This post is a follow up to a previous post in which I examined the experimental design of a blended learning pilot at the Envision Academy in Oakland. A team of technologists and researchers are examining the impact of a blended learning implementation with Khan Academy videos and curriculum. The experiment is taking place in a summer school algebra class for repeaters. Their progress is being documented on this insightful blog. As I write this post, the team is entering their fourth and final week of the experiment.
In my last post on this experiment, I shared one of the Blend My Learning team’s identified successes – that the experimental group (those with new Chromebooks who are using the Khan Academy to learn algebra) has zero classroom management issues. A thoughtful commenter on my post noted that kids plugged into headphones, listening to music, might not be making any noise or distracting anyone else, but this is not necessarily good classroom management. It is often the cacophony of the classroom that is the real symphony of learning.
It seems that in the third week, the Blend My Learning team is finding that not even headphones and music can keep kids focussed and on task for three weeks of algebra.
Darri Stephens, Blend My Learning Blog author, notes..
When I first checked on “FOCUS” (how long the students had been working on Kahn), there was quite a range: from 0 minutes to 16 minutes. Might there be a way to analyze a subgroup of students’ data as needed? At the beginning of Week 4, I was worried that students had hit that proverbial wall.
For example, one student hadn’t earned a proficient level for any topic since the previous Tuesday (4+ days).
Stephens goes on..
When looking at the totals since Week 1, the class has spent 544 minutes on exercises and only 19 minutes in all watching videos. As an average, that means that the kids have been working on Khan for about forty minutes/day. Give or take some time for the “Do Nows” and the directed mini-lesson, and that still leaves about half of the time unaccounted for… what are those implications?
The real data (improvement on the MDRT for algebra) is not yet out, but I might suggest that the implication of this lack of focus is that Khan Videos may be a good resource for review of material that a student has nearly mastered, but straight forward lecture, whether in person or through the box, is the least effective way for students to learn. The kids are bored, and no amount of virtual badges will motivate high school kids to do any better than they would for the teacher who, in the control class, is more directly engaged in structuring their learning.
I hope that I am wrong. And I will eat crow right here on this blog if I am. Blended Learning has real potential to change the education game. The flipped classroom movement that I have recently blogged about, is blending technology in a dynamic way, and showing some initial results that are quite promising. Have a look at my post about Barb and Brad Newitt from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As I identify in that post, the box is the least significant aspect of the instructional process. However, in the flipped environment, direct instruction through the box offers a teacher the freedom she needs to structure her class with a greater focus on student interactivity and direct teacher engagement with individual students.
I applaud Envision Academy and the Blend My Learning Team for their inventiveness, curiosity, and open dialog. I am curious what they now think the Khan FOCUS metric tells them about student learning.