Yes We Khan

Three years ago we met Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, and talked about new ways to meet educational challenges in Idaho. Khan Academy’s mission is to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Immediately, we wanted in.

Having worked in Idaho public schools for the better part of 20 years, I know first-hand how difficult it is for classroom teachers to differentiate their teaching to meet the individual needs of students. Sal shared that Khan Academy’s approach is simple: students work online at their own pace until the learning is mastered.

It sounds pretty straight forward until you think about potential road blocks: school and classroom schedules, content standards, availability of technology, current instructional teaching strategies, limited resources for professional development, parental expectations of classroom teachers … the list goes on.

The more we talked about the challenges of using Khan in Idaho classrooms, the more the challenges turned into opportunities. We could assess current classroom schedules to find what is most conducive to learning. We could have real-time data to see a child’s progress in learning. We could provide additional technology and professional development to support the Khan platform. And we could identify which teachers were willing to try something new to engage their students in higher levels of learning.

With this discovery process we thought we just might be able to crack the code on personalized learning.

We launched the Khan Academy in Idaho pilot project in partnership with Khan Academy and Northwest Nazarene University’s Doceō Center for Innovation + Learning. The pilot reached more than 10,000 Idaho students and 173 teachers at 47 schools in 33 rural and urban districts in our state. Data from the first year of the pilot shows students who complete missions on Khan Academy scored higher on MAP scores and in some cases, student growth doubled or even quadrupled. Teachers said confidence was boosted and, in some cases, students performed better in all subjects.

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation is proud to share a new case study about the pilot titled, “Learning Gets Personal: How Idaho students and teachers are embracing personalized learning through Khan Academy.” It details the story of the nation’s first statewide pilot of Khan Academy and how we achieved widespread enthusiasm for personalized learning. It’s worth a read.

I have said for quite some time that technology will not replace classroom teachers, but classroom teachers who embrace the engaging nature and efficiencies of technology, will replace those that don’t.

Congratulations to our teachers and students who are blazing a new trail for personalized learning in Idaho and beyond, and generating excitement for a different approach to teaching and learning.