There’s the common expression, “Change is hard. You go first.” Well, I’ve been doing a few firsts this past year or so, partly because I decided not to wait. If I think it’s worth experimenting with, I’ll try it. What I’ve learned is that with a few of these things, I might have been better off talking about it, rather than dive right in. As a result, I may have ruffled a few feathers here and there and had to repair a few work relationships. It was actually a good exercise in growth for me and made me a lot more reflective about what I want to do next.

I started this blog, for example to share what I learned at a conference, but decided to keep it going because I actually enjoy it. Because I had no expectation of anyone else blogging, I was oblivious to the fact that some might feel that they would have to share what they learned via a blog. It’s just my way, and I enjoy it. I also started my own classroom website because I couldn’t wait for our school’s official site to have all the features I wanted. It’s worked for me and my students’ parents and that’s really all it boils down to. There are so many ways to communicate, sometimes the purpose dictates they type.

Well, I’m at it again. After only a couple of weeks since the TED talk “Flipping the Classroom” aired, I unleashed Khan Academy upon my second graders. Honestly, the videos are pretty dry and boring for the most part, but the kids love the exercises, the immediate feedback, and the choice. One child decided for homework tonight to head to the geometry section which asks for the area and circumference of circles. He made a few attempts, got all them wrong and decided he’d come back another time. It was very non-threatening. Today was just the first day, we headed to the media lab so they could learn how to login and logoff. And even though I assigned about 10 to 20 minutes, I noticed that many kids were engaged enough to spend much more time on it. I’m actually more excited about the data that might come back after Spring Break. Why? So much of good math pedagogy is not just helping a child develop a concept, but asking the right questions. Knowing what children have mastered, allows you to target your questions more precisely. Of course good teachers who already know their students well do this, but with the added data, who knows.

One interesting unintended consequence occurred. Many of my students have older siblings. So far, I’ve gotten great feedback from parents, but they wanted to know how their older child could sign in. I told them how and that they could sign me up as their coach if they wished. This is a big experiment. I don’t intend to have students using Kahn Academy in class, but only at home. What I will do, is use the data to help inform the way I teach each child. As Kahn put it in his TED talk, “Flipping the Classroom.”

Kahn Academy approaches math in a very linear, sterile manner, but with some of the basic skills under their belt, they may be able to really grapple with project based learning activities which involve plenty of mathematical problems, creativity, and the beauty of math that doesn’t always get to see the light of day the way our math texts are written. Who knows? This is still day one of doing things a little differently. It may just end up being something faddish, which is something I usually try to avoid, but when I see some potential in how it can help kids, I’ll dive head first. Sign in for yourself and try some of the later differential questions. Do you even remember how to do them? More importantly, do you know why? I’ll keep you apprised of how my little experiment goes.

I’d love to hear follow-up on how the flipping experiment goes. As we talked about at the auction, if some kids do the home study and come to class ready to follow-on projects in class, but some kids don’t and then aren’t ready, what does your hour of math look like? Does this stratify the kids more based on enthusiasm or parent support? What is wonderful is that your school’s robust curriculum means that an experiment of this sort is really very low risk. The kids who might “fall behind” for a bit are really still far ahead.

Khan is very linear and doesn’t do the following: explore math in a connected way making it relevant for students, nor develop those concepts in s deep and broad way. It focuses on vertical acceleration and for young kids, it may be good to stick to the basic operations. Granted it’s in it’s infancy and I hope the exercise become more robust. This is good for the accelerated kids provided the teacher is aware with what they’re doing. Many time, the differentiation comes because the teacher knows the student well and can tailor questions based on the students. For example, most second graders get fractions in their simplest form, but advanced kids can easily do equivalent fractions, add, subtract, and multiply fractions without having to be given an algorithm. “what is 1/4 of 1/8?”. Pretty simple for some, but they have no idea they’re multiplying fractions yet.

And yes, those with older siblings or pushy parents could easily affect the data which is why you havetoknow your kids well.

We’re still into week one, so we’ll see. I’m not totally convinced, mut student motivation for homework is up.