I am lucky to be part of a wonderful team of Specialists. Our school schedule allows our grade level teams to collaborate daily while their kids go to Specials. We have Fitness, Art/Engineering, and Global Investigations as our specials. Sometimes students are referred to Surf Lesson (Intervention) with me during Specials time.
Our Global Investigations time is a class that uses technology and Project Based Learning to explore the world. It's teacher, Jen Ellison, decided she wanted our 4th-6th graders to learn to code. It sparked an excitement amongst our upper grade students that made me ask her to do a guest blog post about Khan Academy. Our students started off using it for coding and now are also using it for math. I'm impressed with this FREE site that our kids find so motivating.
Here is Jen to tell you all about it.....
Like most children, my students feel powerless. Their lives are controlled by the adults in their lives -- at home their parents and guardians determine their rising and sleeping. They control what and when they eat.
School is no different. I tell my students when to read and what to read - I even tell them how to read! And yet my decision to become an educator stemmed largely from a desire to empower students.
More than anything else I want my students to feel powerful enough to determine the course of their lives. I want them to believe that they can tackle any problem great or small and be victorious.
This is where Khan Academy comes into play. I am always looking for ways for my students who are trapped in a cycle of poverty -- to find a way out. Most people are familiar with the story of the young creator of Minecraft -- how he taught himself to code and created a game. He learned basic java script and made boxes and squares, but step onto any playground and ask about Minecraft. His simple, little game dominates the thoughts and minds of children everywhere. And was a financial windfall for him.
I visited Khan Academy looking for a way for my own students to learn how to code. I discovered that they have step by step lessons to teach students to code. A person can log into Khan Academy and follow the lessons and day by day, lesson by lesson learn to code. No background knowledge or experience is required. It works. Anyone can learn it. ANYONE.
Even an old teacher like me.
That’s right, in the process of determining whether it was appropriate for my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students, I taught myself to code. Two months ago, I knew absolutely nothing about computer programing, and now I can write simple codes. I completed the 100 introductory lessons, and am working my way through level two.
My students love coding and Khan Academy. The computer lab is never silent when we are working in there. Everywhere you can hear voices saying things like, “Wait, how did you do that?” or “I just got 2,100 energy points!” Khan Academy is amazing. We have been working in Khan Academy and my students are still happy to log in. “Are we gonna do Khan today?” They ask and I expect them to groan -- we’ve been working on it for such a long time now -- and yet, they react with cheers.
I’ve got a pack of fourth grade girls who love to sit together and code. “You gotta plus plus.” I heard one of them say to the other just yesterday. That’s right, she’s nine and talking like a pro. “You don’t have enough parameters.” A fifth grade boy was explaining to a girl today.
I should mention, my students do not live in an environment flooded with technology. We are a Title 1 school, and most of my students do not have computers or internet at home. They come to school to use computers or go to the public library. And now they have learned to code like champs.
But more importantly, they feel empowered. They sit down to that list of lessons, and choose what they are going to work on and how they are going to do it. Khan Academy allows students the freedom to choose what to study and how to study it. Students are tackling math, programing, history and science. I’ve got one fifth grader who loves learning about physics. He watches the embedded videos and leans in close to hear every word.
If you haven’t visited Khan Academy, I highly recommend it. Start by watching the introductory video entitled “You Can Learn Anything”. I am a lifelong educator and have always felt in my heart that given the right tools, you can learn so much, but now, I truly believe that you can learn anything. Trust me, if an old teacher lady like me, can learn to write code -- anything is possible.
When my students get discouraged, or feel overwhelmed with a new and difficult task, I remind them of two simple things: In the beginning, even Einstein had to learn his ABC’s just like the rest of us, and it isn’t that you can’t do the work -- it is just that you aren’t good at it -- yet.
The world is filled with possibility.
Khan Academy benefits at a glance:
Spanish translation available.
Short videos and hints for students who need support.
Multiple paths to understanding.