learnzillion

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Teach like the experts! See visual, conceptual explanations of the Common Core State Standards. 4,000+ videos tailored for grades 2-12.

One of my favorite sites for student help in math.  Short animated lessons are aligned to the Common Core standards.  You need a quick code to access a lesson if you don’t have an account - no problem, just let me know what topic you want and I’ll get you the quick code.

Stop critiquing Khan Academy, start doing better

Yesterday EdWeek posted a video and accompanying article titled “Don’t Use Khan Academy Without Watching this First.”

In the video, two math teachers dissect a Khan Academy video. Regarding their critique, Dan Meyer, a former math teacher wrote:   

This strikes me as a really, really effective way to assess the pedagogical content knowledge of new teachers: critique the pedagogy of the Khan Academy video of your choice. … I’m really curious how the Church of Our Lady of Technology in Silicon Valley will react to this kind of critique. That church tends to write off most educators’ criticism of Khan Academy as some admixture of jealousy and entrenchment. They aren’t always wrong about that. But the criticism that “this is actually fairly poor lecturing that’ll leave students with shaky procedural understanding and even shakier conceptual understanding” is much harder to refute.

::sigh::

This conversation is getting tedious. I can’t count the number of math teachers with whom I’ve debated the merits of Khan Academy.  I get their point. Khan is not a trained educator. The videos are pedagogically questionable. Ability to do calculations does not equal love of math. They are correct.

But I wish educators would stop critiquing and start doing.

I understand that the enormous attention Khan gets is a litte annoying. Mainstream media treats him as if he is single handedly “saving education.” That is far from the truth. Lots of people were making education videos before Sal Khan. The one thing he has, and for which I give him enormous credit, is persistence. 2,000 videos is a lot. And it was the sheer number and comprehensive nature of the content that brought him all the attention.  

What I would love to see is experienced math teachers create their own library of pedagogically sound math videos.  There are plenty of tablet apps that make it relatively easy to make screencasts and Youtube or TeacherTube for free hosting. Of course it will take a long time for one teacher to match Khan’s library but I’m not even sure that’s the best approach. Teachers have networks and they could engage a group to make it happen. I’ve been surprised actually that there hasn’t been more teacher-driven alternatives. I thought LearnZillion was heading in that direction but so far they seem to favor closeness rather than openness. 

Of course, what we’re talking about here is just online lectures. And lectures don’t equal learning. But we know lectures are one (very important) part of traditional learning and there is a market need for solid lectures. 

There are lots of teachers making education videos online and, with a little digging, you can find them. What Khan does so well is put a lot of the videos in one location (and now supplements with exercises, etc). Sites like ShowMe and Educreations  are on the path to making sharing easier but there’s still a lot of work to be done. 

LearnZillion

OK, I was just introduced to this site by another teacher and so far I LOVE it. LearnZillion is a website that contains hundreds of mini lessons and quizzes  on topics in Math and Language Arts that can be used for remediation and enrichment for students. Plus, each topic is aligned with Common Core and can be looked up by the particular standard you are trying to teach/reteach.  It’s great!

Set-up is very simple as well. Teachers (or parents) can create a free account and send students an enrollment code. Once students have enrolled, teachers can assign Playlists and Quizzes to the class as a whole or to individual students. “Playlists” are the actual lessons (about 5 minutes long) that teach students and give examples of the specified skill. The quizzes are only 5 questions long and the grade is then sent to the teacher.

If you are a teacher, then you know the huge emphasis of technology and differentiation in the classroom. This site will definitely help you accomplish both! I see myself using this site as a homework aid and for enrichment for my higher students. Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself: LearnZillion.

Also, have a look at this video (scroll down to the bottom) that shows the program in action in a 5th grade classroom: LearnZillion in Action.

*Note: Currently, LearnZillion only has Playlists and Quizzes for Grades 3-8.