Education, Technology

Abundance in Education – The Wrath of Khan

Image is from the Khan Academy Facebook Page

My mother is reading this book called “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. She marked a chapter titled “Education” starting on page 174 and told me I would be interested in this. I am. If you’re interested in education, not just teaching, I think you would be too. In the last new and next few posts, I am summarizing the sections in this chapter so I can remember them and hopefully you will likewise find it interesting and provide your own insight¬†on each section.

“The Wrath of Khan” (184-186) talks about the start of Khan Academy and it’s mission to provide free education to anyone with an internet connection. Salman Khan was tutoring his younger cousins via short videos that he posted on YouTube. His cousins prefered the videos to in-person tutoring because they could pause, rewind, skip ahead, and re-watch. They could learn at their own pace.

Khan Academy’s mission is incredible to me and I had no idea that they basically have full on courses you can take on so many different subjects. I usually just use it to show me how to solve complicated math problems in higher college math courses. According to the book they partnered with the Los Altos School District in California to basically create a flipped classroom. Assigned homework was in the form of Khan videos and class time was utilized to solve problems on the Khan site, which the students received points on the site for doing.

Students would get merit badges for every so many points and getting the points and badges became addicting to many students. This hones with an earlier section in the book that said that learning needs to become addictive. I have always found that getting points and showing percent complete has made me want to strive for perfection in video games. This sounds like it can create a similar desire. It promotes mastery-based learning if the students are striving for 100% on one skill in a subject before moving on to the next. This is something I absolutely want to look into more.

Have you used Khan Academy to learn anything? What was it and did it work for you? I would love to read about your experience implementing any aspect of Khan Academy in your classroom.

Education, Teaching, Technology

Abundance in Education – One Tablet Per Child

My mother is reading this book called “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. She marked a chapter titled “Education” starting on page 174 and told me I would be interested in this. I am. If you’re interested in education, not just teaching, I think you would be too. In the next few posts, I am going to summarize the sections in this chapter so I can remember them and hopefully you will likewise find it interesting and provide your own insight on each section.

“One Tablet Per Child” (177-179) talks about the importance of students having access to technology and the internet, especially in higher poverty areas where students are less likely to get a good education. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is an organization that attempts to get a laptop, chomebook, or tablet in the hands of every student. The program has been very successful dropping truancy to zero, which means that students are feeling that what they are doing in school actually matters.

They quote a book called “The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need – And What We Can Do About It,” by Tony Wagner. It talks about how half of the students that drop out of high school do so because they don’t feel like what they are learning is relevant, not because they didn’t have the ability to finish. I’m with them. I came close to dropping out because I felt like high school was a waste of my time. Luckily my parents would not let me and I had a lot of support to stay in school.

Having technology and teaching students to use it to learn whatever they need to learn is a transferable skill that applies to today’s world.¬† Maybe I should work harder to have more technology in the classroom. We have access to chromebook carts and ipad carts as well as the computer room. But it’s all first come first serve. I’m also not sure how to utilize it in a way that would make content more meaningful. Just more computerized. How do you use technology in the classroom to make the content more meaningful?

Do you agree that providing a laptop, chromebook, or tablet for every child would benefit their education? Why or why not?

Education, Teaching

Task Focused Students

It was pointed out after an observation that the majority of my students seem to be task-focused rather than learning-focused. This means that most of them just want to get the task at hand completed so they can move on. I don’t know if this is because completing tasks makes them feel more productive and gives them a sense of accomplishment, or if they just want to finish so they can watch videos and/or check notifications on their phones. I should not have let students have phones in class. Regardless, I have to figure out a way to get them learning-focused. Which means I have to find a way to make their grade based on their learning, and not their task-completion. Several of the teachers at my school have been moving towards this, so I have a network I can talk to, but I also need to figure out what will work for me and my classes.

The main thing these teachers seem to do is grade students based on whether they can verbally answer questions based on things they have been working on in class. If a student completes a worksheet correctly, but can’t answer any direct questions about the material that was on that worksheet, then we can know that the student wasn’t focused on the learning aspect, but on the task at hand. And possibly that student copied off someone else or looked it up online as students do.

But how to incorporate this into my class where task-oriented has already been heavily established. That, I’m not 100% sure. I can’t even get students to raise their hands when I ask a question like how many think it’s this answer vs that answer. I suppose the best time to start implementing something like this would be after the Thanksgiving break since that’s just a few days away. Which means I have 1 week to figure out at least one thing I’m going to implement in order to begin transitioning my class from task-oriented to learning-focused.

One way could be to make daily or weekly grades a thing. I could have a list of names and a check-mark system. Anytime they answer one of my verbal questions correctly, they get a check. And anytime they volunteer to try and answer something, as long as it’s somewhat on the right track, they get a check. And they need a certain number of checks a week for a passing grade, more for a B, and more for an A. That might be too big a thing to start with, though. That might be something good to implement after Christmas break, but maybe I could do a smaller-scale version after the Thanksgiving break, like require them to only answer one question correctly a week for an A. Or maybe one for a C, two for a B, and three for an A. That would certainly make them have to pay attention enough to parrot back answers to me. Which is a start.

I watched a biology teacher give a verbal quiz where she showed a student a state of cell division through a microscope and they had to tell her what state it was in. If they couldn’t, they got a 50, and if they could, they got a 100.

Whatever I do, I have to do something. My test scores are getting worse and worse and it’s because the students aren’t learning, no matter how much practice I give them.

Do you recall taking a class where the set up made you be more focused on learning than on just completing the assignments? What made it that way? If you’re a teacher, have you ever implemented something to try and make the class more learning-focused? Did it work? Why or why not? If you’re not a teacher, but have a suggestion, I would love to read it. Perspectives from teachers, students (past or present), parents, and concerned community members are always useful and appreciated!