A LearnStorm swept through the Chicago Public Schools this spring, and while students taking the nine-week Khan Academy math challenge built up their skills, teachers learned a thing or two as well.
If Khan Academy was a traditional classroom, we’d see some of the best practices in education happening, and I dare say we’d see much more engaged, happier students.
- I love the motto: “You can learn anything.” Such an empowering proclamation should be plastered on every classroom wall. Every teacher knows the cliché “every child can learn,” but it’s meaningless if kids themselves don’t believe it’s true.
- Khan Academy has won my heart because it offers personalized instruction and gives kids tons of examples, tutorials, and practice problems. One of the hardest things about teaching is trying to consistently meet the needs of kids who are often at drastically different levels. I once taught a class of 33 third-graders whose reading skills ranged from kindergarten to fifth-grade level. Their math skills were also just as varied.
- Assessment and tracking kids’ progress is the third area in which Khan Academy provides best practice teaching strategies. It has algorithms that measure where kids are and automatically guides them up or down a level to make sure they are working at an appropriate pace. The beauty of this is that every student is challenged and grows no matter where they start.
- I appreciate that the software is designed like a game, though not necessarily a competitive one. Each student earns “energy points” and badges for the time they spend watching learning videos for the first time, working out practice problems, and reaching certain milestones.
- My favorite part of Khan Academy is the comments section. While it lacks the physical human connection that a traditional classroom and teacher offer, the interactions of 8-, 10-, and 12-year-olds in the comments are enough to make your heart melt. Here are a few student responses to a set of videos about the importance of college:
- “I’m only 10 is it too early to look for a good college and start planning my future.”
- “What if I am going to college early? I am 9 years old.”
- “How long do I wait to be in college if I am in 6 grade.”
On April 1, the LearnStorm ended in Chicago, but Khan Academy will continue doing its thing on the Internet, proving to kids—and adults—that with the right supports, you really can learn anything.
Our challenge as educators includes presenting knowledge in a way that fans the flames of our students’ natural curiosity and sets them on the path of lifelong learning.
Marilyn Rhames has taught in district and charter schools in Chicago for the past 11 years and currently serves as alumni support manager at a K-8 charter school. A 2016 Surge Institute fellow, Rhames is dedicated to promoting more diverse education leadership to improve the education of students of color. A former New York City reporter, Rhames writes award-winning education commentary featured on Moody Radio in Chicago. In 2011, she founded the Christian nonprofit, Teachers Who Pray. This post originally appeared on EducationPost.org.