# Why I choose to use Khan Academy: Bryan Harms, 8th grade

### Background

2012-13 was my fifth year with the High Tech High organization and my fourth year as a teacher. I teach 8th graders math and science. I cover physical science and mathematics including topics in algebra and pre algebra. I co-teach these students along with my humanities teaching partner. Often our projects are multidisciplinary. Many of these projects incorporate applied mathematics, but I also run a mathematics program in parallel with the projects. This mathematics program is roughly 50% procedural practice and 50% in depth problem solving. It is in the procedural practice of mathematics that I have used Khan Academy most often.

### Making the decision to use Khan Academy

Several years ago I became frustrated with how inefficient I was at helping students master certain mathematical techniques. My classroom is untracked and the spectrum of previous skills and abilities can be wide. I never felt that I was achieving a level of effectiveness, as a teacher that was useful to my kids.

I started looking into software solutions. I tried several and they had real benefits. The ability to differentiate widely with infinite problem generation and comprehensive reporting were all improvements over what I could accomplish without them. I used another program for an entire year before I settled on Khan Academy.

One of the reasons I made the switch was the ease of use of the Khan Academy interface. Other teachers had asked me to run a workshop on how to effectively implement the program I was currently using and despite the workshop, many of those teachers became frustrated with the learning curve necessary to become proficient with this other application. I wanted to use a program that I could recommend to other teachers and feel like they could begin using effectively right away.

Reporting was also a key reason for switching to Khan. The reports provided me with actionable data that I used to plan my days. When students came into class ,I had a plan ready for them based on what the reports were telling me about where they were progressing. For example, if there was a group of 6 students who were struggling with linear equations, I would allow that group to work as a study group in the hallway. If not, I could assign a peer tutor to work with those students. I could check on that same group after class and see if improvements had been made or if they were still struggling.

### Starting out with Khan Academy in my class

My initial goal for Khan Academy was to have it supplement material that I was already using in the classroom. From the first day, I was able to find ways to use it effectively. I was already using a self-paced curriculum, but I used worksheets and frequent advancement assessments. I matched Khan Academy videos and exercises to the materials related to one unit that a group of my students were struggling with. By initially using the Khan Academy site to supplement a small part of my curriculum I was able to work through the learning curves and figure out what I thought would be useful in my classroom on a broader scale.

One reason that I have stayed with Khan Academy is that it is highly adaptable. The site provides tools - but does not dictate how the tools should be used or force users to follow any path through their site. This was important to me because I value the autonomy I have in curriculum design, I value my choices as a teacher, and I do not think that there is a single best way to approach learning or teaching. I welcome tools that I can use to design my own solutions but am wary of sites or programs that enforce or their own pedagogy. Over time, as I decided on my own best practices, I integrated my classroom with the site quite a bit. But even on the first day I was able to give kids extra practice and extra resources.