Task 3 Build on Solid Foundations

Posted by Ray on Mar 22, 2016

The TED talk, by the founder of the Khan Academy, triggered lots of thoughts on how the website could be used to support learning in school. I’ve used the videos myself to remind me how to approach certain problems but had not taken the step back to consider how the Khan Academy website could be used in a school setting. Using the full system, rather than selecting individual videos, students progress when they have a sound grasp of a topic. The major benefit is that students can pause, rewind and repeat videos as much as they like. The concept of studying the videos as homework and then working on problems in class, with support from a teacher, sounds like a good idea. I think it’s good that a form of standardised assessment is being done without the students having to take separate tests. I liked the use of dashboards for a teacher to monitor progress and effort and to identify when to intervene. Another interesting point was that students who are slow to initially understand a concept can then master that topic when working at their own pace. These students can easily be left behind in a standard classroom setting and so may benefit from use of the Khan Academy system. It’s a radical idea to base the teaching of a subject around the use of the Khan Academy resources and I don’t think it is down to an individual teacher to decide that. I do think that teachers should ensure that their students are aware of the videos and should encourage them to use them to support their learning.

The article by Daniel Willingham points out that humans are born with the ability to appreciate the concept of numbers and their relationship with space and that most people have the capacity to learn to be competent at Maths. I thought that the most interesting observation was on the need for factual knowledge to support the solving of complex problems. He makes the point that your “mental space” needs to be focused on the overall objective rather than being diverted into the active calculation of results that could have been automatically recalled from memory. I left primary school with immediate recall for the times tables ( up to 12 ) and also with recall for the addition or subtraction of simple numbers. A lot of the secondary school pupils that I have observed do not seem to have these fundamental skills and now struggle with the basic arithmetic that is needed whilst learning new procedures and concepts. I think it would be better to make sure that the basics, including automatic recall, are in place before moving on to more complicated topics. This point ties in nicely to the Khan Academy approach of not progressing until there is a sound grasp of a topic. I also agree with the recommendation to use relational* and instrumental learning in tandem, as increasing knowledge of one supports understanding of the other.

* The article uses the terms procedural and conceptual rather than instrumental and relational that we encountered in task 2


  1. Charli
    10 April 2016

    I totally agree with the use of Khan Academy to compliment the maths curriculum and not as a radical replacement. Without careful consideration this could be very reckless. The grounding of the basics is so important in the process of learning and I do think that we skip over topics and move forward too fast sometimes leaving some students behind. This idea of not progressing is the fundamental of the Singapore method, which if I’m honest I’m not 100% sold on but can see potential in using some ideas. I’d be interested to hear, coming from an IT based background, how feasible you think it would be for schools to create and implement their own version of the Khan Academy?

  2. pepsmccrea
    12 April 2016

    Good to see that you’ve engaged fully with both articles, and can see the positives of KA. I’d also be interested in hearing you analysis of the down sides of KA in helping us to reach a balanced position on it’s value.

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