) a kid can watch when stuck
  • That I no longer have to spend time marking homework for correctness or completion
  • Probably more reasons too that aren’t coming to mind at the moment …

KA is not a valid replacement for good Math activities and teaching. But is it a useful tool to offer independent practice to students? My argument would be yes. Does that make me a bad teacher?

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Studenting & Visibly Random Groups: #Sketchnotes #ThinkingClassroom

A few years ago I started using visibly random groups & vertical non-permanent surfaces in my Math classroom. I got so excited about these strategies when some colleagues brought them back from a PD they had attended and immediately changed my classroom routines & setup. These strategies come out of a body of research by Peter Liljedahl on the Thinking Classroom.

Peter came to Ottawa last week for our Math PD day. He keynoted our event as well as offered workshops, both beginner & advanced, on how to apply his research findings in our classrooms. I tell everyone I can about how much Peter’s research has changed my classroom for the better, and so after his recent visit I decided to work on sketchnoting & sharing his research.

Here are my first two sketchnotes:

Visibly random groupings:

visibly-random-groups-vrg

Studenting behaviours around homework & studenting behaviours in the “now you try one” teaching model:

studenting-homework-now-you-try-one

Stay tuned for more sketchnotes about the Thinking Classroom!

Update: I wrote an article for Edutopia about the first 3 elements of the Thinking Classroom – good tasks, VRGs & VNPSs – that you can read here https://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-centered-math-class-laura-wheeler

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)