News Column

Online Academy Takes Learning Beyond School Day

Oct. 17, 2012

Richard Jones

An online school is expanding Hamilton students' technology knowledge and helping teachers provide more specific remediation.

Riverview Elementary School students in Becca Ware's technology class begin their day with self-guided videos and quizzes from Khan Academy, a free online school that offers more than 3,400 videos in a variety of subjects.

"They can pick a skill, go wherever they want to go, choose skills covered in class or skills beyond their grade level," Ware said. "Some students are working two or three grade levels ahead, and we've only been doing this two months."

Riverview Elementary fifth-graders helped pilot the use of Khan Academy for technology instruction last year, and this year it has been implemented in every elementary school in the district, starting in the third grade.

"It takes the teacher out of it, leaving me to work on interventions or whatever else may be going on," she said. "They're able to challenge themselves at their own rate."

The web-based program means students can log on to Khan Academy outside the school day.

Ware said many of her students go to the Boys and Girls Club after school, where counselors help them access the online school.

The students earn "energy points" for every video they watch or problem they solve.

"They can watch the videos as many times as they want to learn the skills before they solve the problems," Ware said. "They can ask for hints, but then they won't get the full points."

Under fractions, for instance, there are 35 different skills -- adding and subtracting fractions or converting fractions to decimals -- for student to learn and be tested.

As a designated "coach" on the website, Ware has access to tools that track a student's progress or the progress of a whole class. She can see who's been working on a specific problem, how long it took the student to complete it and what areas of remediation the student may need.

"So far it's been a very positive thing because kids are taking charge rather than have teachers say they have to do this or have to do that," Ware said. "Because they can practice their math skills online while they are learning about the technology turns it into an additional resource."

The district's technology classes also introduce students to keyboarding, conducting research and using cloud-based programs such as Google Docs.

Khan Academy is a not-for-profit educational organization started in 1978 by Salman Khan, a hedge fund analyst who began creating video lessons for a young cousin.

The videos are available for free for anyone with a Google or Facebook account.

Source: (c)2012 the Hamilton JournalNews (Hamilton, Ohio). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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