Gauging Googles’ Gains: A K-6 Educators Perspective

Teacher Blogger  |  By Lori 

google apps for edThe Google for Education (GSuite) website claims it has the potential to make learning accessible for all and research has begun to evaluate its efficacy. Astute educators rely on research to inform their practice and then further evaluate whether or not assistive technologies truly have the ability to transform student learning or if they are simply a reflection of oligarchic infiltration of educational institutions. While educational stakeholders recognize the value of quantitative research in supporting pedagogic decision-making, strong qualitative lived research is more valuable in informing the design of educational experiences, which remains a critical consideration in the authenticity of inclusive education practices. According to Perelmutter, McGregor & Gordon (2017), “if Assistive Technology helps learning purely in a numerical sense, but is uncomfortable or socially stigmatizing to use, then advocating for it might cause more harm than good” (p. 2). 

Pessimistic Past

With little success and much frustration using past assistive technologies, it seemed as if Google’s intelligent web-based apps, extensions and add-ons would miraculously transform student learning experiences with the click of a mouse. While every teacher at my school received a short Professional Learning workshop in Google for Education, I was one of the lucky three educators on our staff of thirty-five who was further trained in implementing Google for Education as an assistive technology for students with exceptionalities. This training would serve me well and would have also benefited dozens of other educators on staff who could not receive the training due to logistical, budgetary and policy constraints. 

Friend or Foe

Specialized training made me extremely eager to implement GSuite after I was gifted the opportunity to work one-on-one with an amazing student who attended school for partial day programming, but with whom I had already connected given our shared enthusiasm for maker education and various digital technologies. The process was unhurried and I was patient because I knew that I needed and wanted to really know my student and build a trusting relationship in order to get them to continue coming into the building every day, which was a major challenge and the most important goal decided upon by our Special Services Team.  Continue reading “Gauging Googles’ Gains: A K-6 Educators Perspective”

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?”