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Khan Academy: 'Powerful tool' for Federal Way students

The Khan Academy is an online repository of lessons, practice questions and instructional videos that has been recently added to the Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) toolbox to help students and parents better understand the material being taught in schools.

Marie Verhaar, director of Standards Based Curriculum and Instruction for FWPS, shared some of the advantages the Khan Academy access could bring to students in the district.

“The Khan Academy offers a library of over 3,000 videos covering K-12 math and science topics, such as biology, chemistry and physics,” Verhaar said at the March 27 school board meeting. “Each video on their site is…approximately 10 minutes long and designed to be viewed on the computer. If you have an iPhone, there’s an app for that. It’s called the Khan Archives and you can pull up anything you ever wanted to know about math and science concepts and watch a video right there.”

Another component of the Khan Academy is a practice question section for math, where students can do math problems as many times as they like. Khan has a built-in system to recognize when the student is succeeding or struggling, and will adjust the difficulty of math problems accordingly, Verhaar said.

FWPS has integrated the system into its Power Standards page at the district website (www.fwps.org/cur/sbe/staff/ps). That page explains how to access the videos from the district’s website. For those interested in going directly to the source, the videos are available at www.khanacademy.org.

As of now, the videos are only available in English, Verhaar said. She feels the videos are going to be a powerful tool for students.

“It’s really at a student level, it’s really comprehensible to the students,” she said.

School board president Tony Moore said he was excited about the new partnership. Moore wondered how those who might have barriers to access to the appropriate technology would be able to use the videos.

“We’re eager to bridge and build ways to get technology into the hands of our children,” Verhaar said. “I know last summer Qwest had a deal where people could get Internet for $10 a month and they got a voucher or coupon to get a computer for a very low cost. Those are things we need to continue to explore.”

Superintendent Rob Neu added that the district is working on ways to increase access to technology for underprivileged kids, mostly by reaching out to the community.

“We have some intentional strategies we have to employ, so we can deploy, the technology to the kids, especially to the kids that don’t have opportunities at home,” Neu said.

Moore said he hopes the district will explore possibly keeping school buildings open and staffed for longer hours, to help increase access to technology for the district’s disadvantaged students.

 

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