Using Khan Academy as a Resource for Differentiation
Differentiation of instruction is one of the biggest challenges that teachers face every day. Lessons need to be able to span a wide-range of levels. If you have to continue to review basic foundational skills for students who don’t quite understand, you risk losing the rest of the class due to boredom and disinterest. So, lessons need to be multi-faceted so that all learners are feeling challenged.
This past year I taught a 4/5 blended class, and this range was so apparent that I needed to find ways to reach all learners with every math lesson. The range of skills truly spanned from entry third grade skills to students who needed to be challenged with sixth grade content. The range was very difficult to put it lightly.
So, obviously the starting point is knowing the math standards inside and out, and understanding how the skills are build to scaffold on one another. Once I determined how to best tackle these standards I could outline how each lesson could span from students at entry levels through advanced. I can’t emphasize this enough. If I didn’t know what the standards were in the neighboring grade levels I would have done a disservice to my outlier students at both ends of the skill range.
Now, where does technology jump into this party? Well I needed a bit of refreshing on some of the skills that my advanced students would need to work on. I’m not ashamed of saying this, I knew how to do certain skills, but since I had never taught these skills, I really didn’t want to just teach to “find the answer” method, I wanted to go a little deeper to also get my advanced students to understand the “why” this works. So, searching the internet I found multiple movies on teachertube.com and youtube.com to refresh my understandings, and I also used a site called KhanAcademy.org.
Khan Academy has been called the revolution of education as we know it. I see it as an amazing tool to help teachers as well as students who need differentiation to push their own limits. Khan Academy was created by Sal Khan, a gentleman who started out creating math skill videos for his cousins to watch. Now the site has bloomed into hosting thousands of videos of all subjects and complexity. Some people believe that the videos do not do the topics and skills justice. But, if we use them as another tool for our teaching methods, I think they have value, but that might just be my elementary school point of view. Some of the topics are very difficult for me to follow along…partial derivatives anyone?
An added bonus was since my students all have Google App accounts, there is a way for them to allow their Google log in access to the “practice” portion of Khan Academy. So for homework, I would assign Khan Academy practice of upper level skills to those students who were ready for it. Inside of Khan Academy, they have a really interesting skill web that shows the connections between skills. As students finish skills they then know what is a skill that is related to what they have already completed. The skill web is vast, and for me as a teacher, it is a graphic that helps me see the flow of skills from elementary to post-college levels.
Whether you’re a fan of Khan Academy, there is no denying that is can be a useful resource for teachers and students. I have found a lot of value for my upper level students who are always ready for a new challenge. Therefore, know your standards, then you can use sites like Khan Academy to find connection to curriculum. Another easy to use resource has never hurt my teaching.
If you have used Khan Academy, or another site to help differentiate your classroom teaching, post it below. How did it work out? What did your students take away from using it? I’d love to hear your stories!