During Sampson County Schools’ Board of Education meeting earlier in the week, Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School seventh-grade math teacher Kimberly Stephens presented school board members with information about an online resource she uses in her classroom and that she feels would be beneficial to all Sampson County teachers.
The online resource is Khan Academy, a free website that features over 4,000 informational and instructional videos, primarily about math and science. All that is required to sign up is a Google account.
“I found out about Khan Academy from a former math teacher, Robert Cowles, who is now retired. He saw a 60 Minute interview one Sunday night about two years ago featuring Khan Academy and its creator, Sal Khan. The next day, he asked if I had seen the interview and if I knew anything about Khan Academy,” recalled Stephens when contacted later for follow-up comments. “I did not see the interview and had never heard anything about the program, but I knew for it to have peaked the interest of a traditional teacher, I had to check it out.”
During the meeting, Stephens shared with the school board how she specifically uses Khan Academy in her classroom. “I like to use it for pre-learning or pre-assessment activities. For example, if the teacher plans on working with polygons the next day, she could assign each student to look at a video about polygons from Khan Academy and do a KWL chart as a homework assignment,” Stephens explained.
“If the child does not have a computer or internet access at home, the teacher, during free time or lunch, could allow them to use a computer and do it at school,” added Stephens. “The possibilities are endless.”
Similarly, Stephens shared that Khan Academy also works well as a reinforcement tool, saying that if some of her students are struggling with a particular kind of math problem, she can direct them to Khan Academy for some extra practice.
“After my students watch a video, they can then practice. The program generates random problems for them to work on, and the program practices with them,” explained Stephens as she demonstrated a practice quiz to the board. “If they need a hint, it gives them hints to help them along. When they finish, they can check to see if their answer is correct.”
Just like it can help the students who are struggling, Stephens has found that Khan Academy is also a great resource for the advanced students. “I’ve also found it helpful for students who learn quickly. It helps them not feel bored and like they’re having to wait to learn the next thing. With the videos on Khan Academy, they can explore the topic more; it encourages them to dig deeper.”
Students seem to be responding well to using Khan Academy, according to Stephens, especially since it draws on a particular aspect in video game play. “Just like in video games, students can earn rewards and badges with Khan Academy based on how much they do on the site.”
Stephens recounted a recent moment with a couple of her own students that further proved to her how much potential Khan Academy has in the classroom. “Today I had the privilege of observing two of my less motivated students run to the computer center, get on Khan Academy, and do a practice set on angles. I inquired why the rush to get on a computer and work out ten problems before the bell rang. One of the students told me they were trying to earn the badge for that section. After class, they shared with me the different names of the badges they had already earned and how many energy points they each had in their account.”
And the resource is not just for teachers and students; Stephens encourages parents to use it as well. “As a parent, I understand how frustrating it can be to help children with their school work, especially when we’re used to having a textbook to follow. Textbooks and printed materials in our day would have all the answers to the questions or examples to follow. But we are living in a changing world. A world where books would need to be reprinted daily to continue to be current and relevant,” stressed Stephens.
“Khan Academy teaches a concept but with the technological twists of a digital blackboard in a video format,” Stephens explained. “Khan Academy also allows a teacher and a parent to see what the student is mastering or struggling in. A parent can watch the video with their child, help them with the randomly generated problems, and see their progress on a map of knowledge.”
As she continued her presentation, Stephens noted that Khan Academy is a very helpful resource to use when students are out of school as well, another perk for parents. “If a child is sick, the parents and the student don’t have to worry about the make up work or having to play catch up because the teacher can simply assign a video and a practice set for them to do.”
“I would love to see our In School Suspension programs begin to use Khan Academy to keep our students abreast of what is going on in the classroom while being separated from student population,” added Stephens. “They may not be at the same level as the rest of the class, but at least they’re not so far behind and apart from the rest of the students.”
Stephens concluded that in her opinion this type of web-based resource “helps move our classrooms into the 21st century” and she plans to continue to incorporate Khan Academy into her own classroom more and more.
Telfair Simpson, chairman of Sampson County Schools’ Board of Education, remarked that Khan Academy is “one of the best teaching tools for children that I’ve seen. I encourage all the parents to take a look at it and try using it to help your children.”
Stephens hopes that her presentation to the school board will create a ripple affect throughout the county schools and help in meeting one of Sampson County Schools’ goals — to incorporate more technology into their teaching in order to better prepare students for the world beyond high school. “It’s important that the Board of Education and our community know that Sampson County leadership, at the county and school levels, along with the teachers and support staff of each district, are invested and understand the vision set before us,” said Stephens. “A vision that encompasses our students graduating from our districts and being able to compete in a changing world.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at email@example.com.