The Khan Academy

In a previous post I wrote about the inability of technology to compensate for a lack of attention and time in early childhood education. Soon after, my father told me about Salman Khan. Have you ever thought that the inter-web could actually be put to better use than ‘liking’ your friend’s hangover? Salman Khan believes that he has the answer to many problems in modern education, and that by using his web-based tools the world can educate itself – for free.

Watch Salman Kahn giving a talk about his roots as an educator and his academy’s goals at TED here. His project is actually up and running in schools in the states, but Khan’s vision has no boundaries.

Visit the Khan Academy homepage here. I signed up and started with the basic addition video. I was interested how my daughter would respond to it. It’s very casual in it’s approach and assumes a native level understanding of English. Although Khan already has volunteers around the world translating and subtitling in various languages, my interest is in how it might benefit my daughter (four and a half).

She wasn’t un-interested. We have practiced simple addition and subtraction and she understands the basic concept. Her point was probably one of relevance. It wasn’t a site about reading, it wasn’t a UK animation and she wasn’t about to get tickled (the end-point in our addition/subtraction routine).

The lack of complete dis-interest I take to be a good thing. It means she doesn’t know quite what to make of it yet. Also by watching it we were introduced to the number line idea (I had forgotten).

A quick 90 degree turn: What makes a system like Jolly Phonics so valuable? It’s not just the method (though that is part of the appeal). Jolly Phonics is a structure for learning. As parents to bilingual children supporting our mother tongues at home, we have so much to teach and our skill sets vary wildly. The net gives us access to a HUGE amount of support and resources, but almost to the point that there is too much to know what to choose.Perhaps any phonics system will give you the structure for moving forward which you can then supplement with activities from the web or activity books.

How about we extend the circle of our activities to include a little math? What I saw on the Khan Academy website was a structure for re-learning what I have forgotten about math. Skills which I can then pass on to my daughter at her own pace (I don’t intend on sticking her in-front of the p.c and saying ‘educate yourself!’). That structure then becomes the basis for her being able to access these videos when she is older and she can do it in English. I’m going to save a fortune in cram school fees!

Perhaps I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but don’t be shocked to find the number line appearing on my reading worksheet downloads. Once a week should be fine to start us off.

Last week we had 16 students from Australia visit my high school. One mentioned that he wanted to attend a math class. I arranged it and he took along three other students of varying ages. They all said it was the best part of the school visit. Why? “Because we used English, Japanese and the math we learned at school”. Mathematics was truly the impetus for real communication.

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4 responses to “The Khan Academy”

  1. Darren Coxon says :

    Sal Khan’s approach is an interesting one: I think his laid back style is one of the winners. I’m attempting to do the same thing with English teaching: six screencasts down, 3000 to go…!

  2. teachthesprog says :

    What a great idea! Once they (students) get old enough to be able to control their own learning they then need the structure to guide them. Please let me know when you have content we can access on your site. I did try but couldn’t access anything (though will try again when I have a bit more time tonight).

  3. Jenny says :

    Yet again, in searching for information about something to do with supporting my daughter’s bilingualism, I end up back on your blog! I came across the Khan Academy this week as I too have been looking for a way of finding some online structure to the language development I’m doing with her…I’ve just got an android tablet and I’m a bit disappointed to find that most of the recommends that I’m getting for educational apps seem to be for the Ipad (unfortunately out of my price league). Having moved back to France from Scotland, and due to a recent report on education here, I’m also conscious that IT seems to have disappeared from her schooling where cursive handwriting mastery is still important. I feel it’s doubly important for me to find online educational support tools that will help develop her English language and keep us (me!) in touch with information and education technology…If Chris is reading, I’d be interested to know his take on things too, I seem to recall reading that he’s based in France too… I’m aware that you wrote this a while ago, so as I said on Linkedin, I’d be interested to know what your take on Khan Academy is now, if you’re still using it, if your daughter warmed to it some more? Does it have a place in our repertoire of tools for helping our young kids?

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