Khan Academy: A Math Teacher’s Best Friend?

Teacher Blogger  |  By Brad Skeet

Math imageIn late 2013, the Canadian Press communicated that a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development was published.  Findings of the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, suggested that Canadian students’ mathematics scores were decreasing (Canadian Press, 2013).  The Canadian Press went on to interview Anna Stokke, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Manitoba who summarized the issue by stating that “what’s required is a return to ‘pencil and paper math,’ which really requires practice.  What happens is that children aren’t getting the skills to do more difficult math, so they’re struggling when they get to later concepts because math is very cumulative” (Canadian Press, 2013).  For teachers in both Canada and the United States, the question arises as to how we can ensure that students have a basic foundation of mathematics while learning conceptual skills.

In 2012, I was a junior high mathematics teacher.  At the time I was in my eighteenth year of teaching mathematics from grades four through seven.  Having taught well over five hundred students to that point in my career allowed me to see longer term trends in student mathematical understanding. My colleagues and I had noticed a decline in basic mathematical skills.  Our issue was that many of our students had different understandings about these concepts and it became impossible to cover this range of understanding as a whole class.  We were unable to tutor the number of students who required basic mathematical skills and understandings.  We were desperate for a tool that would help.

Khan Academy to the Rescue

We knew that our students needed self-paced lessons that provided them with the ability to start at their point of understanding.  We did not have the money in our budget to purchase specific commercial software.  It was around this time that we had heard of Khan Academy, a free resource that was readily available on YouTube.  We were able to design different levels of learning in our Moodle platform.  It was then a matter of embedding the Khan Academy videos from YouTube into the lessons.  Students and parents embraced the videos.  Teachers loved finding this free resource that was a part of an ever-growing repository of videos.

A Short History of the Future

Khan Academy logoSo, what is Khan Academy?  A short history of its creation is required.  In 2004, Salman (Sal) Khan began to remotely tutor his cousin, Nadia, who was struggling with the topic of unit conversion. This was preventing her from being placed on an advanced math track (Khan Academy, 2018).  Since Nadia was in New Orleans and Sal was in Boston, Sal began tutoring her over the phone and using Yahoo! Doodlepad.  As her progress improved, Khan began tutoring her brothers.  As word spread amongst his family, Khan could no longer schedule everyone for individual help so he began to screencast his videos and place them on YouTube for sharing purposes.  More people kept watching his videos and Khan Academy became incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2008.  In a short time, millions of people around the world began to log in to view videos about specific mathematics, science, and social science topics.  Khan’s screencast videos provide a visual lesson for students and teachers alike.

Today, Khan Academy is a platform unto itself.  While the videos are still available on YouTube to view, students can now create an account on the Khan Academy website.  Students then choose their age, subject, topic, and grade level understanding.  The student begins working in an area requiring tutoring.  The site provides the student with examples, videos, and formative assessments.  Students are able to track their progress as they move through these modules. Continue reading “Khan Academy: A Math Teacher’s Best Friend?”

Where is OER now and where is it going?

Open Education Conference  |  By Dr. Connie Blomgren

Where is OER now and where is it going?

openEd1From October 11-13, I  was in Anaheim attending and presenting at the OpenEd 2017 conference. I  met old friends and new. I collected business cards and learned from those I met in sessions or as I took a coffee break. Old connections and past experiences  were renewed in unexpected ways – as well as making new connections and possibilities. This process of change and revisiting the old are part of being open…and of being part of the Open Educational Resources (OER) world and its larger affiliation with the open movement.

OpenEd 17 – Sharing, Gratitude, and Hope

Highlights of the conference included the venue itself –  the beautiful open design of the Hyatt – with its atrium spanning 10 stories and enclosed with north light passing through panels of glass. Inside and out palm trees reminded us how the natural world can always be part of teaching and learning – that we are alive and daily growing albeit in small ways.

OpenEd2The opening keynote by Ryan Merkely – a fellow Canadian – amid this primarily American audience reinforced that OER ties to Creative Commons and that there will be a CC certificate offered in April 2018. He summarized how CC is working on 3  aspects – teaching,  partnering and  movement-building – as forming their current and near future focus. This concept of the significance of the commons was  a theme further explored by the Friday morning keynote by David Bollier who encouraged us to reframe what OER means beyond the increasing drive to commodify content and to recognize that *open* is not the same as a commons. He asked – who IS taking care of open resources?  And encouraged us to be  mindful that a faux commons is possible i.e. we need to think of the Commons in more abstract terms.

With over 700 delegates this conference has grown substantially since its first offering with 40 attendees. The following highlights reflect only the various presentations, round table discussions and insights gained from the afternoon *unconference* that I attended. It is a sampling of the breadth of topics and flavours offered this year.

In the Open Your Eyes to Open Education: 1 Day PD Offerings Introducing K-12 Educators to OER given by  Cassidy Hall (Doceo Center University of Idaho), I learned about the model of professional learning that K-12 teachers access regarding OER development. Like the state of Utah, Idaho looks to K-12 OER as a solution for quality resources developed by teachers. Reviewing K-12 OER Materials (  gave an overview of the purpose behind Ed Reports which arose when American educational  publishers stated that their resources were Common Core aligned but there was no vetting available to examine such claims. The website is  purposefully designed to make people dig into an analysis and as more instructional materials are being tagged as OER, both by publishers and educators, Ed Reports continues to use a practitioner based peer review process to ascertain the merits of a curricular resource.  The review process for OER materials is as rigourous as for non-OER and involves several peers in making a determination.

Continue reading “Where is OER now and where is it going?”