In the summer of 2012 and then in the winter of 2013, I traveled to Lima, Peru to train administrators and teachers on the use and implementation of Khan Academy in math classrooms. I learned of this opportunity through the Khan Academy team and accepted the invitation from Innova Schools in Peru.
Innova Schools is an ambitious educational private project in Latin America, planning to become the largest school network in the region by 2018. Currently operating 11 schools in Lima, Peru, the company will have at least 70 world-class schools throughout Peru by 2016. Their vision is to provide affordable high-quality education to Peruvian children, and my role was to help them innovate their math program with Khan Academy.
Innova Schools believe in the Blended Learning model, and they have structured the curriculum, instruction, and experiences of the students to uphold this model. Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.
To achieve blended learning in the subject of Math, Innova Schools adopted Khan Academy as the online source of content instruction. Innova Schools identify this time of independent learning as Solo-Learning, and twice a week, the students’ solo-learning activity is using Khan Academy to learn and practice the math curriculum. Innova Schools’ administrators worked tirelessly alongside a publishing company and teachers to align Khan Academy videos and exercises to the content standards/objectives for each grade. Each day’s math lesson is planned out for every grade, and the selected Khan Academy videos and exercises are communicated to students as goals for their weekly Solo-Learning time.
First Trip to Peru: July 2012
During my first visit to Peru, my main focus and goal was to introduce Khan Academy to Innova School administrators, to a select group of teachers, and then to meet the first cohort of students who’d be piloting Khan Academy.
I began showing the Innova Schools administrators how using Khan Academy supports their Blended Learning model. Then, I gave them a tour of Khan Academy and explained all the resources available through Khan Academy for student and teacher support. I helped them navigate the dashboard and showed them the numerous layers of data available for teachers to use for student-centered learning. My presentation was videotaped so that it could be used again with different audiences.
I was then introduced to two math teachers who were chosen to be the first to pilot Khan Academy in their classes. Like I was at the very beginning, these teachers knew the potential of Khan Academy, but they were unsure how to use it in a practical way in the classroom. Each teacher had spent time watching videos, working on exercises, and touring the dashboard, but they needed a plan, a structure, and a system of how to make it work in the classroom. With these teachers, I began by empathizing with their fears and confusion. Once we knew that we were all on the same page, I shared the teacher-guide I had created to walk the teachers through the steps for implementation. A helpful coach at Innova Schools helped me translate the guide into Spanish! I shared my system of unit packets, unit lands, folders, journals, pre-tests, post-tests, Swiss Cheese, the Help board, peer tutoring, active listening lessons, and a step by step example of a day’s math instruction using Khan Academy. The teachers took notes, asked many questions, practiced on their own, and as time passed, their faces became calm and assured as everything began to make sense.
I also shared many project ideas and ways to teach problem solving and critical thinking skills. Like I was in the very beginning, they were also concerned about ways to incorporate and develop more conceptual understanding in their students. The days of Solo-Learning without Khan Academy are devoted to project-based learning and problem solving skills.
I was also fortunate enough to meet the actual students who’d be piloting Khan Academy. They had heard about it and simply knew it to be something very good. My job was to get them pumped up; I let them know that they were amongst the first in their country to embark on a new way of learning. This energized them, but the real energy came when they found out they’d have their own computer laptops! The cheers were deafening and the smiles were contagious.
After these workshops, these teachers went to their classrooms and began the Khan Academy implementation process in their math classes. Like me, they hadn’t grasped everything 100% before they started; they just started.
Second Trip to Peru: February 2013
During my second trip to Peru, I had Khan Academy workshops for the next group of teachers, school principals, and math coaches. During this trip, I not only visited Innova Schools in Lima, but traveled to Innova Schools in surrounding towns several hours away. I met principals, coaches, and teachers, and together, we learned about blended learning and Khan Academy. They were jazzed up knowing that they were at the forefront of education innovation, and they were ready to take a risk and try something new. Like me, they also knew that teaching had become entirely too teacher-centered, and they also struggled knowing that they weren’t reaching every students’ needs. They were ready for a change.
In these two trips to Peru, I was encouraged and strengthened by the common language and unique experiences that all teachers share. Their faces and expressions were familiar to me; and though the language barrier separated us from verbal communication, I know that all of us knew that we were all in this together. We shared a purpose and mission, and we knew that we were there to help one another toward the common goal of excellence in education.
I’m warmed at the thought of these Innova teachers using Khan Academy in their classrooms and then being able to teach other teachers how to use Khan Academy as well. And so, the motivation and inspiration to use Khan Academy in the blended learning model of math instruction reaches more and more teachers and therefore more and more students in Peru and all around the world.